Jakob Nielsen - Redefining the Trends in Usability Engineering

Dr. Jakob Nielsen is a web utility consultant and was the first to introduce the concepts related to human-computer interaction. He was the founder of the “Discount usability engineering” movement, which literally revolutionized the designing of modern day User Interface remarkably faster and cheaper. Discount Usability Engineering is a method of usability evaluation based on scenarios, simplified think-aloud, and heuristic evaluation – which requires fewer resources and time than formal usability testing.jakob-nielsen-image-2Jakob Nielsen – A Brief History & Notable Contributions

Dr. Jakob Nielsen was born to Helle Nielsen Heffner and Gerhard Nielsen, in Copenhagen, Denmark on the 5th of October, 1957. Jakob holds a Ph. D from the Technical University of Denmark with specialization in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and currently serves as the Principle of the Nielsen Norman Group, which he co-established with Dr. Donald A. Norman. As far as his roles are categorically concerned, Jakob is an acclaimed Web usability consultant and a User Advocate.  

Jacob was appointed as the Assistant Professor at the Technical University of Denmark Back in early 1986 when they launched the university’s first human-computer interaction (HCI) course. Subsequently, he was the Member of Research Staff at Bellcore (Bell Communications Research) designated as the Principal investigator for usability engineering research, Applied Research division. One of his most successful stints, Jakob was known as the Company’s Usability guru at the Sun Microsystems, where he was applauded as a distinguished Engineer from 1994 to 1998.

Few of the significant Awards and achievements that Jakob achieved through his outstanding contribution in the arenas of human-computer interaction are:

  • 79 United States patents, focusing on ways of making the internet easier to use.
  • He has been honored by the ACM Computer-Human Interaction Academy in 2006.
  • Awarded the prestigious SIGCHI Lifetime Achievement Award for Human–Computer Interaction Practice in 2013

jakob-nielsen-image-3Dr. Nielsen’s views on Discount Usability Engineering

Dr. Nielsen's Alertbox articles, a fortnightly newsletter on web design matters on “usability” and other related topics, have been a useful source of information for usability and user experience professionals.

Aspiring web architects and UI enthusiasts, from wider-spread geographies, have been greatly inspired, through series of Nielsen’s interesting articles posted at useit.com and Alertbox newsletter, since 1995. His popularity has been soaring ever since and has reached a staggering 12 million views annually.
Nielsen explains usability as anything that comes under user contact - It could be what’s on the screen, how the device looks physically or even a customer service or customer support process. “UX is the totality of everything that affects the user”. The prime highlight of his teaching pertains to simplification of the interface so that users can easily navigate and how usability is related to the increase in sales or visits to that website.

Nielsen’s Heuristics for User Interface Design

Nielsen's heuristics are highly acclaimed usability heuristics for user interface design in the world. The one used today were released by him in 1994 and highlights the following key aspects:

  • Interactive and updated System statuses.
  • Abstraction of technical complexities while communicating with Business users.
  • Users should have an exit path, in case they feel the necessity to opt out.
  • Consistency in terms and jargons used.
  • Prevent the probability of errors rather than spelling error prompts.
  • Information and instructions to users shouldn’t be too complex to remember.
  • Even a novice user should experience comfort while using the application.
  • Simple yet aesthetically pleasing design.
  • Help users in proceeding after they encounter an error.
  • Provide an easy documentation for reference.

One of his most popular contributions, the Nielsen Law, which establishes that network speed for high-end home users, would multiply by 50% every year and also pointed out that the User Experience is currently bandwidth-bound.

Jakob Nielsen and his key Publications

Apart from being an avid blogger, Nielsen has been functional in authoring a wide range of books targeted towards User Interface enthusiasts and experts. Some of his recent publications could be summarized as follows:

  • Mobile Usability by New Riders Press in 2012; 2 authors (Jointly with Raluca Budiu)
  • Eyetracking Web Usability by New Riders Press in 2009; 2 authors (Jointly with Robert Kara Pernice)
  • Prioritizing Web Usability by New Riders Press in 2006; 2 authors (Jointly with Hoa Loranger)
  • Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed by New Riders Press in 2001; 2 authors (Jointly with Marie Floyd)
  • E-Commerce User Experience by Nielsen Norman Group, Fremont in 2001
  • Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity by New Riders Press in1999

Blogs and Communication

Blogs written by Jakob are generally published on the Nielsen Norman Group website in the Articles sections. Here are snippets from few of the most popular blogs written by Dr. Jakob Nielsen:

  • 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design (January 1, 1995)

10 general principles for interaction design. The list of 10 essential pointers, which would help designers in developing applications that would appeal better to an average user.

Read full article at:


  • Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design (January 1, 2011)

Jakob highlights top 10 mistakes, which could potentially affect the popularity of a certain web-application. Some examples could be bad search engines incapable of handling typos, hyphens, etc, the introduction of Online PDFs which traversing a website, not changing the colors of visited links.

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  • Page Parking: Millennials' Multi-Tab Mania (November 1, 2015)

Follow 7 UX guidelines to better support this user behavior, which is particularly common among younger users.

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  • Games User Research: What’s Different? (March 20, 2016)

How drastic age and gender differences affect Game-testing researches in contrast to mainstream UX studies.

Read full article at:



Jakob Nielsen has been hailed as the "the guru of Web page usability" by “The New York Times” and "the king of usability" by “Internet Magazine”. His thoughtful principles on cheap and effective optimizations in the User Interface have been the prime driving factor behind the formulation of several usability methods. In the year 2010, Bloomberg Businessweek listed Nielsen among 28 "World's Most Influential Designers". His contribution and participation in the fields of User Experience and Usability Engineering has been unparalleled.


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