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The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems [Paperback]

Jef Raskin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 29 2000 9780201379372 978-0201379372 1
The next revolution in user interface design -- by the original creator of the Apple Macintosh project.
Why todays GUIs have reached a dead end -- and what to do about it.
What makes a great interface- state-of-the-art research and breakthrough insight.
The book every user interface designer will be talking about! The honeymoon with digital technology is over- millions of users are tired of having to learn huge, arcane programs to perform the simplest tasks; fatigued by the pressure of constant upgrades, and have had enough of system crashes. In The Humane Interface, Jef Raskin -- the legendary, controversial creator of the original Apple Macintosh project -- shows that there is another path. Raskin explains why todays interface techniques lead straight to a dead end, and offers breakthrough ideas for building systems users will understand -- and love. Raskin reveals the fundamental design failures at the root of the problems so many users experience; shows how to understand user interfaces scientifically and quantitatively; and introduces fundamental principles that should underlie any next-generation user interface. He introduces practical techniques designers can use to improve their productivity of any product with an information-oriented human-machine interface, from personal computers to Internet appliances and beyond. The book presents breakthrough solutions for navigation, error management, and more, with detailed case studies from Raskins own work. For all interface design programmers, product designers, software developers, IT managers, and corporate managers.
Jef Raskin is an independent interface and system design consultant and writer based in Pacifica, CA. His clients include HP, IBM, Motorola, NCR, Xerox, and AT&T. He is best known as the creator of the Macintosh computer project at Apple Computer.

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From Amazon

"The book that explains why you really hate computers."

I've admired Jef Raskin for years. For those who don't know, he is the "Father of the Macintosh," one of the original geniuses who guided the Mac in the early days. But, more than a computer scientist, Raskin is a cognitive psychologist. He studies how the brain works with special emphasis on how that relates to us using computers. His magnum opus was the Canon Cat, which was an excellent and well-thought-out little computer.

In The Humane Interface, Raskin goes into detail describing how computers can be made easier to understand and use. Ever want to know why you really don't like Windows? The answer is in this book. In fact, there's so much in this book that makes sense, I really want to send a copy to every employee at Microsoft.

I loved reading this book and nodding my head in rabid agreement. Raskin states, "There has never been any technical reason for a computer to take more than a few seconds to begin operation when it is turned on." So why then does Windows (or Linux!) take so darn long to start up? The PalmPilot is on instantly, as is your cell phone. But for some reason, we tolerate the computer taking a few eons to start. (And until consumers complain about it, things won't change.)

Computers can be easy to use, and the people who design them and design software need to read this book. Do you ever get the impression that the person who designed a piece of software must have come from the same company that designed the front panel on your VCR? Why should you have to double-click anything? What does Ctrl+D mean one thing in one program and a completely different thing in another? And what's the point of the Yes/No confirmation if the user is in the habit of clicking Yes without thinking about it? Raskin neatly probes all these areas.

While I admire everything Raskin has to say, the book is pretty heavy on the psychology end. Myself, I enjoy cognitive psychology (especially books by Raskin's cohort Donald Norman), though some may find that part of the book boring. Even so, Raskin builds and backs his argument in a most eloquent and scientific manner. Especially if you design software or need to teach or train people to use computers, this book deserves a spot on your shelf. --Dan Gookin

From Library Journal

Falling somewhere between Donald A. Norman's The Psychology of Everyday Things and Ben Shneiderman's Designing the User Interface, Raskin's book covers ergonomics as well as quantification, evaluation, and navigation. Raskin was the original creator of the Apple Macintosh project before Steve Jobs took over and has a background in technology and art, which gives him a unique perspective on usability; recommended for university and large public libraries.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Jef Raskin was truly a visionary in the field of human interfaces and this book is a culmination of everything he learned over his lifetime. Jef was one of those who really cared about his work, and the fact that he was still involved in human interface design in his later years is only proof of this.

I would consider this book necessary reading for anyone who wants to think "outside the box" and look at human interaction at the simplest level of human thought--things not bound by windows and GUIs. I found the book delightful and easy to read, and many of the insights provided have stayed with me as I've continued to think about the future of user interfaces.

IMO the ideas and more importantly the very way of thinking in this book is still relevant in 2008, 8 years after it was published, for the very reason that it is not tied to any specific technology. In fact, Jef uses an example from a 1979 throughout the book.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Cheerleader at a football party Dec 24 2011
By Lee
This 'new' book arrived with 6 price tags stuck on top of one another and worn corners. Had obviously been 'passed around' more than a little before Amazon found a buyer. Not sure this feedback is über-helpful or relevant to future purchasers but it is making me feel better to leave it. :)
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3.0 out of 5 stars Could Have Been a Classic Oct. 5 2004
By A Customer
With the kind of know-how and credentials that Jeff Raskin has, this should have been the DEFINITIVE book on modern interface design.
However, I have to agree with some of the other reviewers who believe that this book was a missed opportunity. Although it contains some great content, especially in the first few chapters, Raskin too often turns his book into an advertisement for the Canon Cat (never heard of it before this book) and a forum to work out some truly half-baked notions.
For example, at one point in the book, Raskin suggests that software publishers should offer their products on a "command by command basis". Can you imagine trying to edit a document and being told that you can't format your text in a particular way because you haven't bought that command? Under his proposed model, this type of thing would happen all the time. And don't even think about sharing documents, because there would be no ability to standardize the application's feature set across computers. Unfortunately there are quite a few of these kinds of ideas advanced in this book.
The book starts very strong and I don't think that there is anyone better at covering the fundamentals than Raskin. Sadly he couldn't help himself from turning what should have been a great book into a scratchpad of ideas.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Some good, some bad, much very annoying June 17 2004
I do not know who edits books on interface design but all too often the books are more about "look at how great I am" than thoughtful insights. The beginning of the book offers some good interface guidelines and metrics but around chapter 5 it becomes more about Raskin's ideas than interface design itself. The most laughable is chapter 6-4-3 where he advocates the removal of usernames from login systems to rely simply on passwords. He obviously doesn't understand security and never talked to someone who did before publishing it. He contradicts himself in later chapters with points he makes in the beginning, but if you can look past his constant references to how great his systems are, there is good content in there.
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I scoured numerous texts to support a college seminar course in human/computer interaction design. My hunches led me to select this book from among many other excellent books. In retrospect it is one of the best textbook selections I have ever made. The book covers fundamentals of simple human psychology that are both key to good design and that will stay with students for life. It provides practical techniques, design approaches, and measures that students can immediately apply in real life. And it provokes the student (and the professor) to think about programming--not just interface design--in refreshingly radical new ways. In short, this book does everything a great textbook should do, and more. I've been a programmer for 20 years, and it changed *my* view of programming.
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This book provides some simple rules to apply to almost any situation in interaction design. Like Design Patterns, it's very text-editor-centric. Also like Design Patterns, though, that's incidental to the fact that it has a ton of wonderful information to provide within that example that apply much more broadly! It should be required reading for anybody whose code interacts with the user.
Unfortunately, it can be a little tough to get a good idea of the tradeoff between habits that the user has already gotten and habits that would be better for the user. It's clear there's a tradeoff there, and while the book acknowledges it, it fails to provide much guidance on making designs choices about when you can actually try to 'teach the user something new'.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Is what it says it is... May 10 2003
At first, I was really disappointed with this book. The "thick" writing style hides the presentation of straightforward concepts in long paragraphs and dense text. Be prepared to mull through the page looking for italics.
Additionally, the "God complex" attitude conveyed by Jef really should have been caught by an editor. The didactic tone is a real turn-off. And, as other reviewers have pointed out, there is little practical advice, beyond Jef's "this is what I did" anecdotes.
After saying this, there are many valuable concepts presented in the book (for a list, see the table of contents). If the book goes to a second edition, an editor and a technical writer should be part of the writing team. This would make it more readable and referenceable; making it easier to recommend.
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