Jakob Nielsen
Nielsen in 2002
Born (1957-10-05) 5 October 1957 (age 65)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Alma materTechnical University of Denmark (PhD)
OccupationWeb usability consultant

Jakob Nielsen (born 5 October 1957) is a Danish web usability consultant, human–computer interaction researcher, and co-founder of Nielsen Norman Group.[1][2] He was named the “guru of Web page usability” in 1998 by The New York Times and the “king of usability” by Internet Magazine.[3][4]


Jakob Nielsen was born 5 October 1957 in Copenhagen, Denmark.[5][6] He holds a Ph.D. in 1988 in human–computer interaction from the Technical University of Denmark.[5]

Nielsen's earlier affiliations include Bellcore (now known as Telcordia Technologies, formally Bell Communications Research), teaching at the Technical University of Denmark, and the IBM User Interface Institute at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center.[7][8][when?]


Sun Microsystems

From 1994 to 1998, he was a Sun Microsystems Distinguished Engineer.[3] 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.[9][non-primary source needed]

Nielsen Norman Group

Main article: Nielsen Norman Group

After his regular articles on his website about usability research attracted media attention, he co-founded usability consulting company Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) of Fremont, California in 1998 with fellow usability expert Donald Norman.[5][10][11] The company's vision is to help designers and other companies move toward more human-centered products and internet interactions, as experts and pioneers in the field of usability.[10]

Other activities

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.[5][8]


Nielsen founded the usability engineering movement for efficient and affordable improvements of user interfaces and he has invented several usability methods, including heuristic evaluation. He holds more than a thousand United States patents,[12][13] mainly on ways of improving usability for technology.

In the early 1990s, Nielsen popularized the principle that five test users per usability test session is enough, allowing numerous tests at various stages of the development process.[14] 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."[14]

Jakob's law

Users will anticipate what an experience will be like, based on their mental models of prior experiences on websites.[15][16] When making changes to a design of a website, try to minimize changes in order to maintain an ease of use.[16]

Nielsen's law of internet bandwidth

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.[17]

Nielsen's usability heuristics

See also: Heuristic evaluation

Nielsen's list of ten heuristics is probably the most-used usability framework for user interface design. An early version of the heuristics appeared in two papers by Nielsen and Rolf Molich published in 1989-1990.[18][19] Nielsen published an updated set in 1994,[20] and the final set still in use today was published in 2005:[21]

  1. Visibility of system status
  2. Match between system and the real world
  3. User control and freedom
  4. Consistency and standards
  5. Error prevention
  6. Recognition rather than recall
  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
  9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
  10. Help and documentation

In his book Usability Engineering (1993), Nielsen also defined the five quality components of his "Usability Goals":[22]

  1. Learnability
  2. Efficiency
  3. Memorability
  4. Errors (as in low error rate)
  5. Satisfaction

Mobile usability

On January 25, 2010, Nielsen decided to venture into designing a mobile application. He took to the internet as he was stumped how to test the application because he was faced with a strange scenario, the users will initially be novice and then become experts quickly as they will be using the app so frequently. Nielsen was stumped as he compared expert behavior to automated behavior.[23][non-primary source needed]

iPad (1st generation; 2010) usability

In 2010 and 2011, Nielsen wrote about iPad usability issues (specifically with the first generation of iPads) and identified problems with touch points that were too small, issues of discoverability, and “swipe ambiguity.”[24][25] He expected to see more micropayment implementation (similar to the design of Microsoft's Xbox Live).[25] In 2011, after one year of iPad's release of third party apps, Nielsen saw dramatic improvements and an increase of ease of use.[26]

Windows 8 usability

Nielsen has been quoted in the computing and the mainstream press for his criticism of Microsoft's Windows 8 (2012) user interface.[27][28][29] 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.[30] 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;[31] 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.

Recognition and awards

In 2010, Nielsen was listed by Bloomberg Businessweek among 28 "World's Most Influential Designers".[32]

In recognition of Nielsen's contributions to usability studies, in 2013 SIGCHI awarded him the Lifetime Practice Award.[33]


As Nielsen's newsletter and website grew, and with his use of "acronomic platitudes" to describe his concepts, it has been thought by some that much of Nielsen's work was more about marketing himself than rooted in research.[8][34]

Nielsen's usability heuristics

In 1990, when the Nielsen heuristic evaluation guidelines were created (Nielsen and Molich, 1990), user interface was less complicated than it is in present-day.[35][36] There has never been any research-based validation of Nielsen's heuristics.[36] The University of Calgary published an article in 2008, questioning if the Nielsen heuristics were an oversimplification.[37]

Nielsen has been criticized by some visual designers and 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.[38][39]

Responsive design

Nielsen's 2012 guidelines, "Repurposing vs Optimized Design" that web sites made for mobile devices be designed separately from their desktop-oriented counterparts has come under fire from Webmonkey's Scott Gilbertson,[40] as well as Josh Clark writing in .net magazine,[41] and Opera's Bruce Lawson, writing in Smashing Magazine,[42] and other technologists and web designers who advocate responsive web design.[43][44] In an interview with .net magazine, Nielsen explained that he wrote his guidelines from a usability perspective, not from the viewpoint of implementation.[45]

Nielsen has been accused of taking a "puritanical" approach to usability, and not being able to keep up his usability evaluations in step of technological changes.[8]



Nielsen's published books include:


This is a select list of Nielsen's published research, which includes:

See also


  1. ^ Bilton, Nick (2010-11-02). "Study Shows People Ignore Generic Photos Online". Bits Blog, The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-03-01.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ Sydell, Laura (July 8, 2010). "Reading A Book On An iPad Or Kindle? It Might Take Longer". NPR.org. Retrieved 2021-03-01.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b Richtel, Matt (July 13, 1998). "Making Web Sites More 'Usable' Is Former Sun Engineer's Goal". Technology, Cybertimes, The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-03-02.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "Interview with Web Usability Guru, Jakob Nielsen". Webdesigner Depot. 2009-09-28. Retrieved 2021-03-02.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b c d Wieners, Brad (June 1, 2004). "Time for a Redesign: Dr. Jakob Nielsen". cioinsight.com. TechnologyAdvice. Retrieved 2021-03-01.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Jakob Nielsen". www.computerhope.com. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  7. ^ Scott, John (2006). "Jakob Nielsen - An Interview". The V7 Network. Archived from the original on 2006-02-09.
  8. ^ a b c d MacDonald, Nico (2009-06-28). "Jakob's Ladder, usability guru Jakob Nielsen is renowned for his dislike of graphics and design gimmicks, but as the Internet continues to evolve will his current critique methods become more a hindrance than a help?". Spy. New Media Creative. pp. 38–43. Archived from the original on 2009-06-28. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  9. ^ Nielsen, Jakob. "Profile of Jakob Nielsen". LinkedIn. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Where Did the Term "User Experience" Come From?". Adobe Blog. 2017-08-28. In 1998, he formed the Nielsen Norman Group alongside Jakob Nielsen, another pioneer of usability methods that remain widely used today, including the 10 Usability Heuristics.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Dunne, Danielle (2001-12-01). "How Should Websites Look? Jakob Nielsen and Vincent Flanders Speak Up". CIO. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  12. ^ "Jakob Nielsen Inventions, Patents and Patent Applications". Justia Patents Search. Retrieved 2021-03-02.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "inventor:(Jakob Nielsen)". Google Patents. Retrieved 2021-03-02.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ a b "Usability Testing with 5 Users (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)". useit.com. 2000-03-13.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link); 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).
  15. ^ "Jakob's Law means we like to be able to anticipate what an experience will be like, based on our past experiences". Leggett and Platt Marketing + Creative. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  16. ^ a b Yablonski, Jon. "Jakob's Law". Laws of UX. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  17. ^ Nielsen, Jakob (1998-04-05). "Nielsen's Law of Internet Bandwidth". Retrieved 2014-07-02.
  18. ^ Nielsen, J.; Molich, R. (1989). "Teaching user interface design based on usability engineering". ACM SIGCHI Bulletin. 21 (1): 45–48. doi:10.1145/67880.67885. ISSN 0736-6906. S2CID 41663689. Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  19. ^ Molich, Rolf; Nielsen, Jakob (1990). "Improving a human-computer dialogue". Communications of the ACM. 33 (3): 338–348. doi:10.1145/77481.77486. ISSN 0001-0782. S2CID 11462820. Retrieved 2022-02-04.
  20. ^ Nielsen, Jakob (1994). Enhancing the explanatory power of usability heuristics. the SIGCHI conference. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Celebrating Interdependence - CHI '94. Boston, Massachusetts, United States: ACM Press. pp. 152–158. doi:10.1145/191666.191729. ISBN 978-0-89791-650-9. Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  21. ^ Nielsen, Jakob (2005), Ten usability heuristics (PDF), S2CID 59788005
  22. ^ Nielsen, Jakob (1994). Usability Engineering. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. ISBN 0-12-518406-9.
  23. ^ Jakob Nielsen "Testing Expert Users" Nielsen Norman Group, January 25, 2010
  24. ^ "The State of iPad Usability". ReadWrite. 2011-05-23. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  25. ^ a b "Jakob Nielsen critiques the iPad's usability failings". the Guardian. 2010-06-02. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  26. ^ "One Year In, iPad Apps Get Less Wacky and More User-Friendly". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  27. ^ Gregg Keizer (20 November 2012). "Windows 8 UI 'strategic mistake,' argues design guru". Computerworld.
  28. ^ Matt Baxter-Reynolds. "Here's how Jakob Nielsen's Windows 8 findings should inform developers". ZDNet.
  29. ^ Wingfield, Nick (21 October 2012). "Windows, Staple of Most PCs, Gets a Major Makeover". The New York Times.
  30. ^ "Why Jakob Nielsen's Windows 8 critique is old-school thinking". CNET. CBS Interactive. 21 November 2012.
  31. ^ 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
  32. ^ "World's Most Influential Designers". Businessweek.com. Archived from the original on 2015-01-23. Retrieved 2014-08-29.
  33. ^ "2013 SIGCHI Awards". sigchi.org. Archived from the original on 2014-10-23.
  34. ^ Greenspun, Philip (September 2000). "What can we learn from Jakob Nielsen?". Retrieved 2021-03-02.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  35. ^ Ballav, Alipta (2017). "Nielsen's Heuristic Evaluation: Limitations in Principles and Practice User Experience Magazine, 17(4)". UX Magazine, User Experience Professionals Association (USPA). Retrieved 2021-03-01.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  36. ^ a b Travis, David (2007-04-16). "Usability Expert Reviews: Beyond Heuristic Evaluation". Userfocus. The Usability Training Centre. Retrieved 2021-03-01.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  37. ^ Maurer, Frank; Ghanam, Yaser (2008-06-18). "Discount Usability Testing". University of Calgary. doi:10.11575/PRISM/30918. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  38. ^ Usability News "The Backlash against Jakob Nielsen and What it Teaches Us". Archived from the original on December 9, 2002. Retrieved 2007-06-27.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), July 31, 2002
  39. ^ Curt Cloninger "Usability experts are from Mars, graphic designers are from Venus" July 28, 2000
  40. ^ "Why Jakob Nielsen Is Wrong About Mobile Websites". Webmonkey. 19 September 2019.
  41. ^ "Nielsen is wrong on mobile". netmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 20 December 2012.
  42. ^ "Why We Shouldn't Make Separate Mobile Websites – Smashing Magazine". Smashing Magazine. 20 April 2012.
  43. ^ "Designers respond to Nielsen on mobile". netmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 27 December 2012.
  44. ^ "Repurposing vs Optimized Design: It's Not a Battle - SitePoint". www.sitepoint.com. 23 May 2012. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  45. ^ "Nielsen responds to mobile criticism - Interview - .net magazine". netmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 27 December 2012.