Website design: caveat utilitor

posted: 3320 days ago, on Sunday, 2008 Aug 24 at 08:31
tags: psychology, web design.

Just how many websites are there on the internet? And how many people use the internet?

As of July 2008, there were at least 175 million active websites on the internet[1]. According to one estimate this suggests there are about 48 billion individual web pages out there[1,2].






There are about 1.5 billion internet users in the world[3], meaning, on average, 1 in 5 human beings on the planet are users. Internet Explorer is the most popular browser (used by 52% of users, poor schmucks) followed by Firefox (43%).[4]

In Africa, there are 51 million internet users, which is just 5% of the total African population.

South Africa has 5.1 million internet users, ranking fourth (behind Nigeria, Egypt, and Morocco) on the continent[5].

Of the 175 million websites that exist, some small fraction have been designed by professional website designers. In this design process, they should consider the needs of the end-user as well as the desires of the client the person who pays for the website.

Yet in a typical real-world design situation, the designer occassionally interacts with the client, but almost never interacts with the users.

Some earlier studies (c.2003) found that designers respected few user's constraints, and introduced several usability violations that hampered user's activities, while focussing on the client's constraints. Perhaps things have improved over the past five years?

Nope. In a study published last year, Aline Chevalier of the University of Paris X-Nanterre confirmed this finding: both novice and professional designers favoured the client over the user, even when they had the opportunity to communicate with a user spokesperson.

It's high time that webdesign educators teach their students to consider user's needs as central.

Chevalier writes:

"Especially in early design stages in which central design decisions are made. Moreover, researchers should examine whether the same pattern of results hold in other design domains, such as architecture or engineering."


  1. Chevalier, A. (2007) Stakeholders influence on the importance of users' and clients' information and constraints during website design. Psy. Rep., 101, 945-951.

nothing more to see. please move along.