I perform at Renaissance faires as a hobby. It’s escapism, certainly, but it’s also great interactive theatre — there’s no stage, no walls, no curtain — and the patrons become part of the acting company.

Some of the very best actors at faire play the role of Puritans — those bible-thumping, brimstone-preaching, hell-in-a-hand-basket proselytizers. At the front gate the Puritans will warn you of the awful den of sin you should avoid inside. At the ale-stand they’ll assure you that alcohol is the devil’s own brew. If you stumble in the lane, they’re there to tell you that Satan has drug you down.

So it occurred to me today as I read Wired News’ “It’s the User, Stupid,” that we in the usability community have our very own Puritan. His name is Jakob Nielsen. Quoth Jakob:

“In the future, first of all, websites will be designed by my guidelines … for the simple reason that if they don’t, they are dead.”

What’s particularly galling about Jakob’s remarks are that, for all his self-aggrandizement and chest-thumping, he’s got some really valid points. Web sites are still too hard to use. They are complex and confusing. Web navigation is unpredictable, and too often inconsistent with user goals.

I only hope that Jakob’s world tour offers more light than heat.

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