NN/g News

Alertbox Columns Moved From Useit.com to NNgroup.com

December 31, 2012

For 18 years, Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox column was published on his useit.com website. (See separate article about the history of the Alertbox.)

This was a good run, but it's now time to unify this content with the main Nielsen Norman Group website. Thus, the old Alertbox columns have now been moved from useit.com to nngroup.com and future columns will be published directly on nngroup.com.

Microsites are usually a bad idea, because they lead to a fragmented Internet presence; it is better when users can find everything about a company on one site. Given this, why did we maintain useit.com as a separate website for so long? Mainly for historical reasons; because useit.com and the Alertbox were already very well established on the web by the time the Nielsen Norman Group was founded 15 years ago. The difference between 15 years and 18 years may not seem like a lot, but back then we lived in "Internet time" which was considered equivalent to dog years during the dot-com explosion. So a site with several years' established web presence couldn't be abandoned lightly. 

Legacy design is rarely a good rationale in the long run, but there was a second reason to maintain useit.com for many years: while nngroup.com needs a corporate look-and-feel to attract consulting clients, it was possible to retain a more emotionally forceful design for useit.com. The site admittedly didn't look very good, but it was a strong rallying point for rebellion against the bloated design style that dominated during the dot-com bubble.

Even after the dot-com bubble burst, there was a long period where the barebones useit.com design stood out and elevated the site above many latecomer UX websites. Cutting through the clutter is an important value on the web, which has so much more information than anybody needs.

However, eventually it makes less sense to rebel against the excesses of the past. Also, with almost 500 Alertbox columns published, it became clear that more navigational apparatus was needed. One solution could have been to redesign useit.com to make it more like other sites. But why bother? If a big change was needed anyway, it was better to use the opportunity to integrate the articles with the company information and host all the material on the same website with a single navigation structure and a single search. So that's what we did: no more microsite for the Alertbox.