Jakob Nielsen (usability consultant)

Jakob Nielsen (born 5 October 1957) is a Danish web usability consultant.[1] He holds a Ph.D. in human–computer interaction from the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen.

Jakob Nielsen
Jakob Nielsen 1.jpg
Nielsen in 2002
Born (1957-10-05) 5 October 1957 (age 63)
OccupationWeb usability consultant


Nielsen's earlier affiliations include Bellcore (now Telcordia Technologies) (Bell Communications Research), the Technical University of Denmark, and the IBM User Interface Institute at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center.[citation needed]


Sun MicrosystemsEdit

From 1994 to 1998, he was a Sun Microsystems Distinguished Engineer. He was hired to make heavy-duty enterprise software easier to use, since large-scale applications had been the focus of most of his projects at the phone company and IBM. But luckily the job definition of a Distinguished Engineer is "you're supposed to be the world's leading expert in your field, so you figure out what would be most important for the company for you to work on."[citation needed] Therefore, Dr. Nielsen ended up spending most of his time at Sun defining the emerging field of web usability. He was the usability lead for several design rounds of Sun's website and intranet (SunWeb), including the original SunWeb design in 1994.[2]

Other activitiesEdit

Nielsen is on the editorial board of Morgan Kaufmann Publishers' book series in Interactive Technologies.[citation needed]

Nielsen writes a fortnightly newsletter, Alertbox, on web design matters and has published several books on the subject of web design. After his regular articles on his Web site about usability research attracted media attention, he co-founded usability consulting company Nielsen Norman Group with fellow usability expert Donald Norman.


Nielsen founded the "discount usability engineering" movement for fast and cheap improvements of user interfaces and has invented several usability methods, including heuristic evaluation. He holds 79 United States patents, mainly on ways of making the Web easier to use.

In the early 1990s, Nilsen popularized the principle that five test persons per usability test session is enough, allowing numerous tests at various stages of the development process. His argument is that "elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources." Once it is found that a few people are totally confused by a home page, little is gained by watching more people suffer through the same flawed design. "[3]

Nielsen has also defined the five quality components of his "Usability Goals", which are:[4]

  • Learnability
  • Efficiency
  • Memorability
  • Errors (as in low error rate)
  • Satisfaction

Nielsen gave his name to Nielsen's law, in which he stated that network connection speeds for high-end home users would increase 50% per year, or double every 21 months. As a corollary, he noted that, since this growth rate is slower than that predicted by Moore's Law of processor power, user experience would remain bandwidth-bound.[5]

Nielsen has been criticized by some graphic designers for failing to balance the importance of other user experience considerations such as typography, readability, visual cues for hierarchy and importance, and eye appeal.[6][7]

Nielsen has been quoted in the computing and the mainstream press for his criticism of Windows 8's user interface.[8][9][10] Tom Hobbs, creative director of the design firm Teague, criticized what he perceived to be some of Nielsen's points on the matter, and Nielsen responded with some clarifications.[11] The subsequent short and troubled history of Windows 8, released on October 26,2012, seems to have confirmed Nielsen's criticism: the sales of Windows-based systems plummeted after the introduction of Windows 8;[12] Microsoft released a new version, Windows 8.1, on Oct 18,2013, to fix the numerous problems identified in Windows 8, and later released Windows 10, a complete overhaul, in July 2015.

Nielsen's 2012 guidelines that web sites for mobile devices be designed separately from their desktop-oriented counterparts has come under fire from Webmonkey's Scott Gilbertson,[13] as well as Josh Clark writing in .net magazine,[14] and Opera's Bruce Lawson, writing in Smashing Magazine,[15] and other technologists and web designers who advocate responsive web design.[16] In an interview with .net magazine, Nielsen explained that he wrote his guidelines from a usability perspective, not from the viewpoint of implementation.[17] However, Nielsen appears to have ignored the emerging software technology related to responsive web design, whereby a single body of code, while requiring more painstaking implementation, can be run on devices of various screen sizes, from mobile screens to desktop monitors[citation needed].


In 2010, Nielsen was listed by Bloomberg Businessweek among 28 "World's Most Influential Designers".[18]

In recognition of Nielsen's contributions to usability studies, in 2013 SIGCHI awarded him the Lifetime Practice Award.[19]


His published books include:

  • Hypertext and Hypermedia (1990) (ISBN 0-12-518410-7)
  • Usability Engineering (1993) (ISBN 0-12-518406-9)
  • Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity (1999) (ISBN 1-56205-810-X)
  • E-Commerce User Experience (2001) (ISBN 0-9706072-0-2) (coauthors: Rolf Molich, Carolyn Snyder, Susan Farrell)
  • Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (2001) (ISBN 0-7357-1102-X) (coauthor: Marie Tahir)
  • Prioritizing Web Usability (2006) (ISBN 0-321-35031-6) (coauthor: Hoa Loranger)
  • Eyetracking Web Usability (2008) (ISBN 0-321-49836-4) (coauthor: Kara Pernice)
  • Mobile Usability (2012) (ISBN 0-321-88448-5) (coauthor: Raluca Budiu)

A list of Jakob Nielsen's research publications is maintained at Interaction-Design.org

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Study Shows People Ignore Generic Photos Online New York Times November 2, 2010
  2. ^ Nielsen, Jakob. "Profile of Jakob Nielsen". LinkedIn. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  3. ^ "Usability Testing with 5 Users (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)". useit.com. 2000-03-13.; references Jakob Nielsen; Thomas K. Landauer (April 1993). "A mathematical model of the finding of usability problems". Proceedings of ACM INTERCHI'93 Conference (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 24–29 April 1993).
  4. ^ Nielsen, Jakob (1994). Usability Engineering. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. ISBN 0-12-518406-9.
  5. ^ Nielsen, Jakob (1998-04-05). "Nielsen's Law of Internet Bandwidth". Retrieved 2014-07-02.
  6. ^ Usability News "The Backlash against Jakob Nielsen and What it Teaches Us". Archived from the original on December 9, 2002. Retrieved 2007-06-27.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), July 31, 2002
  7. ^ Curt Cloninger "Usability experts are from Mars, graphic designers are from Venus" July 28, 2000
  8. ^ Gregg Keizer (20 November 2012). "Windows 8 UI 'strategic mistake,' argues design guru". Computerworld.
  9. ^ Matt Baxter-Reynolds. "Here's how Jakob Nielsen's Windows 8 findings should inform developers". ZDNet.
  10. ^ Wingfield, Nick (21 October 2012). "Windows, Staple of Most PCs, Gets a Major Makeover" – via NYTimes.com.
  11. ^ "Why Jakob Nielsen's Windows 8 critique is old-school thinking". CNET. CBS Interactive. 21 November 2012.
  12. ^ Sebastian Anthony, April 11, 2013. Windows 8 causes most precipitous PC decline in history. https://www.extremetech.com/computing/153111-windows-8-causes-most-precipitous-pc-decline-in-history
  13. ^ "Why Jakob Nielsen Is Wrong About Mobile Websites". Webmonkey.
  14. ^ "Nielsen is wrong on mobile". netmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 20 December 2012.
  15. ^ "Why We Shouldn't Make Separate Mobile Websites – Smashing Magazine". Smashing Magazine.
  16. ^ "Designers respond to Nielsen on mobile". netmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 27 December 2012.
  17. ^ "Nielsen responds to mobile criticism - Interview - .net magazine". netmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 27 December 2012.
  18. ^ "World's Most Influential Designers". Businessweek.com.
  19. ^ "2013 SIGCHI Awards". sigchi.org. Archived from the original on 2014-10-23.

External linksEdit