Mobile Web Like Web in 90s (Usability)

Usability is generally ignored on the web today, not because it isn’t a big deal, but because the “common” design patterns are all reasonably usable.  Users are comfortable with the interface, nobody really does remarkably stupid things.  In the late 90s and early 2000s, that wasn’t the case.

Today, the mobile web is the talk, and apparently, we have the same usability problems that we had 10 years ago…  While users have an 80% success rate attempting a task on the web on their computer, it drops to 59% on their phone.

“Observing users suffer during our  … sessions reminded us of the very first usability studies we did with traditional websites in 1994,” writes Jakob Nielson (free plug, I found this article from his website, Use It.  Indeed, the Web 2.0 “Design strategy” of two columns over 3, most common operation front and center, and large fonts show that the Web 2.0 “revolution” largely involved Flash being replaced with sensible Javascript and Designers finally listening to usability guidelines, either intentionally or accidentally.

The oddest thing about the computer/IT industry is that it doesn’t maintain institutional knowledge or learn from the past.  When basic web-forms were decried as a throwback to the 3270 Mainframe model, you would think that the old Mainframe hands would be considered experts, but in an industry where 18-25 year olds can be productive, there is no interest in expertise.  As the mobile web becomes more and more important, usability may make the difference between success and failure.  The idea that I should go to my computer to check a map seems as ludicrous as the idea that I should use the phone book!