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   The Beginning of Web Design

   In [1]this week's Alertbox, titled "End of Web Design," Jakob Nielsen
   argues that "websites must tone down their individual appearance and
   distinct design in all ways." Nielsen argues that because the user's
   web experience is becoming more interconnected -- with syndicated
   content and services, and the growth of network-based computing --
   sites need to become more generic in "visual design, terminology and
   lableing, interaction design and workflow, [and] information

   This piece is the promised follow-up to Nielsen's [2]June 25th piece,
   which dissected [3]Microsoft's .NET announcement. In that piece,
   Nielsen argued that since the network is the new user experience,
   individual sites will no longer "supply a complete user experience,
   [instead] each site will supply a component of the overall user
   experience that is coordinated by the new nexus."

   To put it bluntly, Nielsen has it backwards.

   Microsoft's .NET announcement stimulated hundreds of thousands of
   words of [4]analysis, and was hailed by an analyst from the Giga group
   as "one of the more complete architectural visions of how e-services
   should be created." But .NET was really just an (emphatic) endorsement
   of the direction that the web has been heading for the past few years.
   [5]Abstraction of content from form. [6]Content syndication.
   [7]Application syndication. [8]Distributed computing. [9]Unified
   browsing and authoring.

   Leaving aside the question of how big a role Microsoft's
   Windows-biased .NET tools will play in the coming years, it's fairly
   obvious to assume that we're headed for a network-centric age of
   computing. Where information can be exchanged seamlessly between
   applications, websites, clients, servers, handhelds, palmtops, cell
   phones, key chains, etc., thanks to simple yet powerful technologies
   like XML. The key here is information exchange.

   Nielsen believes that this network-centric world will demand that all
   websites look and act alike, since we'll be traversing amongst
   multiple sites even more frequently than we do today. This makes very
   little sense to me. If information can move freely, why should I have
   to jump from site to site to have an "overall user experience?" If all
   information is networked, why should I have to travel the web to find
   it? Why shouldn't it come directly to me, in a user experience that's
   uniquely tailored to my needs?

   We're just starting to see the interesting opportunities being created
   by open and accessible information sets. The Amazon Associate program
   essentially distributes the front end of their product database
   amongst thousands of virtual retailers. For me, the most effective
   selling mechanism Amazon has is [10]Media Nugget of the Day, a daily
   product shot wrapped in editorial, delivered via the web and email.
   And in the portal space, Alta Vista, Lycos, Hotbot, Google and
   Netscape all use data from the [11]Open Directory Project to populate
   their site directories and compete with Yahoo. And if you think those
   sites all look alike, check out [12]Web Brain, a showcase for both
   [13]The Brain, Inc. and the Open Directory Project.

   Finally, Nielsen could well learn from an Internet app that has
   flourished thanks to mature information exchange standards: email.
   Despite valiant attempts by Microsoft, the email reader market has
   remained remarkably heterogeneous, thanks to simple messaging
   standards and widely diverse user needs. Depending on my location, my
   mood or my computing environment, I can read and respond to my mail
   with Pine, Elm, Netscape, Outlook, Eudora, my Palm V, my pager or my
   cell phone.

   Standard methods of exchanging and delivering information will open up
   opportunities for Internet application developers to provide more
   distinct user experiences for more distinct target markets. If there's
   a market for a particular type (or brand) of user experience,
   information standards will only help create that market, by helping
   users avoid information-based application lock-in (a la Microsoft
   Office), and forcing developers to cater to the user interface and
   functionality needs of their particular audience.

   This is just the beginning of web design. Not the end.

   -- [14]Michael Sippey


  14. mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]


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Editor's note...

Ever since I published my most recent piece, back in May, I've had more than
a few questions sent my way about the future of Stating the Obvious.  Here
are answers to some of them.

1) No, I haven't disappeared.  I'm just busy, just like everyone else.
What, that's not a good enough excuse?  Oh.

2) Yes, I'm selling Obvious-branded stuff.  Even though I'm not publishing
regularly.  Who can resist the opportunities of friction-free t-shirts, mugs
and mousepads?

3) Yes, I'm blogging at  No, it's not called "Filtered for
Purity."  Wherever did you get that idea?

4) Blue.

5) Of course!  Send ideas my way, via [EMAIL PROTECTED]

Thanks for listening.



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