ARCHIVE: January, 2006

Why the 50ms Finding Can Be Misleading

Web users judge sites in the blink of an eye

The finding is that people can make judgments about a site in just 50 milliseconds. The conclusion is that visual appeal is therefore paramount to success.

This study has created quite a discussion, even reaching the heights of CNN.

Problem is, the study doesn’t test users who really care. They’re not motivated like people are in real life. They’re not even completing meaningful tasks!

You might as well ask someone to judge the deliciousness of food by looking at it.

Or you could just read Christine’s much more level-headed response: Snap Decisions on the Web

On Change

Richard MacManus:

“A lot of the features and functionality of so-called Web 2.0 sites are now common elements in most current web apps and sites.”

Call them what you want, people are learning to build networked, participation-focused applications pretty quickly, it seems.

On Progress

Chris Lott:

“in the end we all benefit by being able to have a pretty good idea what is being talked about when someone talks about a Web 2.0 application.”

On Visual Appeal

Mark Bernstein:

“does visual appeal lead to lots of sales? Take eBay. The eBay home page is ugly — everyone knows this. I guess that’s because eBay is making so little money that they can’t afford to hire a designer to improve their use of color? Conversely, do appealing sites lead to hot sales — making Mark Boulton, say, a tycoon?

Visual appeal is nice. Findability is nice. Structure is nice. Clarity, brevity, and sincerity — all nice. But they’re all secondary.

You can compete on price, or service, or quality. If you’re in a tie, the visual appeal of your web page (or of your salesperson) can make a difference. To argue that visual appeal is the dominant factor in web commerce is to assume that people are stupid, that they make snap judgments based on tiny glimpses of the page and act on those judgments against their best interest. It can happen: people make mistakes. In my experience, though, the audience is smarter than you.”

Simple. Desirable. Sharable.

Things learned during a week of self-imposed blogging exile in Aruba.



Simplicity is the first requirement of anything valuable. Simple is marked by a lack of ambiguity. Clarity. Instant understanding. We take for granted those things that are simple because they are simple, as there is nothing else to say. We must first understand a subject before we can do anything useful with it.


Desirability is the second requirement of anything valuable. To create successful software you need to make something people want. If you can’t show or explain why people would want your product/service in one sentence, chances are it’s probably not simple enough.


This follows from the first two. If you aren’t able to share it with someone, then it’s either not simple enough to explain or desirable enough to be worth mentioning. And if you can make it simple and desirable, then it will share itself.


  • If people truly want what you have, you’ll have no trouble making money from it.
  • If your idea is truly simple, then chances are you as the designer won’t get noticed.
  • If your idea is truly desirable, you won’t have to spend much time marketing it.
  • Much of design is done in the name of the designer, not the user. Designers love to tell people how they’re adding value, but it really doesn’t matter what they say…it’s what the users say that counts.
  • Simple needs to be everywhere. Both the software and messaging need to be simple. Building it is one hurdle, telling people about it is another. Of course, you want people to tell each other, so build that into the software, too. But your messaging should reinforce what you want people to say to each other.
  • It doesn’t matter what you know unless you can express it to others.
  • Expression of ideas is what we are all doing all the time. The clarity with which we can express new ideas or ideas that build upon existing ones is the value that we add to any conversation.
  • Genius is making the hard-to-understand simple.

Why Zeldman’s Web 3.0 Misses the Mark

In Web 3.0, Jeffrey Zeldman writes a long missive on the subject of Web 2.0. He writes:

“To you who are toiling over an AJAX- and Ruby-powered social software product, good luck, God bless, and have fun. Remember that 20 other people are working on the same idea. So keep it simple, and ship it before they do, and maintain your sense of humor whether you get rich or go broke. Especially if you get rich. Nothing is more unsightly than a solemn multi-millionaire.

To you who feel like failures because you spent last year honing your web skills and serving clients, or running a business, or perhaps publishing content, you are special and lovely, so hold that pretty head high, and never let them see the tears.”

Presumably Zeldman wrote this piece for the sweet spot of readers who love to push back on any idea they feel is marketing-driven. And since O’Reilly Media coined the term it is, in part, marketing-driven. In all the talks that I’ve had about Web 2.0 there are definitely some people who resent this, and despite anything I might say, will continue to do so. I accept that. Just like the others who have done so before him, Zeldman will definitely get the crowd cheering.

But I would like to remind that same crowd that everyone has an agenda to push, be it O’Reilly or Zeldman or Porter. For the past few years following Zeldman’s release of his book Designing with Web Standards, he’s been writing about and promoting, well, designing with web standards. Could Zeldman be criticizing O’Reilly for doing what he does himself?

Every person has their own ideas, and each believes in them as they should.

As we all know, the problem with web standards, like all technology, is that they don’t make your product more usable, desirable, or compelling on their own. No, we need innovative designers for that. Sure, web standards make it easier for developers to create sites, but convincing developers to use them doesn’t make users love your site. Validation might very well be the biggest red herring in design today.

Innovating with Web 2.0 ideas like creating an architecture of participation, however, might just make users love your site.

There’s a big difference between ideas and the people who wrongly abuse them. To me, it looks like Jeffrey doesn’t like the people who evangelize Web 2.0 as being the greatest thing since sliced bread, the cure for headaches, and the best get rich scheme since Ponzi. Dash of Ajax, pinch of Ruby on Rails, and you’re about to flip. Of course, Zeldman is right about this: everyone is sick of these people. But there are also groups of people who are much more sane than that, and who follow Web 2.0 reasonably, pointing out that it’s not about the technology or the get-rich schemes, but about creating useful applications for real people.

But instead, Zeldman dismisses the idea of Web 2.o itself, and the subthemes which the designers at Flickr and 37Signals so obviously follow and, I might add, help teach us about. These things, as Zeldman himself points out, ain’t so bad after all:

“The best and most famous of these new web products (i.e. the two I just mentioned) foster community and collaboration, offering new or improved modes of personal and business interaction. By virtue of their virtues, they own their categories, which is good for the creators, because they get paid.

It is also good for our industry, because the prospect of wealth inspires smart developers who once passively took orders to start thinking about usability and design, and to try to solve problems in a niche they can own. In so doing, some of them may create jobs and wealth. And even where the payday is smaller, these developers can raise the design and usability bar. This is good for everyone. If consumers can choose better applications that cost less or are free, then the web works better, and clients are more likely to request good (usable, well-designed) work instead of the usual schlock.”

Trends to Watch in 2006 – Part 3

The following is part 3 in a series of Trends to Watch in 2006 right here on your neighborhood (Part 1 | Part 2)

The Life Portfolio

Every blogger knows that people judge them in part by their blog. The design of the site, the number of comments they receive, the attention they get from others linking in, and the very words they use represent them to their readers are all important. In my case, I’m sometimes called “Josh Bokardo” because people have no idea where the word Bokardo comes from, and assume (at first glance), that it’s probably my last name.

Continue Reading: Trends to Watch in 2006 – Part 3

Trends to Watch in 2006 – Part 2

The following is part 2 in a series of Trends to Watch in 2006 right here on your neighborhood (Part 1 | Part 3)

Synchronization and Local Store

Synchronization is an increasingly big deal for people in a networked world. The ability to store our information on remote servers, or even our network server at work or home, introduces the necessity of synchronizing data over time. In any case where we have data stored in more than one place, we need to be able to keep that data current. If it changes in one place, we need all places changed. Doing this manually, however, is really difficult. We don’t want to be bothered to worry about which information is the latest. Our software should do that for us, and that means synchronization.

Continue Reading: Trends to Watch in 2006 – Part 2

Trends to Watch in 2006

Here’s part 1 of a list of trends I saw gaining momentum in 2005 that I see growing even more important in 2006. Part 2: Synchronization and Local Store

This started out as a list of technological trends, with RSS, Ajax, and Ruby on Rails being the headlines, as all three had huge years in terms of implementation and being squacked about. But these things, while interesting, aren’t really trends in the way that people are using the Web. Instead, they’re trends in building. Nothing illustrates the disparity between technology and usage more than the what Yahoo had to say in their October whitepaper: RSS-Crossing into the Mainstream. They claim that while over 1/4 of all Web users consume RSS in one way or another, only 4% know it.

So, in the spirit of usage I offer the following trends, focused on the way that those in the curve use the Web. Those ahead of the curve are probably on to whatever will get mainstream next year…

Continue Reading: Trends to Watch in 2006

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