Rise of the Web: Everybody Who Creates a Website is a Designer

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Rise of the Web: Everybody Who Creates a Website is a Designer

The meteoric rise in popularity of the Web immensely broadened access to information-and misinformation .

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DILBERT reprinted by permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

Most relevant to this book, the rise of the Web has thrust many people into the role of user -interface designers ... for better or worse . Furthermore, this trend will continue. Although the dot-com crash of 2001 slowed the growth of the Web, it did not stop it. At the time of this writing (mid-2002), credible estimates of the total number of websites vary tremendously-from about 10 million to 150 million-because of differences in how a "website" is defined. [2] Nonetheless, Web analysts agree that whatever the number of websites is, it is still growing.

Every one of those websites was designed by someone. As Nielsen has pointed out (Nielsen, 1999a), there aren't enough trained user-interface designers on Earth to handle the number of websites that go online each year. Thus most sites are designed by people who lack training and experience in interaction and information design and usability. Put more bluntly: Everyone and his dog is a Web designer, and almost no one has any user-interface or interaction design training.

In addition to the explosion in the number of Web designers, we had the ascendancy of "Internet time"-extremely aggressive schedules-for Web development. Internet time usually meant no time for careful analysis of the intended users and their tasks , no time for usability testing before taking the sites live, and no time for sanity checks on the soundness of the site's value proposition. From the late 1990s through about 2000, thousands of companies-many of them startups -developed websites and Web-based applications "on Internet time." Business plans were devised on Internet time, large sites were designed on Internet time, and back ends and front ends were implemented on Internet time. Not surprisingly, most of these efforts then crashed and burned ... on Internet time. Lesson: Maybe "Internet time" is not such a great idea.


The 5th Wave, www.the5thwave.com.

[2] Depending on who is counting, a "website" is defined as a registered domain name , a home page, or a Web server that responds. Obviously, the number of sites counted depends on which criterion is used. Web analyst Jakob Nielsen suggests that the most credible estimate is the NetCraft survey: www.netcraft.com/survey/ . In mid-2002, using a criterion based on responding Web servers, NetCraft estimated 37.5 million websites.



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How Were the Bloopers Compiled?

I began collecting examples of Web usability bloopers shortly after GUI Bloopers (Johnson 2000) was published in early 2000 and continued collecting examples through October 2002. I found most of the examples through my own use of the Web. Some examples of bloopers were submitted by friends , colleagues, and GUI Bloopers readers who knew I was writing a book about the Web.

In early 2002, my publisher posted a notice on GUI-Bloopers.com -its website for that book- inviting submissions of examples of Web bloopers. The publisher also distributed flyers issuing the invitation . This resulted in many submissions, some of which are included.

In collecting examples of bloopers, I avoided personal web-sites and websites of very small businesses and organizations. Developing and maintaining a website can be expensive. Individuals and small organizations don't have much money to spend on Web development, so it isn't surprising when their sites contain bloopers. Furthermore, websites of individuals are often more for personal expression than anything else and so must be viewed with a large amount of tolerance.

Instead, I focused on larger organizations: companies, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. All have-or at least should have-put significant effort and resources into designing and developing their sites.

All examples of bloopers in this book are dated to show when the example was collected. Many of the websites cited have been updated since the example was collected, in some cases several times. At many cited websites, the bloopers have been corrected. Sadly, a few sites cited as examples of avoiding a blooper no longer avoid it. A 6-month publication lag guarantees that many more cited websites will have changed by the time the book appears. Nothing printed can keep up with the Web.



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