How Jennifer Love Hewitt Made The Web More Usable
January 4, 2007
A lot of people don’t remember it, but back in the day, before they became known as the internet’s premiere usability gurus, 37Signals was just another web shop, putting up brochure-ware for McCompanies riding the bubble. It wasn’t until they hired Jennifer Love Hewitt that they really refocused and began creating the kind of productivity software that makes the lives of web consultants and small business owners easier. If she hadn’t impressed upon them the importance of clarity, simplicity, and usability, and how those ideals were going to be fundamental to the future success of the web, they probably would have crashed and burned along with boo and Kozmo and a thousand other dimly-recalled companies.
They’d originally hired Love because she had what was at the time an almost singular ability to cut through the chaff of HTML. Remember that in those days, the internet was a different place. Blink tags and animated gifs, Click the Monkey, flourescent yellow on flourescent green, auto-loading WAVs, navigational trees in Java, for Christ’s sake. Almost every web page was a total nightmare, from a design standpoint. But you’d put a mock-up for a website in front of Jen, and she’d look at it for–I kid you not–15 seconds, and then recite a laundry list of things you needed to change in order to improve it. Make this text larger, get rid of those buttons (Beveled edges? Are you retarded?), move this section and combine it with this one, stop saving jpgs as gifs, and don’t ever let me catch you using that font again. Bam-bam-bam. The concepts she was espousing were so completely foreign back then — you’d look at her, like, what the hell are you talking about? And she’d be like “Hey pal, it’s my job to be the hottest chick ever, it’s your job to do what the fuck I say, when the fuck I say it.” So you’d roll your eyes, shuffle back to your desk, grudgingly make the changes, and suddenly come away with this absolute katana of a website. Every. Single. Time. She was amazing. Zeldman gave her the full-court press, trying to recruit her for Happy Cog, but he creeped her out with that shlubby beanie he always wore.
A lot of people still insist the web took a huge hit the day she cashed out and went back to LA to work on Time Of Your Life, but you can imagine how frustrating it must have been for her, waiting for the entire internet to wrap its thick head around what was so obvious to her. Look how Galileo ended up.