[Alertbox] End of Web Design

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From: Adam Rifkin -4K (adam@XeNT.ics.uci.edu)
Date: Wed Jul 26 2000 - 13:12:36 PDT

Ebb and flow, we're moving back to a world where websites must tone down
their individual appearance:


Google-on-a-WAP-phone is elegant in its simplicity: nothing but the
Google name and space to type in a query.

> Mobility drives small screens (because they are the only ones that can
> be easily carried) that will often be grayscale (to save battery).
> Mobile bandwidth will be much more restricted than wired bandwidth. Even
> though I don't believe in the current generation of WAP phones, I am
> convinced that mobile Internet will be big once we get better devices -
> but even these next-generation mobiles will have much smaller screens
> than PCs. This drives a focus on content and solutions: don't spend
> screen space on navigation features except for the most necessary ones.
> With less space for navigation, it becomes more important to stick to
> standard conventions for where to go and how to explain the options.

The lesson is clear: websites waste too much space. Less is more.

> The days of the unified website are long gone. From about 1993 to 1998,
> most websites were like Roman military camps: everything inside the
> barricades was carefully planned and constructed by the residents of the
> camp. The (fire)wall marked the end of control: everything outside was
> wilderness and not connected with the site.
> This is in contrast to the early years of the Web in 1991 and 1992,
> where the content on any given server was not connected with anything
> else on that server to any greater extent than it was connected to the
> rest of the Web. The Web was a unity and there was no special treatment
> of pages that belonged to a single site.
> Since approximately 1998, it has become more common for websites to rely
> on syndicated content that flows both in and out of the site. When
> writing content that can appear on multiple websites, it becomes
> necessary to restrict the content design to a few mechanisms that will
> work everywhere, such as headlines, bulleted lists, and highlighted
> keywords.
> Similarly, when a website imports many of its features and content, it
> typically becomes necessary to conserve resources and expend as little
> effort as possible on massaging the imports to fit within the site. As
> long as everything is about the same, it works. Anything too special and
> you have a conflict.
> Application service providers also make it harder for websites to retain
> overly distinctive design. It is getting to be common for some of the
> features of a website to reside on other sites that supply certain
> specialized functionality such as mailing lists, search, conference
> registration, shopping carts, promotions or coupons, and much more. As
> users engage outsourced functionality, they would ideally not notice
> that they have been temporarily moved to a different site for the
> duration of a certain feature. The feeling should be that of remaining
> within a single smooth interaction.

So what are Nielsen's suggestions for what should remain in Web design?

  1. Users want zero learning time. Period.

  2. A priori task analysis of specific users and their needs.

  3. Content design that reflects a careful information architecture.

That's it. The size of Palms and Pocket PCs and Surf-phones mandates
efficiency and elegance. Don't deliver the whole page, deliver what


Our vision, putting it bluntly, is to be the Cisco of Internet infrastructure management. If you want to turn the Internet into a utility like water and electricity, you have to have a whole range of infrastructure and management processes. People want to be at a company that will help shape the industry. That's the No. 1 reason people stay at a company. We're building out the fundamental foundation of the Internet, and that's an exciting quest. -- Kim Polese, stepping down as CEO of Marimba, http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-2351339.html

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