I just noticed that Alertbox articles (and other things) from are now incorporated into (the Articles section). The change must have happened recently, since I was regularly visiting while working on the next version of this site. My December 19th Alertbox email still has URLs to, so I suspect the change will be announced in the January 7th newsletter. [Update: The change was announced on December 31st.]

From a practical perspective, it means different URLs for Alertbox articles. A new feature: topics, connecting Alertbox articles and incorporating other NNGroup offerings. For example, the Applications topic leads with research reports, training and Tog articles on application design, followed by a list of Alertbox articles.

From a historical perspective, it means the end of the much-criticized visual design of has a pretty bare-bones design, but it probably will not attract criticism like's design did.

So far, all of the redirects seem to be working (no linkrot). I have only spotted 1 broken link: History link to Nielsen Norman Group: The First Decade. Non-Alertbox content from is a little weird, tho: for example, the CSCW '86 trip report is not really "Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox: November 1, 2012" (it was published pre-Alertbox). All of the 1995 Alertboxes that I have indexed here seem to have lost their date, now all are labelled "October 31, 2012." [Update: All of the article dates seems to have been corrected.]

Now that Jakob's "personal site,", is gone, will content from the other 2 NNGroup partners be incorporated in similar ways?

First version of the new site is done

I have spent the last month cobbling together the foundation for a new version of Usable Web. I believe I have enough content to start getting some feedback. If you would like to help me out, you can:

  1. Check out the old, old Usable Web, which is still online at usableweb.COM but has not been updated since 2006. If you are not familiar with the site or just have not visited it in years, you may want to spend a few minutes there.
  2. Spend some time here at usableweb.ORG, where I have started building a new version of the site. I have made updates to 10 entries, all from 1995. I have also written about 3 "inactive destinations". Not a lot, but hopefully enough content to give you a sense of the potential of the new site.
  3. Fill out a survey with your feedback and comments. You are also welcome to send feedback via Twitter (to @Usable_Web) or via email (to instone at usableweb dot org).


Guidelines for Multimedia on the Web

Animation, audio, video guidelines.

Animation advice focuses on only using it when it helps, such as showing change over time.

Video guidelines include advice on subtitles.

Audio is best used as an alternate communication channel, like background music to set the mood.

Also points out that response time is crucial for effective multimedia.


In general, these guidelines have stood the test of time. Animation is still good for the same things. Response times of 0.1 and 1 second still apply, but you can download a lot more now in 15 seconds.

Video is used effectively for a lot more than what was proposed back in 1995.

Web Interface Design: Learning from our Past (PDF)

Paper from the WWW4 workshop on access to legacy data.

Richard H. Miller provides advice on how to port a legacy system to the Web without just porting its user interface. That is, the data can be ported, but the UI should be redesigned to take advantage of Web technology (and to avoid Web shortcomings).


This was hard to find and I almost deleted it. Since it was a workshop paper, it was not part of the official WWW4 conference program. Eventually, I found a PDF version. Richard posted some of his workshop papers from a few years later, but I could not find this one there. Where is he now?

I still like Figure 1, that shows the early web as a step backwards in terms of interactivity. HTML 5 and everything else: we have caught up. The examples of work-arounds to make web pages usable might be interesting from a "was it really that primitive?" point of view.

The overall advice (guidelines, usability methods, professional designers) was sound, if you were new to the web and did not realize there was established science and practices. It was not all new to everyone.

In 2012, it sure does seem ironic to be reading a "Learning from our past" paper written in 1995.

How Much Bandwidth is Enough?

Estimate of bandwidth needed to support a usable connection to the Web.

Jakob Nielsen adds up the requirements for audio, screen size, and other aspects of the user interface and comes up with the need for a Tbps personal connection.


Do we have the terabit / second bandwidth yet: what we need for the "perfect user interface"?

Nielsen wrote a 1998 Alertbox about Internet bandwidth's 50% annual growth, with updates over the years. I do not see a prediction when we will reach the Tbps level.

Who Should You Hire to Design Your Web Site?

Team approach recommended.

Nielsen warns against getting demos from potential hires. Instead go to the sites they have made by yourself and see how easy they are to use.


The team of multi-disciplinary professionals is still sound advice: even more so, with additional disciplines needed now (not just HTML, UI designers and Advertising agencies). We have front end and back end developers, plus specialists in JavaScript and CSS and HTML (the latest HTML, of course). We have "user experience" teams now, with visual designers, interaction designers, user researchers, information architects and a whole lot more. "Digital agencies" are probably more common than old-fashioned "advertising agencies" today.

Showing the Context of Nodes in the World-Wide Web

Algorithm to discover landmark nodes and show current location among them.

Node importance based on in/out links up to two levels away. Noted enhancement could be to use access data instead of just presence of the link.


The primary author, Sougata Mukherjea, is now a researcher with IBM. His publications page at Georgia Tech is still online, with references to papers related to visualizing hypertext structures. Google Scholar has more papers by him, about various information retrieval topics. Since he and I have both co-published with Robert Mack, then Sougata and I are 2 degrees-of-separation academically. (^:

This paper was cited by 18 others. The most notable reference is obviously from The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web by Page & Brin, and others, the 1999 Technical Report from Stanford (PDF), which turned out to be pretty darn important.

The Audible Web: Auditory Enhancements for Mosaic

Making a browser more usable with sound additions.

Audible enhancements made to aid user monitoring of data transfer progress, provide feedback for user actions, and to provide content feedback to aid navigation.


Where is Michael Albers now? Eric Bergman?

This paper was cited 34 times so there is a small body of research around the topic of hypertext browsing and sound. I am not sure if any of the modern browsers utilize audio feedback any better than the browsers of the past.

A New Paradigm for Browsing the Web

Pages organized into decks.

An attempt to address organization and navigation weaknesses in current browsers.


DeckScape was presented in a video at the CHI conference the year after this paper was published.

Google Scholar citations for this paper.

I am not sure "decks" (or other innovative ways to organize web pages) have caught on within browsers.

Directions for Online Publishing

Three ways for online publishers to survive on the Web.

Good UIs, eliminating user registrations and microtransactions are the keys for online publishing to pursue on the Web.

Includes a taxonomy of five generations of online services.


The most interesting aspect of this article (to me) are the 5 generations of online services (which was a sidebar). We had 4th generation in 1995: how close are we to 5th generation today? With Ajax and cloud-based services, it seems like we are getting there, but not quite. But if we are there, then what is the 6th generation? Surely, we are not done evolving yet.


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