Okke's blog

Sunday, October 30, 2005

4 usability considerations about the web 2.0

I'm sure anyone has heard about the Web 2.0 already. With (for example) Ruby on Rails, anyone and everyone can easily use the features of the Web 2.0. I'm not sure everyone should be so exited about it, though. I mean, sure, the user might have a nicer, more usefull, easier-to-learn and 'standards-compliant' (more on that later) application, but what's the point really? Sometimes people are talking about 'learning how to develop Web 2.0 applications'. In my opinion, the only thing that has really changed is that your application is responding faster to the user. It's all great. But everyone should consider the pitfalls of Web 2.0 applications. As Jakob Nielsen would say: 4 usability considerations about the Web 2.0.
  1. Use standard widgets! Try to keep as much resemblance to the standard widgets of the main os-es (preferable windows or OS X) as possible.
  2. Don't use draggable items. Dragging items for realignment might seem as a good idea it first, but it tends to confuse people. Why can't I move this item to another list? Why can't I remove it by dragging? If you have to explain your widgets to everyone, they're not useful. (I think I'll write some more about dragging in a later blog entry)
  3. Allow people to use their bookmarks. Don't use AJAX for every request. Ajax should be used for changing the state of the current page, not to navigate.
  4. Give feedback to the user when they've clicked on something. 37signals' yellow fading technique helps people to see changes. I like it a lot.

Any things I've missed? Any things I've said that don't make sense at all? Please comment :)


  • I agree with that assessment for the most part, except the idea that draggable items are inherently bad. Now, the problem is not the draggable items, but bad designers who don't know how to use them properly. I use them for ordering lists. For example, an application I'm creating now has different "blocks" of text that are ordered in a list. I use a simple sortable, draggable list to allow the user to reorder them. The alternative is up/down arrows, which are insanely stupid, and the other alternative is to have them number each item. For a list of 50+ items, this is absurd.

    Now, one thing I do to "teach" the user by sight is I constrain those items inside a container that does not allow them to be draggable outside that div. When the user sees that he cannot drag it anywhere, he knows it is useful for ordering the list. And just to alleviate confusion, I take the user through a tiny 5-step tutorial to show them the little features, like reordering the lists, doing in-place editing on the list and the associated text, and the other smaller ajaxified features that make it nice and usable. And just by doing the simple sortable list I was able to double my customer base. Just something to keep in mind. Nothing is bad if you can use it appropriately and effectively.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 March, 2006 23:37  

  • I think you're right, mr Anon.

    I'd like to stress you last sentence:
    "Nothing is bad if you can use it appropriately and effectively."

    I think, just like you, that in most cases drag-and-drop is absurdely inappropriate. But yes, in some cases, it might be handy. (Or the other solutions would be even worse.)

    By Blogger Okke, at 09 April, 2006 18:14  

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