Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Interview with Jakob Nielsen

Category: Interview, Usability

Over on, there’s a new interview posted with usability guru Jakob Nielsen talking about some of his thoughts on Ajax, usability and advertising, and ad formats on the web.

The questions range from “What do you think of the current implementations of AJAX
(Google Maps, Writely, Google Suggest, Zimbra, etc.) on the Web today?” to “When a company finally is ready to invest in promotions, what’s your opinion of the usability of the syndicated ad formats, like Google AdSense, that are so popular on the Web today?” His opinions on Ajax are interesting though:

(When asked about current implementations of Ajax) They are irrelevant for the vast majority of business web sites. (And by “business web site” I also mean sites for government agencies and non-profits.)

A business site will profit much more from writing better headlines than from sticking a programming trick on its pages. […] It’s important to remember that most web sites are not used repeatedly. Usually, users will visit a given page only once. This means that the efficiency of any given operation takes a back seat to the discoverability and learnability of the feature.

He does, however, see hope on the horizion that Ajax definitely has potential to enhance just about any site – just not with the ways it’s being used now.

Posted by Chris Cornutt at 7:45 am

3.2 rating from 32 votes


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Gwad what a Dinosaur!

1. He says “Admittedly, Google Suggest is a neat hack.” HACK?!
2. Problem with him is, IMHO, he refuses to see the difference between a “web site” and a “web app.”

Comment by Joe — July 19, 2006

That’s because most “business” websites are brochure sites. No interactivity is needed, so AJAX is totally irrelevant. However, when you talk about web applications, the story changes utterly. Without Ajax, we wouldn’t have *nearly* the interactivity from non-embedded (Flash, etc) content. Giving a user immediate feedback on an action is immeasurable.

Comment by CM Harrington — July 19, 2006

Amen. Ajaxers are putting the cart way before the horse. Ajax should only be used where there is a real efficiency gain for an oft-used page or funciton.

Comment by pwb — July 19, 2006

Exactly… in a ‘brochure site’ environment, Jakob’s observations are fairly accurate: users want content and info, as quickly and as concisely as possible. AJAX to me is best suited for portals or other specialized web applications where the same user is expected to visit many times. AJAX and DHTML behaviours are features that an intermediate user would benefit most from, a level which most users of brochure sites rarely achieve.

Comment by Mike Ritchie — July 19, 2006

I think he’s right on, I’m pretty sure when he says business sites he’s referring to web sites vs web apps. And as such, he’s correct, AJAX is not so useful for web sites. It can, however, be invaluable for web apps.

Comment by Thomas M — July 19, 2006

In the excitement of “wow… how cool is this”, usability is often overlooked or forgotten. However AJAX can and should be used to improve usability, in subtle and intuitive ways. In time users will get used to increased levels of interaction or feedback from the web. As always, content and design are paramount – an awesome use of AJAX on an otherwise useless webpage is still worthless.

Comment by Matthew Eaton — July 20, 2006


Comment by Rob Sanheim — July 21, 2006

Its a dam powerful tool in the right hands but can be quite a damp squib in the wrong ones. Time to sort out the men from the boys. AJAX rocks !!

Comment by Doug Harvey — February 9, 2007

Its seems like “the guru” is just trying to make himself look good if you ask me. I agree AJAX is great for websites but apps it can prove a great tool used with the right hands.

Comment by Alan — March 23, 2007

I have a friend working at Amorvine, and he showed me a sneak peek of what they are doing with SOA and Ajax for ultra high performance applications targetted at netscale deployments. IMHO these guys are the next Google, it’s brilliant! True Office/Outlook style apps, right there in your browser, but capable of supporting millions of people!

Comment by Steve Weaver — April 3, 2007

Hey guys AJAX is great for websites full stop… it is an awesome tool

Comment by Paul Suggitt — April 24, 2007

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