Zeldman on Usability

Update: Changed some wording…some folks thought I was arguing with Zeldman. Actually, I was agreeing with him, and finding that his post echoed what I’ve found to be true. Jeffrey Zeldman on how he softened up to usability: “Like many design professionals, I rejected usability when I first encountered it. That’s mainly because I first […]

Update: Changed some wording…some folks thought I was arguing with Zeldman. Actually, I was agreeing with him, and finding that his post echoed what I’ve found to be true.

Jeffrey Zeldman on how he softened up to usability:

“Like many design professionals, I rejected usability when I first encountered it. That’s mainly because I first encountered it as a series of rules, put forward by business-oriented, lab-coat-wearing experts who were hostile to the aesthetic component of user experience. Later, the rules would soften. “Only use blue, underlined links” would give way to gentler and more flexible guidelines.

And even before this softening, there was much in the early, fire-and-brimstone approach to usability that was actually of value to web designers. I should have been open-minded enough to benefit from the helpful bits and wink at the rest. But I was too busy defending my creative turf (not to mention reliving old battles with badly run focus groups and cocky account execs) to look closer and see that usability mainly means designing for the people who use my site.”

Zeldman talks frankly about a tension I’ve come to think will always exist, at some level, in the hearts and minds of every designer. As creative beings, we want a little bit (or a lot) of ourselves in our designs. On the usability front, however, we realize the person on the other end is focused resolutely on their own goals. The challenge is to find a common middle ground.

Published: November 30th, 2006

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