Nielsenify (verb, trans.): to make a website functional and ugly. Antonyms: tannify, santa-mariafy.
In case you weren’t aware, this is the face of God:
Disappointing, I know, but this is the man who observes how people use the web, analyses the data and then makes suggestions for how we should go about designing and writing for websites.
Taking a look at Nielsen’s website, you’ll see that he doesn’t do pretty. It’s black text on a white background, illustrative images and a clunky, large verdana for body copy. In the age of youtube, beautiful web typography and professional graphic design on the web, it looks dated.
Of course, Nielsen is making a point with this site: usability is more important than pretiness. The ugliness makes it stand out from the crowd: Nielsen himself says he wouldn’t recommend it to somebody starting out now.
And yet. Nielsen’s site is the one where I can guarantee I’ll spend a good few hours at a visit. It’s not just the quality of the content (which is superb) – it’s also way that the design doesn’t get in the way of the content. I also like:
- the fact that visited links are purple, which means I can quickly tell where I’ve already been
- there’s not much in the way of universal navigation (a search box top right and breadcrumb top left)
- the search always finds relevant results
- the speed of the site
- the breadcrumb that helps me find my way around the site
- lots of link lists
All of these things are ‘ugly’ and conventional. They also work. They’re why I spend hours on the site at a time.
So the question is: should all our sites look like useit.com, give or take a few typographical tweeks? It’s one I’m trying to figure out.