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Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977


Why Scoble Is Wrong

So, I’m a bit late to join the par­ty. But heck, it was a busy week and
I only got a chance to dig through my RSS feeds this week­end. It seems Scoble
thinks design is use­less
, eh? Big deal. While I don’t care much for
Scoble’s views on the mat­ter, I do how­ev­er care about design as a fundamental
part of dai­ly life.

Read­ing his rant against design I pic­tured Scoble at the movies: “Uhmm,
no thanks, dia­logue tran­scripts will do, pic­tures are just embell­ish­ment of
data, don’t need that”. Sur­re­al. Yet, he’s say­ing exactly
that in his post.

Jump­ing into the field of infor­ma­tion man­age­ment, the­o­ry holds that there’s
an unam­bigu­ous dis­tinc­tion between data and infor­ma­tion. How­ev­er, my purpose
is not to debate the­o­ret­i­cal details, but present an anal­o­gous con­cept applicable
to design. More­over the dif­fer­ence between data and con­tent should be noted.
In essence con­tent is (re-)packaged data.

Scoble is clear­ly data ori­ent­ed. For Scoble the pack­age (or wrap­ping) in which
data is deliv­ered plays an infe­ri­or or even detri­men­tal role. I’d like
to remind peo­ple that data as such is use­less. To become both con­ve­nient and
effec­tive data requires to be inter­pret­ed to fit human pro­cess­ing. Whether,
in the end, design is good or bad is a sub­jec­tive mat­ter, prone to hefty (unpro­duc­tive?)
debates. But argu­ing design or aes­thet­ics are not required is bogus. 

Next time Scoble boots up Win­dows, he should be remind­ed of the fact that some
folks at Microsoft spent a con­sid­er­able amount of time design­ing its interface.
Oh wait, maybe we should get rid of that too, it’s just a nui­sance, right?
Design mat­ters! More than

This item was posted by dhilhorst on Saturday, February 28th, 2004.


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7 comments on “Why Scoble Is Wrong”

  1. Posted by eric on Saturday, February 28th, 2004.

    I per­son­al­ly think that usabil­i­ty can­not exist with­out design. Regard­less of what some­thing looks like it can­not be ‘not designed’ — poor­ly designed exists, not designed does not. As such, when I see sites like Nielsen’s I imme­di­ate­ly click away — there’s been so lit­tle atten­tion paid to attrac­tive or ele­gant design that he’s got huge blocks of bright, clash­ing col­ors, with squashed con­tent and whitespace.

    Scoble’s blog, nonethe­less, isn’t poor­ly designed — it’s min­i­mal, to the point of being mod­est­ly unat­trac­tive, but it’s still usable, so in a sense he’s right. But ‘designed’ does not imply unus­able, and that’s some­thing he’s missed completely.

  2. Posted by jharr on Saturday, February 28th, 2004.

    Excel­lent post and excel­lent com­ment by eric as well. I sat and looked at that last sen­tence for a bit and felt an omi­nous sense of urgency. I am per­plexed about the divi­sion peo­ple find between usabil­i­ty and design, I feel the two are vital to one anoth­er’s suc­cess. Aes­thet­ics play a piv­otal role in user per­cep­tion of qual­i­ty and effec­tive­ness and as such can­not be neglect­ed in the design of qual­i­ty software.

    But do weblogs real­ly need to be user-accept­ed and held to some high soft­ware stan­dard? Not at all! For many peo­ple, blogs are their sole cre­ative out­let or at a min­i­mum their play­ground. Is it impor­tant to have your text leg­i­ble, yes. Is it impor­tant to have blue links on a white back­ground, absolute­ly not. I think some peo­ple bash design because they aren’t good at it or not will­ing to invest the time. But there are also peo­ple who would rather spend the time design­ing and try­ing new things then con­ce­trate on their pet­ty weblog list­ing rank. Who cares!?

  3. Posted by Noel on Saturday, February 28th, 2004.

    I hap­pen to run a FreeB­SD serv­er on one of my local machines with­out XWin­dows. It is by far my favorite oper­at­ing sys­tem, and all it con­sists of is a con­sole to type com­mands. Just like DOS, except it’s usable. So next time you think that hav­ing an inter­face makes some­thing more usable, think again — because you can’t to half the stuff you can do on FreeB­SD on Win­dows. That is, with­out Win­dows crash­ing on you.

  4. Posted by Jeff on Saturday, February 28th, 2004.

    Once you throw design and inter­face out the win­dow, you might as well throw for­mat­ting out with it as well (i.e.: whitespace).

    Well, I for one don’t like to look at any type of code that isn’t prop­er­ly for­mat­ted in an aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing way. I can’t read code like I read a book, where there’s vir­tu­al­ly no whitespace.

  5. Posted by eric on Saturday, February 28th, 2004.

    Noel, that’s a valid point — but you’re for­get­ting that a com­mand line inter­face is still an inter­face, just not a graph­i­cal one. Every­thing has its place, but in terms of max­i­miz­ing usabil­i­ty and design, OS X takes the cake — you get the graph­i­cal abil­i­ty of a win­dowed envi­ron­ment (visu­al edit­ing, brows­ing, etc.) and a com­mand line (through Ter­mi­nal) that is essen­tial­ly a BSD variant.

    But then, the fact that the freeb­sd com­mand line is “Just like DOS, except it’s usable” sug­gests that it’s (heh) got bet­ter design (whether in usabil­i­ty, func­tion, scope) than DOS.

  6. Posted by Tomas on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004.

    To become both con­ve­nient and effec­tive data requires to be inter­pret­ed to fit human processing.

    Very good point, it sums up my atti­tude against weblogs: if it isn’t aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing, I can’t read it.

  7. Posted by Tony on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004.

    There seems to be this per­cep­tion by some peo­ple that design=bloated. I was hav­ing this “dis­cus­sion” with some­one on slash­dot before I grew tired of beat­ing my head against the wall and final­ly gave up. There’s a mis­con­cep­tion that “design­ers” only come up with ultra-hip, arty, incom­pre­hen­si­ble band­width heavy bloat. That’s sim­ply not true. Some of the best designs I’ve seen are very min­i­mal in nature. Take this very site, for example.

    While we were both stat­ing the desire for sites to be usable above all else, it was my asser­tion that con­sid­er­ing the lay­out, nav­i­ga­tion­al struc­ture (infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture), white­space, etc. goes hand-in-hand with mak­ing a site usable. My adver­sary tried to argue the oppo­site: by con­sid­er­ing any of those things, you’re guar­an­teed to have an unus­able pile of trash.