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I've Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now

Although the Web began as a medium to exchange physics research papers, it seems naive to expect it to remain predominately text-based. Usability experts bemoan the evolution of the Web into something beyond a card catalog. Their "speedy download" mantras belie their reluctance to jettison a word-based Web. But just because the Web was born in text doesn't mean that it need remain in text.

CD-ROMs were born in gaming, and now the CD-ROM medium includes encyclopedias, experimental ambient environments, and virtual cookbooks. You don't hear old-school game designers saying, "The William Sonoma Guide to Fine Cooking CD-ROM is a total crock! There's not even a hint of competition! We all know that CD-ROMs are, by their very nature, competitive!" How ludicrous. Yet there are still old-school usability experts saying, "Don't they know the Web is about accessing information? Who cares what it looks like? Where's the content?"

I don't think that the Web is going to turn into interactive TV, but neither will it remain a forum for exchanging physics outlines. And who wants it to, anyway? For all their statistics, arguments, and lists, the usability experts are overlooking the fact that we, as humans, are not all Martians. Indeed, there is a little Venus in us all, and some of us are nothing but Venusian.

Yes, I admonish all graphic designers to heed the few user interface experts who bother to critique your flash layouts without blindly dismissing your entire site.

But usability gurus, heed ye the words of hippy sage Joni Mitchell as she describes the mechanics of human interaction:

Rolls and flows of angel hair, Ice cream castles in the air, Feather canyons everywhere, I've looked at clouds that way. But now they only block the sun. They rain, they snow on everyone. So many things I would've done But clouds got in my way.

I've looked at clouds from both sides now, From up and down and still somehow It's clouds' illusions I recall. I really don't know clouds at all.

Substitute "graphic design" for "clouds," and you get the idea. Unless usability experts are willing to admit that a 250K streaming Flash file may indeed be the best solution for a branding site's core page, those same experts may find themselves expounding in exile on Mars while the rest of us humans intuit the neo-Web experience.

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