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Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed [Paperback]

Jakob Nielsen , Marie Tahir
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 5 2001 073571102X 978-0735711020 1

The book begins with a briefing on Jakob's web usability principles, themselves culled from years of research. The 50 sites fall under such categories as Fortune 500 Sites, Highest-Traffic Sites, and E-Commerce Sites.
The content is simply presented: Four book pages are devoted to each homepage. The first page is a clean screenshot of the site's homepage (for readers to make their own, unbiased judgments), followed by a page that explains the site's purpose and summarizes its success--or failure--at usabilty. The third and fourth pages are devoted to crtiques, where Jakob and Marie present no-holds-barred commentary for specific usability practices, as well as suggestions for improvement. Although only the homepage of each site is analyzed, many of the critiques can be applied to overall website design.

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From Amazon

Most authors leave a significant gap between the theory and practice--a gap that it is left up to the reader to fill. Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed boldly steps into that gap with specific observations and suggestions backed with solid quantitative analysis. This book focuses only on homepage design as the most important point of presence for any Web site.

This definitive work is co-authored by Jakob Nielsen--the accepted industry expert in Web usability--and Marie Tahir, an expert in user profiling. Their collaboration has produced a guide of such rare practical benefit that Web designers will likely wear out their first copy scouring the pages to savour every last morsel of wisdom.

The book begins with a chapter of precise guidelines that serve as a checklist of the features and functionality to include on your homepage. The specifics found in categories such as "revealing content through examples" and "graphic design" will quickly hook you and whet your appetite for more. These guidelines are followed up with hard statistics and an examination of the ominous Jakob's Law: "users spend most of their time on other sites than your site." Here you'll find some interesting statistics about how various conventions like search, privacy policies, and logos are used.

All this leads up to the showcase element of the book--a systematic deconstruction of 50 of the most popular homepages on the Web. The authors painstakingly pick apart each in an uncompromising autopsy of usability. Each site is graphically analysed for its use of real estate and summarised with the frankness only found from true experts. Then each section of the homepage is bulleted and analysed for potential improvements.

It's a bold move to offer a critique of industry standard Web sites such as Yahoo, CNet and ebay but the authors have done such a fine job that the designers of those sites will surely make reading this book a high priority. For the rest of us, this work will serve as an invaluable gospel. --Stephen W Plain

From Library Journal

Nielsen, dogmatic don of web usability, and his strategy director Tahir believe that a company needs a well-designed homepage to succeed online. They provide 113 brief usability guidelines that lead into a chapter on homepage statistics, giving readers an idea of conventions to follow or break. The homepages of 50 major web sites, from About.com to Yahoo.com, are then pictured and critiqued in terms of those recommendations and statistics. A useful resource for both novice and professional web designers; recommended for all libraries.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skim this book rather than buying it Oct. 1 2002
As a software designer, I keep pretty close tabs on the current thinking about usability. And while Nielsen's periodic AlertBox column is excellent, this book seemed more like something you simply flip through rather than use as a solid desk reference on Web site and homepage design.
Several times as I read through the book, I thought to myself that he really sold himself short. Lists are so long as to be utterly unusable, and the "mistakes" he highlights are too repetitive, and often ambiguous. This is hardly the kind of empirical-evidence-based advice I was hoping for; in the end, it seemed like he just jotted down notes as he went along and found someone to publish it. And while the look and feel of the book itself is excellent, the content is poorly thought out. Maybe he just needs a better editor (after all, I found many typos, something that's hard to stomach when he is so critical of similar mistakes). Finally, some of the advice he offers merely serves to demonstrate his lack of business experience and basic branding and marketing, which is both ironic and embarrassing.
I'll admit that his task isn't an easy one, as he faces a central dilemma: he either must point out every little problem, or risk coming under fire for missing something. Unfortunately, I think he erred on the side of "too much trivia" at the expense of his readers. The book was fun to look through, and it gave me several important insights into homepage design, but I can' t imagine that I will ever refer to it. If you want excellent insight into web page and homepage usability, I would stick with the Alertbox.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 50 Web Site Deconstructed May 29 2003
According to this book, users spend most of their time on other sites than your site... When a user visits your site, he/she will be bringing a large load of mental baggage accumulated from prior visits to thousands of other home pages. So by the time they reach your web site, users have accumulate a generic mental model of the way a homepages are supposed to work, based on their experience on these other sites.
It is a very interesting point. According to authors of the book, there are few large web sites that might count themselves among the first 10 to 20 sites visited by new users. And design of these web sites dictate the design conventions that a user will expect when he/she visits other web sites.
Example of some of these conventions mentioned in the book are:
upper-left corner is the best place for a site logo
upper-right corner are more generic locations for search widgets and "help" links
Navigation of the site is best usable either as a tab-style (such as in amazon.com) or as a column on left side of the page (such as in CNN.com)
Links should be blue-underlined, and visited links should be purple-underlined
footer navigation links should be only for "foot-note-related" content and should be limited to no more than 7 links
on and on it goes
So how do authors derive these conclusions? The process is actually very interesting. They conduct studies of top 50 chosen web sites and group their findings into conventions.
The book also "deconstructs" those 50 chosen Home Pages, and provides annotated analysis. You may find it interesting. Among those are such sites as About.com, Accenture.com, Yahoo.com, BBC Online, CNET, Disney, eBay, Microsoft, IBM and many more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, very tedious March 14 2003
Don't even bother with this book unless you've also read Jakob Nielsen's "Designing Web Usability : The Practice of Simplicity" -- his vastly superior work. It's not that the content of "Homepage Usability" is wrong. It's actually insightful analysis... repeated 50 times. The redundancy is the problem. I like Nielsen's work, and it's important to me because I manage a popular website. But this book feels like it was something written as a regular column for a monthly magazine. The redundancy is has a nice preaching-to-the-choir effect if it's a once-a-month reminder; it's mind-numbing if you try to ready 50 of them in a row.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Usability Jihad! April 23 2004
Nielsen, the usability guru (extremist?) and Tahir goes on a crusade against well-known sites, attacking the weak points in terms of usability of each site (they call it "deconstructing").
In spite of the somewhat extreme view of homepage design (what did you expect from Nielsen?), this book is very useful to get a purely-usability viewpoint.
The first part of the book gives statistical data on the placement of various components of a homepage, such as the logo, search, etc. This is important in usability since users will spend more time on other sites than on yours. The data gives a good guideline on the basic page structure of a usable web page.
The other part of the book is the part that "deconstructs" the homepages of the 50 sites. This part is well-illustrated, with first a clean screenshot of the page followed by one with the weaknesses pointed out. This part is an excellent way to learn usability inductively; the 50 case studies are ample for one to practice her usability critiquing skills, which would be useful to use on one's own site.
This book is focused on usability -- not entirely helpful if you are trying to design a pretty site. Also, don't try too hard to satisfy all of Jakob's usability requirements, or your site might end up looking like useit.com.
This book belongs to the bookshelf of every web designer.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A great resource.
This one takes a bit of slogging through, but it's got great advice and the best thing about it is the illustrated examples. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Zyna Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful but tough to finish
Beautiful book, almost suitable for coffee table. Looks great (quality paper, page layouts and screen images). The book is easy to use. Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2008 by Marc Poulin
3.0 out of 5 stars 25 websites would of been enough.
The tips at the beginning were great. But 50 homepages, was definitely overkill. The oversized format suits ths subject matter. Read more
Published on Sept. 7 2006 by Rommil Santiago
5.0 out of 5 stars Colorful and brilliant!
This book do exactly what it states - deconstruct 50 of the best websites HOMEPAGES. It does not go into detail about the inner pages or usability errors other then those which... Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by Michael Lugassy
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book - EXCELLENT!
This book is a definite MUST HAVE for any website designer, newbie to web design and anyone and everyone who has an online business. Read more
Published on June 22 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT EXAMPLES!
For you who wants to find FACTS and not only theories about usability, this is great!
Published on May 4 2004 by Monika
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe more webmasters should read his books.
In his first book, "Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity", published two years earlier (December 1999), Jakob Nielsen presented a comprehensive stylebook for... Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2004 by Marcus Abundus
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable book for web designers & directors
First off, this is weird critiquing a critique book. ;-)
At the beginning of Homepage Usability is a big list of informative guidelines for creating a a useable homepage and... Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2003 by Tim Wurst, tntdesigninc.com
3.0 out of 5 stars Good suggestions, but very repetitive
Tightly focused on homepage usability, hence the title. 113 usability success elements are presented, and 50 popular websites are evaluated based on the success elements. Read more
Published on Aug. 19 2003 by Shaun W. Taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Information for Web Developers
My first exposure to this book was from a handout in a class on web design. The handout was a photocopy of a couple pages of statistics on where to place search and what to label... Read more
Published on July 1 2003 by Jess
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