scotartt on 10 Jan 2001 14:34:38 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Fw: <nettime> Disassociate Webdesign from Usability

hiya felix  + geert

actually i think your article geert is completely arse about face. graphic
design be damned!!! felix is right of course; the "innovation" isn't in the
visual look of the "web" but what you can do with it - the focus on
networked applications of one sort or another -- slashdot and napster being
very good examples.

I spoke to my partner about this. she mentioned her personal 'killer'
application; the ability to renew her library book loans for her research
at the university library. there are two interfaces; one the original
telnet based one, the other the fancy web-based. the first is primitive, no
designers went anywhere near it ... yet the completely ugly,
non-usability-tested, telnet "green screen" *application* is infinitely
more useful and dare i say it, usable, than the pretty over worked,
functionally illiterate, "web interface".

out there in tech-land as geert states its no longer about aggregating
eyeballs or even making *content* (we're awash in the bloody stuff -- far
too much of it), but about making *applications*. applications of course
being things-unto-themselves, **machines**, appliances, stuff that makes a
difference to someone's life, i.e. what was the intial promise of 20th
century materialist culture, and the reason why, as a socialist, I believe
in 'progress', not this back-to-nature schizophrenia (as if we're external
to nature!) of the modern left.

remember Kruschev's comments to Nixon about the world's fair and
refridgerators? overshadowed of course by the famous "we will bury you"
comment, but you understand my point i hope. that stuff makes a
difference - a real advance in living conditions. so the real hope of the
internet now its run by capitalists isn't its unlimited potiential for
aggregating eyeballs onto some anti-WTO site but the actual potential that
someone somewhere will invent some appliance that makes a real difference
to the world. (the wind up internet terminal perhaps).

when people talk about the "web" or "internet" what they usually mean is
information-retrieval application that they use over the internet, not the
internet itself. this information-retrieval appliance (the browser) is just
one of the possible appliances you could design for the web. the network,
of course, is a great boon to information-distribution applications but of
course its not the only application layer that might exist on the internet,
and design has almost *nothing* to say about these other applications.
think about radio-as-broadcast-model versus radio-controlled-airplanes.

By applications, I mean ... engineering ... software engineering, hardware
engineering, civil engineering, wetware engineering, network engineering,
electronics engineering, social engineering, but whichever way you want to
cut it it's still engineering. not design. boot design back to the
marketing department where it belongs.


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----- Original Message -----
From: Felix Stalder <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, January 08, 2001 9:20 AM
Subject: Re: <nettime> Disassociate Webdesign from Usability

> Geert,
> I'm not sure I understand what your critique aims at. It almost seems
> you reduce webdesign to screendesign. However, I think that screendesign
> only one of several aspects of webdesign and probably not even the most
> interesting one.  Take, say, slashdot. Great, innovative webdesign in
> of information gathering and analysis, in terms of how it connects people
> to one another, even though its visual interface is not particularly
> innovative. The same can be said about Napster and many other really
> innovative Internet services and sites.
> Take, on the other hand, your average flash animation (or 3D
> Great visuals, but usually so uninteresting in its content and so reduced
> in its possibilities that most users (including myself) will try to avoid
> it as often as possible.
> What all of that indicates is that graphic designer are not the
> "avant-garde" of the web, but are rather far behind the technological
> development. If the most innovative websites have the most dull
> what does that say? Not necessarily that they have been brain-washed by
> unimaginative e-commerce consultants, but perhaps that graphic designers
> have so far been unable to develop a new visual language as quickly as
> new applications that would need one have been introduced.
> So, at the moment, we are confronted with the sad choice between
> sites with a dull interface and nice-looking sites with a conservative
> information structure. For the time being, as you top ten list indicated,
> most people prefer the former,, our all favourite, being the
> most extreme in this regard.
> best. Felix

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