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December 18, 2007

Web 2.0 and usability

In his most recent Alertbox, Jacob Nielsen suggests that mainstream Web sites need to be cautious about adopting Web 2.0 features and that they are, by and large, better off focusing their attention on getting the Web 1.0 basics right.

I don't disagree, though the overall emphasis of the article seems to be on those sites that are doing the mashing, whereas I would have liked to have seen some acknowledgment of the benefits of making sure that your own content can be mashed by others.

Nielsen suggests four defining elements of Web 2.0:

  • "Rich" Internet Applications (RIA)
  • Community features, social networks, and user-generated content
  • Mashups (using other sites' services as a development platform)
  • Advertising as the main or only business model

In recent talks I've tended to use Sarah Robbins' characterisation of Web 2.0, with four slightly different bullets:

  • Prosumer (i.e. user as both consumer and producer)
  • Remote applications (i.e. accessed primarily thru the browser)
  • Social
  • APIs

Again, the use of 'mashups' in the first list appears to highlight the mashing of other people's content and services whereas the use of 'APIs' in the second seems to focus more on being mashed by others.  I'm not suggesting that one is right and the other is wrong - just noting the difference in emphasis.  Both are important.

What both lists tend to obscure is that the most important and simplest thing we can all do to make our content more Web 2.0-friendly is to expose cool URIs and appropriate RSS feeds.


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Andy, I'm with you 100%. Actually, some of the traits coming out of so-called "web2ness" are more sites with friendly url's, API usage (often behind AJAX) and so on.

What really gets up my nose about our Jakob is this: he bangs on about accessibility and usability and then produces a site which typifies the worst box-ticking approach (works well, looks like ****). I'll avoid getting on my soapbox (more on my blog at http://tinyurl.com/ysmcpl if you're that way inclined), but I go with Brian Kelly on this - accessibility and usability are about a holistic approach. Jakob for one misses this by having a pig-ugly site.

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