Are You a Web Hero?

The world of web design is crazy indeed. Maybe what we need is a hero.

You know, one of those masked guys with a cape who zip in and save the day on a moment’s notice. Got a problem with your web site? Call the local chapter of the Web Heroes Brigade, and they’ll dispatch a local representative, who will fly in and whip your site into shape, staying only long enough to accept your gratitude before they’re off to fix the next web disaster.

Maybe that’s what Jakob Nielsen and Donald Norman have in mind behind their shiny new company, the Nielsen Norman Group. Now, if you’ve been on the web for any length of time, you’ll recognize at least one of these names. Neilsen, one of the most respected names on the web, is a master spokesperson for usability issues among web sites. Definite hero potential.

Norman, who I’ve known about for years, used to head up the group of people at Apple who made the MacOS interface the best in the world. But he’s even more famous for his exceptional books, mostly about how everyday objects are designed with (or without) the human in mind. His motto is “People Propose, Science Studies, Technology Conforms.”

With the sorry state the web is in these days, people like Neilsen and Norman are desperately needed as spokespersons, leaders, and yes…web heroes. Their primary role in this fashion is to act as role models for all of the budding web designers out here who want to make “buttloads of money” off of the web. But, we’ve gone far beyond the stage of the web where prettiness is the primary factor. If your site is not easy to use, you’re going to lose customers. Period. This is a point that Nielsen’s been trying to drill into the heads of web designers for years, usually through his excellent Alertbox columns.

I’m very pleased that Nielsen and Norman decided to leave their very respectable jobs at Sun and HP to found their new company. It’s a step in the right direction for all of us. The more they can educate those who look up to them, the better the web will become.

I hope they wear their capes well.

Posted by Cameron Barrett at August 12, 1998 11:59 PM

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