I really, really hate Jakob Nielsen’s website. Not that I don’t think that he means well, but I find it completely ridiculous that someone who goes on about “usability” has a terribly designed website. I understand that his emphasis is on function over form, but even so, he’s chosen a colour scheme and typeface that doesn’t lend itself to easy reading, and he has a subpar navigation system. The whole thing has a very late-nineties, designed-on-Windows-98 feel, and it simply feels archaic for the needs of people in 2010. I do prefer simpler website designs over sites that are loaded with Flash, Ajax, and other ‘shiny’ web technologies that just slow your computer down, but that doesn’t mean that they have to look ugly! It’s really simple to just create a page with halfway decent typography and navigation that doesn’t look as though 1997 barfed it up.
I wonder if his attitude towards web aesthetics is related to something I mentioned earlier, about the divide between geeks and aesthetes. (Not that geeks can’t be aesthetes; I consider myself both, but many people seem to have this mentality that being geeky and aesthetically inclined are mutually exclusive.) It feels a bit like the Mac/PC debates, where Windows fans deride Mac users for wanting an attractive, intuitive, and simple interface, as opposed to something that’s less “pretty” and emphasises “geeky” skills.
Recently, Ken Fisher of Ars Technica wrote an interesting article about the effects of ad blocking on online publishing. While I understand his concerns, I feel that there are certain issues that aren’t taken into account when people block advertisements. Yes, some people simply block ads because they dislike seeing advertising all over their screen, but others have additional reasons for wanting to block them. Others have mentioned the security, privacy and performance issues that stem from excessive online advertising, but I’d like to approach this from a different perspective.
I have visual processing issues that make it extremely difficult for me to focus on a site’s content without a million obnoxious animated ads coming up. Most ads are just another confusing visual stimulus for me, and I can’t deal with it. I’ll find myself being distracted by the ads, instead of being able to pay attention to what I want to read. My reading process will probably be like ‘article AD AD AD AD AD ***LOOK AT ME I’M AN AD**** article ****DON’T IGNORE ME I’M A BIG FLASHY ANIMATED AD!!!!!!*****’.
I’m not as bothered by still, inline, relevant advertising, but the norm seems to be animated Flash ads that are extremely distracting. I think that I would be less likely to block internet ads if they weren’t so difficult for me to piece through. Text Google ads aren’t that bad, and I don’t make any particular effort to block Google “sponsored links” in my Gmail account. I’d wager that some of those flashy ads (for example, those obnoxious cursor ones and the blinking fake error messages) might trigger a seizure in some epileptic people.
Sometimes I feel bad that I block advertisements on some of my favourite websites, but it’s not enough to compel me to whitelist everything, especially when it will be next to impossible for me to even concentrate on these sites’ contents with all those ads in my face.
Did I mention that I had a Flickr? There, you can see my amateurish attempts at photography, art and design. (I’m half-kidding. Nothing there is terrible—except for my stupid Windows parodies, maybe—but it’s definitely not Ansel Adams or Paul Rand material.)
I meant to do this when it was actually Thursday, but sadly, Offline intervened, and I’ll just do it now, since I can’t seem to get to sleep.
Typography for Lawyers. I’m not a lawyer, but I think Matthew Butterick’s suggestions for strong, solid fonts are pretty good for anyone who needs to type lengthy documents and use type that’s easy to read, elegant and NOT a default operating system font or the dreaded Times New Roman.
Low End Mac. I spend an inordinate amount of time on this site, mostly because the articles are that good. (I’m particularly fond of Charles Moore’s Miscellaneous Ramblings columns; they’re well-written and a joy to read.) It’s nice to find a computer site that isn’t obsessed with the Latest and Greatest™.
Not much this week, but then again, I’ve been preoccupied with tests and papers and stuff like that. Real content following shortly. (And by “shortly,” I mean “within the next week.”)
I think I’ve finally found an acceptable theme for this blog. The problem is trying to find something simple, clean and legible without fifteen million CSS background graphics or anything similar. I did use some more graphically intensive themes before, but I grew tired of them because I found them distracting. I’ve grown to prefer simpler, cleaner themes over the years, rather than busy ones that showcase advanced graphics capabilities. This isn’t because I dislike eye-candy; rather, it’s a preference for calmer, more subtle imagery.
I’ve noticed this weird sort of “geek elitism” during my Internet travels. Some people who are more focused on using computers as an end in themselves rather than a means tend to look down on those who prefer to use computers as a tool. I’ve seen myriad comment threads in which someone inevitably shows up saying “Mac sucks because you can’t build one yourself/upgrade it/tweak the hell out of it,” and talking about their home-built Windows or Linux systems, or how Windows or Linux is better than the Mac for the reasons that I specified above. That’s nice for you, honestly, but I really don’t want to build my own computer, especially when I can’t run my preferred operating system on it out of the box without violating Apple’s EULA or having to tweak a lot of settings in order to get it to work. (Not that I’m particularly fond of current copyright law, but.)
Believe it or not, not everyone wants to sit around tweaking a computer in order to make it work! I do understand that some people derive satisfaction from it—in fact, I used to spend a lot of time tweaking my Windows systems’ software—but these days, I am less involved in that, and would rather have a solution that I can “set and forget,” without constant adjustments that distract me from my work. My preference for ease of use and intuitive operation isn’t inferior; I’d say that it’s just a different preference, and I’m kind of tired of seeing the Linux and Windows fanboys/girls and hardware geeks coming out and insulting Mac users just because they don’t like tweaking every single piece of their hardware and software. (This isn’t just limited to Windows and Linux people; I’m tired of fellow Mac people doing the same thing to Windows and Linux users.) We chose to use a different platform from you; that doesn’t make us inferior or dumb. I mean, I don’t go around insulting Windows and Linux users, because there’s really no point. Windows and Linux do the job for them, so who am I to go “LOL WINDOZE SUX GET A MAC RITE NOW”?