Web 2.0 Design hurting users?

In a recent article I found on Digg, Jakob Nielson attempts to make the point that current design trends with all their promise are actually hurting users.

Describing Web 2.0 as the “latest fashion”, Mr Nielsen said many sites paying attention to it were neglecting some of the principles of good design and usability established over the last decade.”

I have to agree with this statement.  Many sites are simply high on “cool” and low on substance.  If you have used Myspace, you know how terrible it is from a UI perspective.  But lets not through the baby out with the bath water.

We have gone through a few iterations of bestpartyever.com, the first of which was a showcase in cool web2.0 UI  and browser tricks.  We made the mistake of focusing on the cool over the actual use of the website, which is to plan parties. However that iteration was key to our development plan as we were testing new methods of organizing and displaying data [read innovation].

These new websites like flickr, facebook, twitter, etc. are the leading edge of web application development.  In an effort to push web applications to resemble a desktop application with the same ease of use familiar to many, web design firms have to explore new ground in website design.

“Good practices include making a site easy to use, good search tools, the use of text free of jargon, usability testing and a consideration of design even before the first line of code is written.”

Again I agree. Yet with today’s “launch early, launch often” mantra in web development, sometimes the basics in the traditional sense do not apply.  Mapping out a multi-layer UI for some new world changing whiz-bang website simply cannot follow the existing mold.

What’s it mean? Don’t forget that the user is still the most important stake holder in the website design equation.  Creating an interface that is easy to use is paramount, yet trying to apply old standards to new technology may not work as Mr Nielson is trying to do.  Also there is an air of web2.0 backlash going around that always happens whenever a trend hits the peak of the adoption curve.