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Nielsen cries foul on Apple study

updated 09:35 am EST, Wed November 8, 2006

Nielsen on Apple study

Web usability expert Jakob Nielson of Nielsen Norman Group has dubbed an Apple-sponsored study on large monitors and productivity meaningless. "A study of the benefits of big monitors fails on two accounts: it didn't test realistic tasks, and it didn't test realistic use," Nielsen wrote in his blog. "Productivity is a key argument for workplace usability, but you must measure it carefully." Nielsen says even if the method could be trusted, Pfieffer's figures were incorrect: "Reducing task time from 42.6 seconds to 20.7 seconds is actually a productivity gain of 105 percent, not 51 percent." Additionally, Apple's study focused at the wrong level of work -- pasting spreadsheet cells is not a user task, according to Nielsen, but an operation at a low interaction level. Nielsen also points to the fact that researchers tested rote memory operations which were practiced prior to the study, resulting in an unrealistic representation of how users operate, according to WebProNews.

by MacNN Staff




  1. itguy05

    Joined: Dec 1969


    He is Meaningless

    I have both a 15" Powerbook and a 20" ACD. I'm much more productive on the ACD. Why? RESOLUTION, RESOLUTION, RESOLUTION.

    Working in Word, I can comfortably get 2 pages side by side to work on them, easily checking layouts and such.

    In Excel, I can see more of the spreadsheet so I can work faster with less scrolling.

    When I edit my photos, I can see more of it with the big monitor, so less zooming and such.

    I won't even discuss how having dual monitors increases productivity with putting often used (but important) programs off on the 2nd monitor.

    I call BS on his whole post.

  1. trevj

    Joined: Dec 1969


    You may be right...

    I haven't read the report yet, but he at least seems to have his math right ("Reducing task time from 42.6 seconds to 20.7 seconds is actually a productivity gain of 105 percent, not 51 percent").

  1. dashiel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    ... is an attention w**** and sell out. at one point in his career he may have been a legitimate voice in the usability field, but now he's no better than rush limbaugh or al franken; he stirs the pot with outrageous statements with the sole intention of increasing his book sales.

  1. jamiec

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Let me get this straight to summarize Nielsen's complaints: 1. Apple is overreporting the productivity gains of having two monitors. 2. Apple is underreporting the productivity gains of having two monitors.

  1. psdenno

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Do the math...

    Apple's claim is a REDUCTION of 51% in task time. Nielsen applies the numbers to measure PRODUCTIVITY GAIN. A 105% reduction as claimed by Nielsen would be quite remarkable - you'd be done before you started. Reduction of task time and productivity MAY BE MEASURED WITH THE SAME NUMBERS, but carry different meanings. It's all about words.

  1. Hobeaux

    Joined: Dec 1969


    smaller is better

    if having a larger display doesn't improve productivity, then why aren't we using 640x480 displays any more?

  1. dennisobell

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I see your Nielsen and raise you one Edward Tufte, information-presentation expert, who has said in no uncertain terms that larger, higher-resolution monitors not only improve productivity but enable richer creation, production and presentation of information. And he's not shy about endorsing Apple's products, without any prodding from Apple itself.

  1. jerryfrit

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Yes, a 105% reduction?

    That would be Steven Wright, who "put instant coffee into my microwave and almost went back in time."

  1. ClevelandAdv

    Joined: Dec 1969



    This is one of thoes no-brainers, having a large monitor absolutly makes you more productive. Having two monitors also makes you more productive. While the numbers may not jive - anything that can improve my productivity is worth buying - time is time!

  1. Gepard

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Windows World

    Calm down all... He is talking about "Windows" users that don't really use windows just one of them and in the full screen mode anyway.

    Typical PC users (I am not kidding, I work for a large corporation with about the same number of Mac and PC users) use only one program (or one window) at a time. Mac users have always been using their computers in a different manner.

    Moreover, at the time of writing this message, I have 14 open programs, 6 windows currently open on the screen, not counting 6 tabs in Safari and 22 Sticky's windows that I can reach within one mouse click. All that stuff is on my two 20" monitors. Give me one 17" screen and then we'll talk about the productivity.

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