Does the hype to brace web 2.0 neglect the basics of good web design?

There have been many articles of late discussing Jacob Neilson’s thoughts on Web 2.0. Neilson has stated that the hype of Web 2.0 is making web firms neglect the basics of good design believing Web 2.0 is in danger of becoming “glossy, but useless”. The good practices Neilson advocates so highly include making a site “easy to use, having good search tools, the use of text free of jargon, usability testing and the consideration of design even before the first line of code is written.”

Neilson is a well known name in web design and is often referred to as a usability ‘guru’ making his commentary on any web issue quite highly considered. Neilson’s statement is an interesting one which has naturally attracted many comments of support as well as argument.

On one hand, making your site usable, intuitive and user friendly is essential to website success. Usability goes hand in hand with search engine optimisation. There is no point in your website gaining exposure on the search engines if the traffic it brings cannot easily navigate around the site and complete the desired action. Website visitors live very much by the ‘time is precious’ rule so if information is not easily accessible, they will not convert for you and are unlikely to return.

On the other hand, Web 2.0 has been a huge movement in websites design and many think that Web 2.0 goes above and beyond many design methods when it comes to interactivity. Web 2.0 is expanding the way people participate and interact online making it impossible to ignore Web 2.0 and concentrate purely on design basics.

So, where are we left now then?

I think it all depends on the site.

If your site depends on social participation from users, like, and Youtube, then a Web 2.0 site is essential as the structure of the site relies on collaborative participation to be successful. However I think that Neilson is also right – for websites other than social networking sites. You absolutely need to ensure your website is usable, focussed and well written in order for your visitors have a good user experience as well as guiding them to carry out the desired action on your site.

What I do find interesting is that Neilson’s basics of good design are based fundamentally on human behaviour. Web 2.0 sites, without question, generate different user behaviour than more ‘conventionally designed’ sites. Does this mean that there may be scope for definitive usability guidelines for Web 2.0 websites? (I feel Neilson may not get involved.)


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