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November 20th, 2000

Jakob Nielsen Probably Doesn’t Like Driving Much

I promise I’m not going to go Jakob Nielsen on you. While some of his arguments are sound, many are just plain wacky and/or absurd.

One of the points he brings up, however, is an interesting parallel to something else we deal with daily (unless you don’t have one, and the earth loves you for it), our cars. Jakob’s big mantra is that web stores must have a consistent look and feel or will die. He also says that Flash movies suck in part due to the lack of a standard interface. When you work with a computer, there are standards: scrollbars, mouse movement, and so on. When it’s the web, there are no standards. I’m going to go ahead and agree with Jakob on this one. Make scrollbars look fancy, make them huge, make them animated, but make them work as we know them.

When you sit in a new car, there is always, always an adjustment period. The lights work differently, the radio works differently, and the biggest stickler is cruise control. There just aren’t any standards for this. The HVAC controls are another fun one. It’s interesting to note that these controls are probably the most important to a car’s function and your safety, yet there’s no standard. If GM wants, they can put a headlight control up on the ceiling if they really want to (it’ll appeal to about 1% of the car buying public, but still.)

Just as in web design, some elements of the car’s interface will go throw a Darwin shakeout… but with cars, it tends to take a longer period of time. Okay, much longer. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could sit in a car and know where the controls are going to be?

Then again, Jakob would say, "Wouldn’t it be nice if you could visit a site and know where the controls are going to be?" -pm

Posted in Cars

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