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le 7 octobre 2003
Jakob Nielsen is well known for his reports on usability and I really enjoyed his book "Homepage Usability." I figured that this would be a more in-depth exploration of how to design with the user in mind. Most of the points were on the ball, and very common sense, but nice to see it in writing from someone else. The examples in "Designing Web Usability," though ancient, fit well with the points.
I kept getting lost, in a way, because I kept getting distracted by the prehistoric examples and data. For example, what do I design for? 640? 770? What is in use today? 1997 was a long time ago in web years. I suppose it's difficult to have a book with such current data in it, but I'm thinking it's definitely time for a new version of this book.
There is also a tendency for redundancy. I suppose this is inevitable since whether you're a search results page or an intranet site, you're still dealing with the same topics of design.
I do like that even though this book is ancient, it touches on accessibility issues. So many places are only now thinking of that. I also like that testing is mentioned, though again, it is peppered with out-of-date technology which makes all the information seem invalid.
I think this book would be much stronger with new examples, updates here and there to technology and re-released. I think that that was one of the strengths of his other book, "Homepage Usability," was the freshness of the examples and problems designers are facing. If, and when, there is a new and more concise version of this book, I will buy it.
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le 24 juillet 2002
Based on six years of observing about 400 people use the web, "Designing Web Usability" is Jakob Nielsen's definitive guide to what makes a web site easy to use. Even though many sections in the book are sourced from Nielsen's alertboxes written years ago, the advice they contain remains solid.
The book contains insightful and comprehensive treatments of page, content, and site design that include topics like creating written and graphical content, navigation, search, etc. It is basically a list of guidelines (rather than a step-by-step how-to), much like my own UI design book available at my site. Jakob also mentions a few technical issues, but only insomuch as they affect usability.
As are most books, this one is not without its drawbacks. Ironically, the biggest drawback of this book has nothing to do with the book itself (which speaks highly of it), but rather with the fact that a lot of its content can be found in Nielsen's alertboxes on his web site. In addition, the chapter on accessible design is a little light on concrete, useful advice (beyond relative font sizes and alt text): there are better resources available free on the web.
In conclusion, if you're new to the field of web design and haven't read Nielsen's alertboxes you should definitely get this book. And if you're a seasoned designer, well, chances are you already have it.
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le 4 juillet 2002
Jackob Nielsen has put together the most logical and useful book on creating usable websites with the kind of information people want. And, when you think of it, what's more important?
You can design a web site, sure, but making it something folks learn from and want to come back to is something else. So is making it easy to use and chocking it full of the kind of information visitors want to see. His emphasis is on the business site, but the principles apply to everyone. If your web site is just for play, and you don't care about usability, this book isn't for you.
In the introduction, "Why web usability," Nielsen points out that there are two approaches to web site design: one of artistic expression and the other of problem solving for the customer (meaning web site visitor). He promises a systematic approach to designing a site that encompasses both. He accomplishes his goal beautifully. For each principle he gives, he provides a background of statistical support.
This is not a book about how to construct a web site as much as it's about how to make that site attractive and easy to use. As he says, you'll have to go elsewhere to learn HTML and how to design and put your site on the web but you should read this first to learn what your customers or audience want and how to make your site useful as well as appealing.
Common errors in web design include: Treating the web like a business brochure, managing a site as if it were a traditional corporate project, structuring the site to mirror the company, creating gorgeous pages that look great to insiders but don't necessarily appeal to customers, writing that's linear, and not linking to relevant sites that would be helpful to your customers. "The Web is a new medium and requires a new approach, as explained in this book," he writes.
This is an intelligent book. It's not hard reading but on the other hand, it's not written for children. It's full of new vision and great advice. It's definitely not the only book you should have on web design, but it should be in your collection.
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le 6 décembre 2001
Jakob Nielsen is definitely one of the top web gurus around today. This book consolidates a lot of his ideas about web design in one resource. Although I do not agree with every single rule or bit of advice that Dr. Nielsen gives in the book, overall I agree with his overall theme of simplicity. His main argument is that a web site can only be effective if the user can accomplish their purpose in visiting the web site quickly and efficiently. It doesn't matter if the user is looking up some obscure resources at the Library of Congress site, or buying CDs at Both "customers" want the same thing- quality service from the site. Quality means a lot of things to different people. But at a minium, a site needs to be fast, easy to navigate, and meet the users needs. The bottom line is that every user is just a click away from leaving.
A few sections of the book that are particularly useful are the ones about writing for the web, designing for an international audience, and establishing design standards. I also like the fact that the book is full of examples from real web sites, showing the strengths and weaknesses of each.
The two things I do not think are that great about the book are the price, and the reduncancy of material. Simply put, it is overpriced, and the author rehashes many concepts throughout the book. Having said that, I would still recommend this book to anyone who is heavily involved with web design. You should be familiar with the concepts. If nothing else, this book will generate some ideas on how to make your website more effective.
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le 21 mai 2001
In reading over the reviews it is easy to find people who are quite hostile to what Nielsen has to say and it's easy to understand why--he insults and threatens their very approach to web design. Nielsen's message is really quite simple: web sites should be constructed for the end user, not to demonstrate the skills and ego of the designer. Unless you are designing a site that is intended simply to demonstrate the breadth of your abilities, designing is not about fun--it's about taking information and making it as accessible as possible for your end users. It can be fun, but your own enjoyment shouldn't be the purpose.
In Designing Web Usability Nielsen does an effective job of demonstrating ways in which you can help your users to move through your site efficiently and accurately. Individual sections may seem seem somewhat self-evident, but taken as a whole these sections add up to an impressive amount of information.
Of particular interest are chapters 4: Site Design, and a section in chapter 3 on writing for the web. In the section on site design he discusses issues such as using navigational cues to orient the reader to where they are, where they've been, and where they can go, and different types of organizational schemes. As a technical communicator I found the section on writing for the web particularly relevant. Put simply--most people do not like to read online. You have a second or two to grab their attention and only a bit longer to hold them there if they are intrigued. Relevant information needs to be placed front and center and should be foregrounded through the effective use of headings, bulleted lists, etc. This section does a good job explaining how to do so.
None of this is to say that Nielsen is without fault. I do believe that there are times when his rules should be broken. He seems to assume that conveyance of information is the only purpose of the web and, obviously there are many other reasons people surf. Nevertheless, if your site has the purpose of communicating information of some form, this book should be read and absorbed.
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le 21 novembre 2000
I have seen harsh criticisms of this book. I suspect they may come from "artists" who are set on the defensive when Nielsen says something like, "Relish simplicity, and focus on the users' goals rather than glitzy design."
His book is based on research. And years of it. When he says something is confusing to a user, it's not because he doesn't like it, or thinks that the users are dunderheads, but rather because he has statistically seen it fail.
If you want good tips on usability based on statistics and research, this is your book. If you want to be pandered to and have some one tell you your graphics are king based on anecdotal information, look elsewhere.
NOTE- For those of you get the impression that this book limits creativity, think again. Nielsen in NO way tries to limit creativity. He simply adds "usability" to the list of page requirements [meaningful graphic content, navigation, etc.]. For some, this will add a new, bigger, and more exciting "creative" challenge. For others it may be threatening.
I doubt ANY BOOK can be a complete authority on any subject. But for usability, this has a LOT of information. It's not a "technical" book, so I found it easy reading. He may be repetitive at times, but lets face it, that's how humans learn (another statistical fact). So enjoy it, the ideas Nielsen shares can improve your site.
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le 6 octobre 2000
As a technical writer and a web/graphics designer, I was eager to read a book that seemed to focus in both areas of my professional life: content authoring and design. Jakob Neilsen has authored a sound book about the need for simplicity in both design and content. He goes to great lengths to provide examples of what works and what doesn't. I was especially pleased by the amount of time he spent on navigation. An area that MANY web designers are very weak in. As he says in his book, so many focus on "kewl" and forget usability. Hence customers don't return. Be warned though, that this book is not a weekend read. I really felt I was reading a college thesis and not a typical web reference. So be prepared, it is a bit dry. It is however worth plowing through. He points out some very good strategies for identifying and maintaining a strong structure for your designs and site content. One other thing to note is that as one other reviewer I noticed already alluded to the book's poor layout. While it is not very fancy, it is somewhat distractful to the content as it is rather amatuer looking; surprising since it is a New Riders book. In summary, it is a book worth buying, as long as you have the time to sit and read it through and through with a pot of coffee and a notebook. If not, buy something else.
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le 25 juillet 2000
This book is an enjoyable and fascinating read. He gives great examples, and the book is easy to read and well-organized. But sometimes his advice leaves me wondering. Nielson encourages web developers to focus on backward browser compatibility, and on people with the smallest monitors and screen resolutions. Unfortunately, his recommendations are way too conservative and unduly limit a web developer's options. About 70% of Americans use IE5 and a large number at work use 17 inch monitors (I can't quantify that). Now Netscape 4 provides pathetic support for style sheets, and IE 4 isn't much better. Under Nielson's paradigm, web programmers would end up spending 80% of their time just making sure that things working perfectly fine in IE5 would also work passably well in browsers that are not used very often anymore. It would mean a race to the bottom, and cause web programmers not to embrace genuine developments such as CSS. Nielson's advice about user interface and web design are excellent and insightful; But most of his advice about web programming are outdated at best and amateurish at worst. It's too bad Nielson didn't spend more time talking about possibilities opened up with XML. In summary: this book is well worth reading, but don't pay attention to the user statistics and don't buy into his idea of writing for old browsers.
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le 27 juin 2000
This is an excellent book that I would recommend for anyone involved with development of web content. This includes not only the technical person laying out the actual web page, but the managers responsible for certain segments (e.g., tech support for your company), and all the way up to a CEO who wants the company web site to be an integral part of the business.
The book covers issues about how to design an individual page. The importance of color choices for anchors, screen real estate, older browsers, and slow connections. To backup his positions, the author constantly cites studies and includes statistical information.
The author then steps back from the individual page and looks at an entire site. He touches on consistency, metaphors, and navigation. Oh.. and *content* There is no substitute.
The author also has chapters on a wide range of other issues such as designing specifically for internal Intranet use, international considerations, and the future of the web (i.e., the computer with its crisp 17" monitor may not be the primary device for accessing the web).
I only had two problems with this book. First, I came away with a wealth of ideas, but I did not of the knowledge to implement them. This book needs a companion book describing the "how to".
Second, I hated the binding and to a lesser extent the basic layout. I found this moderately amusing for a book about "usability".
If you are involved at any level with web development, this book should be on your shelf... *after* you have read it.
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le 2 mai 2000
In this book on web usability, Jakob Nielsen is doing a heroic effort to envision how the average internet user (which equals a potential customer for an e-commerce web page) looks today in the year 2000. The average user can be characterised using many parameters like: Internet connection speed, IT knowledge, internet experience, disabilities, etc. Bottomline is that If you want to design a web site having the maximum impact on all potential users, it is crucial to pay attention to such "facts". Why cut away 5% of all potential customers because they for some reason are unable to use image maps for navigation purposes, or because they lack the ability to distinguish different colors? What you get from this splendid book is an update on what you can do to your web site in order to please the user and in the end (it all ends in business anyway) make sure that this user is converted to a loyal customer. The book is not a technical walkthrough of HTML coding. It is merely a large collection of tips and ideas on how to involve the end user, both mentally and physically, in the process of designing stuff for the internet or intranet. There are many good examples thoughout the book on good practice and worst practice. Considering this being a book on Usability, it is relevant to rate the usability of the book itself also. The design of the book is lavish, with a clear and simple layout containing a large number of useful color illustrations (actually almost 30% of the book are illustrations). I found it, however, fairly difficult to read it in a linear manner because of these large illustrations (sometimes extending 3-4 pages). I do recognize that there is no other way around it, unless Jakob should choose a larger but less handy book format (like the triology of Edward R. Tuftes on information graphics) for his next book. All in all a "must buy" for anybody in charge of anything on the internet which has the potential of being serious business.
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