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Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide [Paperback]

Jared Spool , Tara Scanlon , Carolyn Snyder , Terri DeAngelo
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 17 1998 Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies

Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide is a report that every person involved in Web design, commerce, or online marketing will want to have. This book is, undoubtedly, the most comprehensive data demonstrating how Web sites actually work when users need specific answers. Researched and compiled by User Interface Engineering, the results are written in an easy to understand style, illustrating the need to make Web sites useful, not complicated.

* Based on an extensive study of actual users -- not theory, not graphic design principles, and not new tricks to make a "cool" Web sites
* Demonstrates how people actually navigate and extract information on Web sites
* Offers guidance for evaluating and improving the usability of Web sites

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From Library Journal

Spool and his buddies are usability engineers; they study how folks use computers. For the past couple of years, they have paid a lot of attention to how people use webbed interfaces for navigation and searching. Their research is counterintuitive to many design dictates, but it is well substantiated. Contrary to popular opinion, people do like information-dense sites, they do like long pages, and they will scroll forever as long as the page is designed to encourage scrolling. This is applied research at its best. Clearly written and well illustrated, the book allows users to put the findings to work for them. This book is required reading for anyone designing webbed interfaces for libraries and an essential purchase for all but the smallest public libraries. Additional information from the researchers can be found at (world.std.com/~uieweb).
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Without a doubt, the most important book I've read this year on Web design is Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide. The book is easy to read and full of relevant information.
--Bill Skeet Chief Designer, Knight-Ridder New Media

Even experienced Web designers should read these usability findings about 11 different site designs. Competitive usability testing is one of the most powerful ways of learning about design and this book will save you hours of lab time.--
--Dr. Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group

This report challenges many of my assumptions about Web design, but that's a good thing. We're still babes in the woods, crawling along trying to distinguish the trees from the forest. Any sign posts are helpful, right now.
--Mary Deaton, KNOWware

"Web Site Usability is great reading for anyone involved in Web publishing." - Currents

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"All these sites, while obviously trying to sell products, also provide information." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars MAGNIFICENT BOOK!!! June 22 2004
By A Customer
This book is a definite MUST HAVE for any website designer, newbie to web design and anyone and everyone who has an online business. Simple, easy to understand visuals compliment the text, which is written in a very simplistic manner. This book is wonderful - magnificent - excellent, and will help you greatly understand the elements of successful web design. I've used it to consistently update my own website, at:
If you don't have this book, you're missing out on your single-most-important investment in your professional life!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pivotal work shakes preconceptions Sept. 8 2002
As a report on a major usability study this one is probably pivotal and I would recommend it to anyone involved in delivering a commercial web presence.
Jared Spool and the UIE team discovered many new things in the studies this book is about. Up to the point of publication, web usability and general usability were closely equated, and not just the test methodology. But Spool's studies find unpredictable users surprising our preconceptions at every turn.
Some may say that the book contains too many questions, but when Spool admits "we don't really know what makes a site usable" he is reflecting the number of surprises his studies unearthed.
As for the causes of those surprises... the studies were performed as 'comparison tests' between sites that fulfilled wholly different purposes.... between (for example) Disney and Edmunds (car facts)... it may be invalid to compare usability between sites even if they are in the same domain, however, let alone when they are so diverse. For it may be a usability test can only identify weaknesses, not strengths. Perhaps that's why Spool says we don't know how to design for usability.
One possible weakness of the tests was that they were designed as 'scavenger hunts.' This is still very common, however, and only by studying the results of this book is one led to suspect that this approach generates an overly-directed browsing behaviour, and thereore measures only a subset of real web visitors utilising only a subset of possible tasks, which are not a proxy for general usability.
If you only read three books on web usability, this should be one of them.... Essential.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and eye opening!!! April 2 2002
I found this book to be quite helpful in preparation for designing a website. Since the website I am designing is strictly informational in nature, I learned many new concepts not only about the basics of a good informational site, but also about the “cruising” habits of web readers.
The book is a quick read and I took many notes, but the important thing that I gleaned from this book was how to make my site informational, easy to navigate through and what works and does not work as far as design and color are concerned. As a cruiser myself, I know what bores me, irritates me, frustrates ma and what appeals to me when I am on a mission to find information and when I want to find it fast. The information contained in this little was quite valuable in that regard.
This is NOT a book about design and the use of color, etc., but instead a book about making a site usable to the “cruiser” and then giving you, the reader, the information on how to attract users to your site, so that they won’t get irritated or frustrated. Admit it, we all have been to those sites!!
I think one might be surprised when reading this book, that color, tons of pictures and graphics are not key elements in an informational website, and our preconceived notions will quickly be laid to rest!
Very good book for a “newbie” starting out on the road to web-design as well as seasoned designers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Save Yourself Hundreds of Dollars Jan. 10 2002
Save yourself hundreds of dollars by buying this book. No, that is not an offer, but if you were to pay a consultant for this good advice, it would easily cost hundreds of dollars (I know, I am a consultant). The advice is good and concise. Much of it is counter to conventional wisdom, but is in line with more experienced Web designers.
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1.0 out of 5 stars give my copy for free Dec 11 2001
An "empirical" study without a solid scientific model.
Too many words to express few ideas that can be
explained in 10 pages.
Better choices: Nielsen, Norman or Mayhew.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Useful information, but based on old Web sites April 2 2001
I appreciate the research of Jared Spool et al at User Interface Engineering, and have consulted it often as I review and design user interface elements. I will, no doubt, do the same with this book. It helps that I've been a longtime fan of the Edmunds.com site, which was part of the research this book reports. Now my gut feeling about that site's good usability is backed up by a usability-study report.
But wait! Edmunds.com has been redesigned since 1997, which is when this usability study took place. So have most, if not all, of the other sites. This book's screen shots of the sites in the study make the book look like a museum of the 1997 World Wide Web. These sites actually look quaint!
I wonder whether this book's findings have decayed and have become less useful. My concern is not stopping me from using this book as a reference tool, but I do reserve some skepticism in applying its results.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Primary reference for web usability March 12 2001
There are several primary sources to study Web usability. Jared Spool of User Interface Engineering is one of them. Among technical communicators, "Web Site Usability : A Designer's Guide" is mentioned often in the same sentence with Jakob Neilsen and his work. From the standpoint of communicating information, everything Jared and his team has put together has been validated over and over in my experience designing sites with very technical content. Spool (et al) takes into account all the idiosyncrasies human beings bring to their Web searches, whether for information or entertainment, and makes consistently valuable comments about users and how they behave when using the Web. This book is a jumping-off point for Web developers and not intended to be a sole reference. However, Spool remains one of the most important people in Web usability and development today.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good data without a lot of opinion
I can appreciate that often an author becomes experienced enough that he/she can accurately state opinions. Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2001 by kent dahlgren
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of questions, few answers
This book is useful if:
1. You are involved in designing a site that is solely information-oriented.
2. Read more
Published on Nov. 14 2000 by aryxus
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book to get you thinking about web design
As a Usability professional, this book dealt with Web site Usability in a fashion that I can understand as well as in a fashion that the average person that uses web sites can... Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2000 by atmj
3.0 out of 5 stars Good questions, but do they matter!
One of the current buzz terms around is "usability". Everyone likes to advertise their sites are designed with the user in mind when very little usability testing is... Read more
Published on Oct. 18 2000 by Water Monkey
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical Information for Information-based Sites
Some web sites are for fun, to imprint branding, or to show off artistic talents. This book would not be particularly helpful in designing those sites. Read more
Published on Oct. 5 2000 by Kimberley Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent foundation book in producing workable web sites
The value of this book is that it makes a strong case for thinking in navigation terms when constructing web sites. Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2000 by Jim Sutherland (e commerce researcher)
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