It sucks because it's good
Back in the mid-90s, when Linux was still at 1.something, website design was a simple exercise that left matters such as font choice up to the user. It was blessedly free of the Tyranny of Typography, the Legacies of Layout, and other controlling influences from the Provinces of Print. Better yet, it was free by design from withering rebuke by aesthetes whose high-minded "taste" made life miserable for both writers and readers. Back then the Web was meant to be maximally usable and minimally controlled by Authorities who knew more about what you need than you do. That was the Idea, and it stuck. For about two years.
Now it's all but forgotten. The Web is overrun by "design" out the wazoo, made worse by SEO and other forms of Google-gaming greed.
Ok, this is only half a dig. Jakob is one of the most respected writers and thinkers about user interface on the web. He is clearly bright, and he writes intelligent and useful things. In fact I quote Jakob and reference his work all of the time.
But I find his site unreadable.
It hurts my eyes.
What got my attention most recently was this new post on the year's 10 best application UIs.
Unfortunately, I have to say, Jakob has perhaps the worst site design I have ever seen. It is as if, while he is handing out the Oscars, he is wearing a plaid polyester suit. In truth his site is fine from an information architecture perspective. But from an aesthetics perspective it is awful. And aesthetics is important in UI. If you begin to look at something and want to avert your eyes, the site has failed.
In truth, Jakob's site has always been ugly. But this time it felt, to me, beyond ugly. I looked at the bulleted list of the top sites, and the bold cramped disorganized looking type starting each bullet, and I could not bear it.
...do we think less of Jakob Nielsen as an interface consultant if he seems to have no taste?
Jakob's absence of "taste" is what I like and appreciate about his design sense, or delightfully usable lack of it. It is to Jakob's enormous and enduring credit that he rejects everything that compromises simple usability, no matter how tasteful (translation: fashionable) it may be.
Jakob's home site, useit.com, has a design that remains unchanged since 1995. That was when I lifted his html and used it to frame up searls.com. Watch how fast either of those pages loads. Better yet, read them on a mobile device and see how fast they load on those things -- where more and more of the Web is being read, every day.
Speaking of usability, I just tried posting a comment to Hank's blog, but failed. Hank handily gives commenters a choice of identity systems: Google, LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, AIM, OpenID, Name/URL and Anonymous. Each one I picked brought me a CAPTCHA, and after that a bold response (in white, reversed out of a red block) that reads "URL contains illegal characters". This happened no matter what ID system I chose, including Anonymous. So I just figured the hell with it, and am posting my comment here:
I like Jakob's page because it is *absent* of "design" that makes too much of the rest of the Web, including this page, slow to load and unreadable to me unless I upsize everything with the zoom+ command. (And that's not just because I'm old. Rather it's because I do most of my work on a laptop, where pixel density has increased over the years, so what used to be an inch now runs at about 5/8 of one, making 12-point type into 7-point type.)
Jakob's html is simple, straightforward and readable by human beings, just as God (or Tim Berners Lee) intended. Thanks to minimal stylistic burden, his pages load quickly, which is extraordinarily helpful. Case in point. Your page here just took 15 seconds to load over my iPhone. Jakob's (which you find unreadable) took about a second and a half. What's more, it was instantly readable, whether I was looking at it straight up, or with the iPhone turned sideways. I also don't need to spread two fingers to read any of the text. In fact, I'd say his html is ideal -- from a simple usability standpoint -- for both web page and mobile devices.
So I agree with Patrick Neenan, at least in this case. Taste is overrated. Usability is usability. Employing *no* typography principles is a radically practical choice on Jakob's part. And I appreciate it for the rare and valuable practice that it remains. In fact, I think that's beautiful.
By the way, I wrote this in plain html of the Old Skool human-readable sort. The fact that I can still do that is beautiful too.
Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
Join Linux Journal's Mike Diehl and Pat Cameron of Help Systems.
Free to Linux Journal readers.View Now!
|The Firebird Project's Firebird Relational Database||Jul 29, 2016|
|Stunnel Security for Oracle||Jul 28, 2016|
|SUSE LLC's SUSE Manager||Jul 21, 2016|
|My +1 Sword of Productivity||Jul 20, 2016|
|Non-Linux FOSS: Caffeine!||Jul 19, 2016|
|Murat Yener and Onur Dundar's Expert Android Studio (Wrox)||Jul 18, 2016|
- The Firebird Project's Firebird Relational Database
- Stunnel Security for Oracle
- My +1 Sword of Productivity
- Non-Linux FOSS: Caffeine!
- SUSE LLC's SUSE Manager
- Managing Linux Using Puppet
- Murat Yener and Onur Dundar's Expert Android Studio (Wrox)
- Parsing an RSS News Feed with a Bash Script
- Google's SwiftShader Released
- Doing for User Space What We Did for Kernel Space
With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide