Archive for May 31st, 2004

Norwegian Good….

Part I – No way! I’m in Norway!

Safely back in Blighty after a trip to the land of Norse-men. And very nice it was too, I found Norwegians to be lovely, welcoming, and well mannered bunch of folk. Oslo boys and girls are all well dressed strapping six footers with perfect bodies, and big blond bouncy hair doos! On the flip side, the booze is pricey.

Any-road, I was there to work. NRK, is the national public broadcaster funded by a licence fee. It faces a lot of the similar problems we at the BBC face. Mind you the licence fee in Norway is £190! And NRK employee’s don’t have to pay it (unlike here folks)! So me and a colleague spent three days doing workshops, and giving presentations and talking about design for online and interactive TV. I think they thought design was about choosing colours and optimising jpegs. That’s graphics in my book. Design is about systems and how people use them. They’d perhaps not considered this. It’s a bit crazy because all around Oslo I saw some great design in the fields of transport, architecture and fashion.

The main thing we talked about is how to reduce the number of links… Scando sites all seem to have LOTS of scrolling. This may have come about because VG, which is a newspaper, had online content early on. it’s website reads like a newspaper, it even looks like a newspaper on a table! Where as UK and US sites developed a they’re own form of layout, language and usability, Norse sites basically took the form and layout of newspapers. From what I can gather, VG is sort of like The Sun with perhaps a bit of the Daily Mail. There’s a couple of other popular sites, and they’re all huge too. Norwegians seem to favour smorgasbord design, where all the stories are laid out in front of them, they read the whole thing, then perhaps click on something that takes their fancy. Norwegians are very tech savvy, with more broadband users per head that the UK. So, yes the page loads quickly, but is it usable?

I was really careful to not say, ‘this is the way we did it, this is how you must do it’. Hey, if scrolling is an attribute in Scandinavian internet usage, so be it, but to me it seems overly complicated. One thing I heard a lot was ‘well people click on it, people use it’. One thing I’ve learnt is that a: users will click anything, this isn’t necessarily a good thing, b: click thru’s aren’t the best way of measuring a sites success. It’s like measuring the success of a super market layout by the amount of footsteps taken, if things are laid out in an easy user friendly way, the amount is less.

The other issue they face is departmental fiefdoms, where people don’t want to share resources, and worse, users. And in the trad model you can see why, dept A gets next years budget based on it’s click thru’s. It wants to keep users clicking like mad around the pages it owns. One idea talked about at the beeb was budgets perhaps factored by how well you offered users links to other similar content in other areas, after all, users just want the content, they don’t care which dept it’s served up from.

In the end it comes down to this.. They have a great bunch of people, great content, and a really opportunity to shift the paradigm of Scandinavian website design and usability. If, over time, they can make a page that’s light, strong and usable, people will wonder why they put up for so long with all these other behemoth pages.

Part II – No way, I’m in bar in Norway – hic!

Work over, we had the weekend to mess about. Saturday night we went to see the sell out Team Antonsen live show. Think Jackass + The Mary Whitehouse Experience + Trigger Happy TV, watched in Wembley Arena with 9000 other people – in a language you can’t understand! Luckily the fellow beeber who came with me was Norwegian, so imagine a gag, 8999 people laughing, her translating it for me, the me going… ahhh, heh heh. And they say comedy is universal… Lots of it was taking the piss out of people from the north, then some famous burned fireman came on (think Simon Weston) then a famous para-olympic skier with no arms (think Abu Hamza). There was a lot of penis gag demonstrations, and a rock band on at the end singing about Mexico (?)… in all one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I also got to eat Reindeer, and was forced to drink a cocktail in bar that consisted of a shot of Uzo, Tabasco floated on the top of that, then tequila on top of that… The rest is a blur

Anyway, photos of these sort of things here [Norway]

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
May 2004