Book Review: Homepage Usability - Nielsen & Tahir

Although four years old this book delivers invaluable insights into Homepage usability. At the same time though you find yourself wishing Nielsen and Tahir would relax just a little bit.

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Four out of Five
Four out of Five

If you haven’t heard of Jakob Nielsen you probably haven’t looked very far on the web. The godfather of usability has a homepage that looks as thought he has only just discovered HTML. So why should we listen to a man who can’t really design a homepage himself?

Common sense - worth $10,000

The answer is that Nielsen and Tahir deliver some brilliant advice. The reader discovers that an audit normally costs $10,000 but it is easy to see how the relatively obvious advice can have a profound impact on the value and usability of a site.

Wielding the axe

Nielsen and Tahir are not shy about pulling their punches in the Homepage Guidelines. Out goes flash intros and ‘musaq’ (it must die apparently.) Out too goes unnecessary graphics. Amongst the brilliant advice on layout, navigation and copy this is the most contentious for me. Time and time again in the examples that follow the advice, homepages are berated for making use of ‘fancy fonts’, ’non-standard link colours’ and ‘over-compicated design’. It would seem that amidst all the great advice Nielsen and Tahir would really just like things to look the way they did ten years ago - where links were blue and graphics were a luxury.

Good design informs usability

Looking at the homepage I can apply many of the tools explained in the book. Who is the site for? What can I do on this site? What does this company do? The answer to all of these is I don’t know. On first glance I would say the page is a local library where no one has the time or inclination to go beyond the most basic HTML.

A blend of both

Reading this book will give you some invaluable tips on how to improve usability. I would argue though that you should combine the tips with a common sense approach to design. Yes - don’t overdo it, but well thought out design and graphical elements can significantly enhance the usability of a site.

Time for a redesign Jakob?

I’d like to suggest taht Nielsen looks around the web and sees some of the excellent usable designs out there. I’d also like to suggest that he uses his considerable brain to talk about usability and employs a designer to redesign his local library-like homepage.


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