Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Jakob Nielsen's good advice... basics before bells and whistles

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In the middle of a communications capability review for a client this morning, I made a visit to Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox website in search of specific usability information. Haven't actually found it yet, but the browsing did make me realize yet again how important it is in online communications that websites tend to the basics before the bells and whistles.

We always say we know this. We don't always act like it when we plan to recraft our websites.

A 2005 column reporting the 10 most serious website design mistakes ends with a reminder that's as true now and it was three years ago:

Back to Basics in Web Design http://www.useit.com/alertbox/designmistakes.html

"There's much talk about new fancy "Web 2.0" features on the Internet industry's mailing lists and websites, as well as at conferences. But users don't care about technology and don't especially want new features. They just want quality improvements in the basics:

  • text they can read;
  • content that answers their questions;
  • navigation and search that help them find what they want;
  • short and simple forms (streamlined registration, checkout, and other workflow); and
  • no bugs, typos, or corrupted data; no linkrot; no outdated content.

Anytime you feel tempted to add a new feature or advanced technology to your site, first consider whether you would get a higher ROI by spending the resources on polishing the quality of what you already have. Most companies, e-commerce sites, government agencies, and non-profit organizations would contribute more to their website's business goals with better headlines than with any new technology (aside from a better search engine, of course)."

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