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Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design [Paperback]

Giles Colborne

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Book Description

Sept. 16 2010 0321703545 978-0321703545 1
In a complex world, products that are easy to use win favor with consumers. This is the first book on the topic of simplicity aimed specifically at interaction designers. It shows how to drill down and simplify user experiences when designing digital tools and applications. It begins by explaining why simplicity is attractive, explores the laws of simplicity, and presents proven strategies for achieving simplicity. Remove, hide, organize and displace become guidelines for designers, who learn simplicity by seeing before and after examples and case studies where the results speak for themselves.

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An approachable, practical guide to achieving simplicity Sept. 27 2010
By Tyler Tate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
We've all been frustrated by a gadget, from trying to install a printer to spending hours setting up a new mobile phone. Page one of Simple and Usable points out that: "[The] Technology that is supposed to make our lives easier often feels like it's on the march against us." What then is the antidote to confusing products, software, and web sites? The answer is--as one might guess from the title of the book--simplicity.

Simple and Usable is both an extremely approachable and an incredibly practical guide to simplicity. Author Giles Colborne compelling shares four fundamental strategies for accomplishing simplicity: remove, organize, hide, and displace.

First, figure out the most important tasks of mainstream users, and make those tasks really easy to accomplish. Then, kill all the features that aren't core. From limiting choice, to eliminating distraction, to using smart defaults, Giles offers many tangible tactics for reducing complexity.

But just throwing something out isn't the only way to simplify. Effective organization can make an interface feel simpler to use. "There are plenty of options open to you in organizing an interface--size, color, position, shape, hierarchy." Giles explains that organizing for simplicity involves emphasizing just one or two important elements. He shares useful techniques for achieving organization such as chunking, hard edges, grids, and layering.

For those features that can't be eliminated but that are used only rarely, Giles recommends a third strategy: hiding. "Often a feature has a few core controls for mainstreamers and extended, precision controls for experts," he says. "Hiding the precision controls is a good way to keep things simple." Giles shares how progressive disclosure and timely clues can be used to reveal a hidden feature at just the right moment.

While the first three strategies--remove, organize, and hide--work well in conjunction, the fourth strategy is, as Giles puts it, "a cheat." Displacement is the technique of moving functionality from one location, say a TV remote control, to a different location, such as onto the TV screen itself. "One of the secrets of creating simple experiences," Giles says, "is putting the right functionality on the right... part of the system."

Not only is Simple and Usable packed with practical strategies for achieving simplicity, but it's also quite an enjoyable read. Giles manages to infuse frequent examples into the book's impressively concise 1-page sections, making for inviting reading whether you're on a 3-minute bus ride or spending a Saturday at the cafe. As an advocate of simplicity myself, I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a hand in building websites, software, or products.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done for an introduction or a review of important points May 4 2011
By Tim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am impressed with this book on several counts.
1. The content combines succinct mini-chapters with gorgeous and complementary images.
2. The quality of the paper stock, the book's information design, and the overall package is top notch.
3. I learned a couple new things despite having been around the profession for a while.
4. The focus is not on one particular type of product.

I don't think the book is all things to all people and I suspect it was not meant to be. A seasoned UX professional may not learn a lot from it, but this is a good book for students and for business people who might need an introduction to good user experience research and design principles. For the experienced UX person, I think the book could be a good review of some key precepts that sometimes might seem distant in the day-to-day rush of getting things done.

I do wish there were footnotes to the interesting research studies the author sometimes refers to in the chapters. The more we UX pros back up our assertions with proper research, the more we will be taken seriously by our employers and clients. Perhaps a bibliography on the simpleandusable.com website would be a good adjunct to the book?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My new favorite give-away Aug. 8 2011
By Adam - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There is a short list of books that I recommend when asked "What book should I read in order to understand what you do?" This is it! I already own two copies. It's so intelligently broken down that it's very quotable. The only thing that would make it better would be quick reference tabs but that would ruin the aesthetic.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dip in, think, act Oct. 21 2010
By C. Jarrett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Let's be clear: this is a very short book. It's not going to teach you tons of stuff about how to create a better product. It's not a textbook.

What it is: pared-down, thought-provoking, beautiful.

When I picked it up, my first thought was 'lovely' and my second was 'is that it?'. It didn't seem weighty enough to have that much of an impact.

As I read it, I realise that there's a lot more insight in it than the size implies. Giles has worked really hard to pare this down to a few simple messages that you can act on straight away.

Yes, you can read it all in a (fairly short) train or plane ride. I did that, but I found that I kept stopping to reflect on ideas in the book and how I wanted to use them, or challenge myself to use them, in various projects. I'll come back to it, both to read through and to dip in now and then when I need a little thoughtful inspiration.

Definitely recommended.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You CAN Judge This Book by Its Cover! Oct. 18 2010
By Scott Herring - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Like its predecessor by Steve Krug "Don't Make Me Think", which clearly inspired author Giles Colborne, "Simple and Usable" weaves a practical framework for making intelligent choices when creating user experiences. Laden with real-world examples, the book takes a deliberately simple approach to describing effective techniques for software, website and mobile interaction design. Mr. Colborne's book reflects his ability to practice what he preaches: simplicity. Each concept is described in a single page, with an accompanying, relevant photograph. Organization of the material is like a recipe in a cookbook: a picture of the finished product, a list of ingredients, and a step by step approach to delivery.

Three characteristics shine through in "Simple and Usable":

* Elegance
Call it the "iPhone" of usability books - it's packaged better than other books in this space. It's a fast, easy treatment you can read in a few hours.

* Practicality
Nearly every page has a concept or tactic that you can use every day. The examples stem from products Mr. Colborne has created himself, such as online travel planners or automotive sales websites, or ones he has used, like Flip cameras or the elevator in Tokyo's Apple Store.

* Simplicity
Easily the most noteworthy trait of the book is the information design of the book itself, from orientation to staging and continued through execution.

I would recommend "Simple and Usable" for novice and intermediate user experience designers looking for new ideas or quick reminders of the right way to go about designing interaction.
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