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5.0 out of 5 stars You're either part of the problem or part of the solution
Cooper gets it. He understands that computers and electronics are designed by engineeers, for engineers. But what if you want to design something for the masses? Not just something they will use, but something they will enjoy?
Cooper has the idea. If you want to design for "normal" people, you need to put yourself in their shoes. In this bible of high-tech...
Published on Dec 24 2003 by Gregory Glockner

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3.0 out of 5 stars The point was lost somewhere
I like Alan Cooper. He is entertaining, thoughtful and has numerous amusing anecdotes and analogies. He is a "voice sounding in the wilderness" in the software community about usability. Unfortunately, I think his point is lost somewhat in the marketing message and sensationalism of this book. Who is the book written for - the software developer or the...
Published on Feb. 20 2003 by pilgrimsprogproj


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2.0 out of 5 stars Writen for managers of computer programmers, Aug. 7 2010
By 
Gord McKenna (Vancouver, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
The book does a fair job of pointing out the problems with the complexity of modern technology, and offers some administrative solutions that have worked for the author as a consultant. But mostly the book is aimed at influencing people who manage computer program, and doesn't have much for the average reader other than commiseration.

I'd suggest Donald Norman's "the design of everyday things" as a much superior book with better solutions, aimed at a wider audience.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Say You Want a Revolution..., June 23 2004
This review is from: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
I found myself really getting into Cooper's book as I read it. He's an easy writer to read. He keeps things interesting with all sorts of anecdotes and experiences, and he describes them with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

That's not to say that he isn't serious about what he has to say... clearly, he is very serious. In describing the difference between a Designer and a Developer, and even in more detail when contrasting a Visual Designer and an Interaction Designer, he makes clear just how important this subject is, and how the differences he is talking about can determine the process by which a piece of software or application comes together, and the success of the final product. His obvious frustrations with the roadblocks to effective user-focused design should be understood by anyone involved in the design process.

The pinnacle of the book, for me, came in the middle. At the end of Part 3 ("Eating Soup with a Fork" -- great title), he discusses the relationship between humans and technology. He says something so simple that it should have been obvious, but it's really a fairly major shift in perception from what many people think. He talks about the assumption that technology is dehumanizing here:

"It doesn't require sophisticated tools to dehumanize your fellow humans -- a glance or a kick does it as well. It is not technology that is dehumanizing. It is the technologists, or the processes that technologists use, that create dehumanizing products."

This is important to what Cooper is trying to say in "Inmates" in so many ways. The theme of the book throughout seemed to be that interaction design is only as friendly, or as UN-friendly, as people make it. Technology only does what we tell it to, as we design and implement its specific functions.

The real revolution that this implies is the possibility that technology can be made to interact successfully with humans, and that it doesn't have to frustrate or debase the people who try to use it. In fact, as a human creation, technology is as human as we want to make it. As Cooper said in chapter 6, "For users to be happy and effective with software, it must be written in harmony with the demands of human nature."

But like anything, to make software effectively intereact with humans (i.e. more helpful, more usable, etc.) takes more work... one of the roadblocks. Cooper talks, also, about the established culture of programmers. He defines them as almost a seperate breed of humans, at least as far as their thought process and rationale... "Homo Logicus" as opposed to "Homo Sapiens." He talks about the rift that often appears between them, largely because of the cultural perception (mostly an obsolete view) that software is a solitary occupation, that programmers work in a vacuum and are the sole authors of their work.

The book makes it clear that the software design process can no longer be one which belongs to a solitary person. The creation of software works better as a collaborative effort than it does as a single-author process. Product planners, interaction designers, usability experts, testers, and yes, programmers all have their part to play, and when it comes together, it can yield great results.

Cooper's conclusion seems to be that the most fundamental changes to the software industry need to be made to the process. The people who make the software are, by and large, talented at what they do, and willing to change for the better if they can. It is when they are asked to do more than they should be that problems arise. A change to the process will ensure that better, more usable products can be made.

It seems that most of the people who do the work of making the software in question are willing to change the way they do things, but only need permission to do so. Cooper's take on it, which I agree with, is that it has become not only advisable to move on from the obsolete programming culture we have relied on in the past. If we want to make a change towards more usable products that end-users feel comfortable interacting with, then a change to the process of software creation to a more collaborative effort of interaction design and development becomes an imperative, at the very least.

Recommended to anyone involved in the software design process. Record it on tape and play it for project managers while they sleep.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great design approach, but arrogance and repitition hurt, Jan. 30 2004
It's worth reading this book -- even despite the painful tone he often takes -- just to pick up on the ideas of creating concrete personas and how you use them to develop your product. We do that today at Microsoft (at least in Developer Tools), and it's a highly successful way of not only building a good product, but also in helping hundreds of developers understand why a feature is 'in' or 'out', no matter how much they might like it personally.
It's also mentioned quickly, but the idea of how much work customers are willing to do for an amount of benefit can affect your designs for the better as well. Fundamentally, you should add value with no documentation and no setup -- if somebody paid money, they should feel rewarded as soon as they start to use your application. Then, after they want to do new things, you can require more work of them to do it. However, it should never be more work than the benefit that they derive! This is an important lesson that, say, most media player application writers would be advised to learn...
Of course, as many other reviewers have pointed out, it might have been nice if he had created some personas for who his readers were. I doubt that any of them would have had a goal of being preached to.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You're either part of the problem or part of the solution, Dec 24 2003
By 
Gregory Glockner (Bellevue, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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Cooper gets it. He understands that computers and electronics are designed by engineeers, for engineers. But what if you want to design something for the masses? Not just something they will use, but something they will enjoy?
Cooper has the idea. If you want to design for "normal" people, you need to put yourself in their shoes. In this bible of high-tech product design, Cooper gives you tools that helps you design products for your target customers. This isn't just a bunch of recipes for GUIs and wizards, but a way to think about how people actually use your tools.
I know Cooper's techniques work. I have adopted them across my software development team, and the difference is astounding. Bottom line: If you're involved in high-tech development, design, or marketing, you need this book.
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1.0 out of 5 stars You will like this book if you hate the world around you, Oct. 11 2003
This book actually starts out nicely up until the point where it turns into a high-pitched whine about everything that the author hates. The content is highly subjective, full of cliches such as "what do you get when you cross a computer and an alarm clock" or constant reptitious nags about why engineers are incompetent when it comes to things that matter. It is laughable to think that an engineer-turn-interaction-designer would come to hate so much what he used to be. On the positive side, the book can be considered a slight improvement from some of the things we had seen from this author in the past (Visual Basic being one i.e. a programming language for minimalists -- almost never used for serious projects in the software industry and to most people utterly useless)
Just as the arugument used in the book to say that bad user interaction design stems from letting the engineers (or according to the book's confusing terminology "apologists" or non-solution-oriented people) control dedcision making processes, the same can be said of the overly simplistic often vague interpretations of the world given by the people highly praised in the book (referred to as "survivors"). As can be seen from the first few chapters in the book, the book speculates about things and provides no real facts or knowledge. Perhaps some research notes or real life cases would help.
I would suggest looking for a more authorative source of what constitutes a good user design if you are looking to learn more on this subject. Find an author with more academic and industry backing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wakeup call for the software industry, Sept. 25 2003
This book is written for two audiences. The frustrated computer user will enjoy the early chapters with its anecdotes about computers failing to meet human needs. The rest of the book is for software managers and professionals who want to be change agents in the industry.
The problem, says Cooper, is that users and programmers think very differently. Users just want to accomplish a task, and have no interest in understanding how the computer works. Programmers want and need to understand the computer on a deep level, and find it hard to design software to meet the needs of people who don't.
Cooper says we need to abandon the idea that there are "power users" and "naive users". Most users are in fact very smart people who just don't think like computers. Cooper's solution is to use 'personas', made up users intended to represent real users with very specific goals, and to design software to meet only those specific users' goals. Design must occur before any code is written, otherwise it is too late.
This isn't a manual on how to use Cooper's goal oriented design methods, but after reading this book it is hard not to be convinced that such methods, or equally radical ones, are needed. Cooper may not have all the answers, but he surely has part of the answer, and is asking all the right questions.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A philosophy, not a terse checklist for design, May 29 2003
By 
R. Jones (Round Rock, Tx USA) - See all my reviews
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I kept thinking "we think alike"; not about interaction design per se - the topic of this book - but an evangelistic passion and the desire to somehow convey the deep understanding, the gestalt, of ..... - in this case software interaction design. As a software developer I too am passionate about certain issues of software development - and I find myself often not telling my development team "do this, do that", rather trying to convey the 'why.'
I think the book's title and sub-title lean more toward an eye to marketing than to describing the content, but don't let that and other reviews read here make you think the author is orating from his high horse. He is explaining his view of software development (and what to do about it) from his perspective as an interaction designer (not to be confused with an interface designer). Analogy, anticdote, and brief example work well here. Maybe because my experience causes me to agree with so much of what he says that I very much liked the book and how he said it.
I came away not with the knowledge for hanging out a "Interaction Design - the doctor is in" shingle but rather a sense that this guy knows what he's talking about and his points have validity. Then I went and bought his latest, "About face" version 2.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, May 8 2003
By 
Alden Globe (Steamboat Springs, CO USA) - See all my reviews
Super book. I've been involved on the business side of web, portal and content management software projects for many years; this is the best argument on the market for bringing designers in early and streamlining your approach to developing software features, understanding user requirements, and keeping the dev team and customers all on the same page. Don't build another application without it!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Ho hum. Should be half this thick., April 30 2003
By 
Ray Hatfield (Oklahoma City, OK United States) - See all my reviews
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I found I really had to force myself to finish reading this book. The core concepts are covered in the first half of the book, albeit in a rather drawn out fashion, and the rest is simply reiteration and self-congratulatory rambling about the author's own successes and consulting business, masquerading under a thin guise of case studies.
If the essence of this book could be distilled down into a 50 pager you'd have a winner.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The point was lost somewhere, Feb. 20 2003
I like Alan Cooper. He is entertaining, thoughtful and has numerous amusing anecdotes and analogies. He is a "voice sounding in the wilderness" in the software community about usability. Unfortunately, I think his point is lost somewhat in the marketing message and sensationalism of this book. Who is the book written for - the software developer or the frustrated user? The first chapter sounds like a Luddite rebellion against computers. It is hard to imagine the person writing that chapter as a computer professional. Using the analogy of a secretary who doesn't know how to save files to a folder as an example of poor design is blaming the programmer for poor training. True, software is often developed by programmers who barely get real requirements, develop in a vacuum and then force feed the end result to the user. And ironically, Alan Cooper invented Visual Basic, which ushered in Rapid Application Development (RAD) programming (good!) but adds the tendency for quick prototype demos to get shipped as "Version 1.0" because the CEO or CIO says,"hey it works now" (bad!).
These shortcomings are not solved by adding a layer of another design person partially disconnected from the user, or making the screen prettier. It is by adapting the Extreme Programming/Agile programming methods of including the user in everything from design to testing, so the software reflects how the user does business.
I still liked the book, just not clear on the message.
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