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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.