Web 2.0 Could Be Bad For Business

    December 18, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen warns against believing all the Web 2.0 hype when designing with the end-user in mind. While some 2.0 features can help, the majority of sites should focus on mastering the 1.0 aspects that users know and love.

The problem, as Nielsen sees it, is that companies follow too much what the hot trends are, and as a result create sites that are unnecessarily complicated or offer little benefit to the average user.

An Ajax shopping cart, for example, may be abandoned because users don’t know how to work it, which can be "deadly for e-commerce sites."

The general crux of Nielsen’s argument seems to be that the average open-Internet user either isn’t that bright (well, sophisticated might be a better word) or at least has less incentive to appear bright.

Though a couple of sites, like Amazon, have made community features work for them via consumer reviews, Nielsen argues that communities work better for company intranets in general, where there is shared interest, no anonymity, more accountability, and less participation inequality (where only a few contribute while the majority do not).

And then there’s this gem: "Employees are pre-vetted: they’ve been hired and thus presumably have a minimum quality level. In contrast, on the Web, most people are bozos and not worth listening to."

In short, the masses are asses, a law passed down since the days of Aristotle. But he might have a point.

Nielsen also warns against making changes to a business site based on the success of "atypical" Web 2.0 sites. Adding Facebook features, for example, may do little to help the bottom line. "[M]ost of [Facebook’s] features are worthless for a B2B site that, say, is trying to sell forklift trucks to 50-year-old warehouse managers."

He recommends, then, focusing on the user-focused basics like clear pricing, product photos, and detailed specs, among others.