that book

I was intensely disappointed by Homepage Usability, and haven’t gotten around to articulating why. sp!ked’s article “Excuse-ability” does […]

I was intensely disappointed by Homepage Usability, and haven’t gotten around to articulating why. sp!ked’s article “Excuse-ability” does the job for me:

“For web geeks, it’s fun reading what Nielsen has to say about websites that we regularly use, and that some of us might even have designed. But on closer inspection, the book reduces web design to a mundane level.

While some of the book’s guidelines are common sense, others are banal. For example, ‘show the company name and/or logo in a reasonable size and noticeable location’ – and ‘don’t use clever phrases and marketing lingo that make people work too hard to figure out what you’re saying’. This doesn’t express a high opinion of businesses or internet users.”

I really liked “Designing Web Usability” and thought it taught people to think. But Homepage usability isn’t on the same par. The on thing I did liek was the set of heuristics in the front– might be a nice tool for some consultants.

What have others thought of it?


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  1. 1
    Jared Spool

    I’m writing an article (to be published next week in UIEtips) with some very convincing data (IMHO) that shows that the homepage is actually one of the *least* important pages on a site.

    (One interesting tidbit: the more users visit a homepage within a single session on an e-commerce site, the less the purchase.)

    Several of the sites in Jakob’s book are sites we’ve studied. Most of the things his book cites are wrong with these particular sites actually had zero effect on user’s success. If the designers of those sites were to change to meet Jakob’s recommendations, they would’ve wasted effort without showing any measurable improvement.

    It’s a “pretty book”, though.


  2. 2

    Well, to quote you, “It depends” When you consider that typical homepages suffer50-80% attrition, clearly it has a role to play. Namely saying, yes, you found it. Beyond that, I wonder.

    Obviously it’s just a link in the chain when you are seeking something. For a web consultant, the homepage of the website is very important, just as a suit is for an interview. When CIQ was working on our website, we interviewed past clients and friends in product companies to determine how they selected a vendor. Many had long list of sits to look at and the front page had about 15 seconds to let he customer know if the company would suit the job. Professionalism, style, service appropriateness were all part of that formunla. It’s funny how many sites forget this number one job: putting up the “you have arrived” sign.

    For yahoo and amazon, it’s just a very small link in the chain. Google has acknowledged this with their very slim homepage.

  3. 3

    I found the book fairly uninteresting. After the first few reviews it all gets a bit similar. On the other hand, my workmates were much more impressed with it, so perhaps I am the wrong audience.

    I do agree that there are a lot of websites where it takes too long to work out what the company is actually doing. Too much marketing talk, not enough meaningful words.

  4. 4

    perhaps I am the wrong audience.

    I think this is key to almost anything Jakob Nielsen writes. He has long since stopped talking to people with a background in usability and usability-related fields. His approach over the years has been to distill any insights he’s gained through his experience into soundbite-sized nuggets that are easily quotable so that people who get most of their information from PowerPoint presentations will be able to remember them. Since those are the people who control the money and make the decisions, it’s a justifiable tactic, and it’s certainly worked in raising the profile of usability among the people who make the decisions. And as Jakob is so fond of pointing out, there are way too many web sites out there for usability-savvy professionals to be able to cover, so the only hope for a usable web is to spread the word to the unwashed masses.

    It also tends to frustrate people who do have some knowledge of usability, because his nuggets tend to downplay the idea that “it depends” that so many of us are so familiar with. So we read his writings and say, “yeah, but….” But that’s beside the point, because we’ve long since ceased being the audience he aims at. “It depends” fits on a PowerPoint presentation, but it’s not the kind of thing that people who control the money want to hear. So I think it’s kind of funny when usability professionals and IAs gripe about what Jakob writes. I expect he’d probably agree with most of the gripes, because he’s a smart guy. But we’re not the market he’s aiming at. He’s doing the Willie Sutton thing, and we’re not the banks.

    That said, I haven’t read this book. Since I don’t think it’s written for me, I didn’t think I would get anything new out of it, so I didn’t buy it. And that’s okay.

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