JAKOB Nielsen, probably the world’s most prominent voice on web usability, says Web 2.0 websites are ignoring basic web design principles that ultimately will undermine their effectiveness.
The BBC writes that Nielsen has warned that the current fashion of making webpages more dynamic often means users are badly served. He says sites are in danger of becoming “glossy but useless,” much like many were at the height of the dotcom boom.
I hit on this theme in my post last week Leave good enough alone, which was specific to investor relations websites.
While technologies like Ajax can improve usability and make web pages more useful, many applications I am seeing on IR websites do little for users except increase the amount of interaction required to perform basic tasks that used to be easy.
Examples of “ego design” on IR sites
Akzo Nobel used Adobe’s Flex when it launched its website a couple of years ago. Even today, people are complaining. Read some of the comments, such as this one on the IR contacts page and these on the general contacts page. (Note, the company has in the past purged negative comments, so the ones I’ve linked to may be gone by the time you try the links. )
Italy’s Telecom Italia is another site with senseless use of Ajax-like functionality. There’s no reason to do some of the things they do, except for the designers stroking their own egos.
And IR website vendor Shareholder.com, inventors of the shareholder spying websites and annual reports, have gone overboard using “plus boxes.” This is where information is hidden on the screen until the user clicks on a little “+” sign.
These can be effective in limited situations, but mostly they just force people to click multiple times for no good reason. Clicking on such a small area as a little plus sign is also difficult for many elderly users and people using touchpads on laptops. While they could make the buttons bigger, why bother when they’re not necessary in the first place?
So please do upgrade your IR website, but don’t go chasing the latest fads.