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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 50 Web Site Deconstructed
According to this book, users spend most of their time on other sites than your site... When a user visits your site, he/she will be bringing a large load of mental baggage accumulated from prior visits to thousands of other home pages. So by the time they reach your web site, users have accumulate a generic mental model of the way a homepages are supposed to work, based...
Published on May 29 2003 by sherzodr

versus
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skim this book rather than buying it
As a software designer, I keep pretty close tabs on the current thinking about usability. And while Nielsen's periodic AlertBox column is excellent, this book seemed more like something you simply flip through rather than use as a solid desk reference on Web site and homepage design.
Several times as I read through the book, I thought to myself that he really sold...
Published on Oct. 1 2002 by Greg Whisenant


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skim this book rather than buying it, Oct. 1 2002
By 
Greg Whisenant (Salt Lake City, Utah USA) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
As a software designer, I keep pretty close tabs on the current thinking about usability. And while Nielsen's periodic AlertBox column is excellent, this book seemed more like something you simply flip through rather than use as a solid desk reference on Web site and homepage design.
Several times as I read through the book, I thought to myself that he really sold himself short. Lists are so long as to be utterly unusable, and the "mistakes" he highlights are too repetitive, and often ambiguous. This is hardly the kind of empirical-evidence-based advice I was hoping for; in the end, it seemed like he just jotted down notes as he went along and found someone to publish it. And while the look and feel of the book itself is excellent, the content is poorly thought out. Maybe he just needs a better editor (after all, I found many typos, something that's hard to stomach when he is so critical of similar mistakes). Finally, some of the advice he offers merely serves to demonstrate his lack of business experience and basic branding and marketing, which is both ironic and embarrassing.
I'll admit that his task isn't an easy one, as he faces a central dilemma: he either must point out every little problem, or risk coming under fire for missing something. Unfortunately, I think he erred on the side of "too much trivia" at the expense of his readers. The book was fun to look through, and it gave me several important insights into homepage design, but I can' t imagine that I will ever refer to it. If you want excellent insight into web page and homepage usability, I would stick with the Alertbox.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 50 Web Site Deconstructed, May 29 2003
Ce commentaire est de: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
According to this book, users spend most of their time on other sites than your site... When a user visits your site, he/she will be bringing a large load of mental baggage accumulated from prior visits to thousands of other home pages. So by the time they reach your web site, users have accumulate a generic mental model of the way a homepages are supposed to work, based on their experience on these other sites.
It is a very interesting point. According to authors of the book, there are few large web sites that might count themselves among the first 10 to 20 sites visited by new users. And design of these web sites dictate the design conventions that a user will expect when he/she visits other web sites.
Example of some of these conventions mentioned in the book are:
upper-left corner is the best place for a site logo
upper-right corner are more generic locations for search widgets and "help" links
Navigation of the site is best usable either as a tab-style (such as in amazon.com) or as a column on left side of the page (such as in CNN.com)
Links should be blue-underlined, and visited links should be purple-underlined
footer navigation links should be only for "foot-note-related" content and should be limited to no more than 7 links
on and on it goes
So how do authors derive these conclusions? The process is actually very interesting. They conduct studies of top 50 chosen web sites and group their findings into conventions.
The book also "deconstructs" those 50 chosen Home Pages, and provides annotated analysis. You may find it interesting. Among those are such sites as About.com, Accenture.com, Yahoo.com, BBC Online, CNET, Disney, eBay, Microsoft, IBM and many more.
Although majority of the book is on annotating home pages, authors also give some generic tips on home page design. Some of those tips I recall are:
liquid page layout is preferred over fixed sized tables
the most optimal page width is 760 pixels (for fixed layout)
page length of the homepage should be around two full screens, but not more than four
frames suck big time
horizontal scrolling is the curse
"Guest Books" are not for pros
Do not use exclamation marks!
and on and on it goes
While reading homepage annotations, I felt very strong emphasis on the title of the homepages (the one between <title> and </title> tags). These tags are easily left un-noticed, one would think. But properly chosen titles make big difference while bookmarking your page. Try it yourself.
In other words, do not start your titles with "The" and "Welcome", because in person's favorites lists, it would be misplaced in the alphabetical order.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone venturing in Web Designs.
P.S. Although the book is on Home Page usability, the book itself doesn't seem "usable" at all. Size of the book is so clumsy that doesn't fit in a standard sized book shelf.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, very tedious, March 14 2003
By 
Douglas C. Bates (Boston, MA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ce commentaire est de: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
Don't even bother with this book unless you've also read Jakob Nielsen's "Designing Web Usability : The Practice of Simplicity" -- his vastly superior work. It's not that the content of "Homepage Usability" is wrong. It's actually insightful analysis... repeated 50 times. The redundancy is the problem. I like Nielsen's work, and it's important to me because I manage a popular website. But this book feels like it was something written as a regular column for a monthly magazine. The redundancy is has a nice preaching-to-the-choir effect if it's a once-a-month reminder; it's mind-numbing if you try to ready 50 of them in a row.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Usability Jihad!, April 23 2004
By 
Coleman Yee (Singapore) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ce commentaire est de: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
Nielsen, the usability guru (extremist?) and Tahir goes on a crusade against well-known sites, attacking the weak points in terms of usability of each site (they call it "deconstructing").
In spite of the somewhat extreme view of homepage design (what did you expect from Nielsen?), this book is very useful to get a purely-usability viewpoint.
The first part of the book gives statistical data on the placement of various components of a homepage, such as the logo, search, etc. This is important in usability since users will spend more time on other sites than on yours. The data gives a good guideline on the basic page structure of a usable web page.
The other part of the book is the part that "deconstructs" the homepages of the 50 sites. This part is well-illustrated, with first a clean screenshot of the page followed by one with the weaknesses pointed out. This part is an excellent way to learn usability inductively; the 50 case studies are ample for one to practice her usability critiquing skills, which would be useful to use on one's own site.
This book is focused on usability -- not entirely helpful if you are trying to design a pretty site. Also, don't try too hard to satisfy all of Jakob's usability requirements, or your site might end up looking like useit.com.
This book belongs to the bookshelf of every web designer.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe more webmasters should read his books., Jan. 12 2004
By 
Marcus Abundus (Los Altos, CA USA) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
In his first book, "Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity", published two years earlier (December 1999), Jakob Nielsen presented a comprehensive stylebook for presenting web pages. Although a tough read for one sitting, it was one of the few books that presented an overall methodology to an organization's web presence. Since that book presented a lot of information most of which I believe was passed over in search of techniques that directly related to the reader; he stated in his first book that he would follow up with a more illustrative volume.
This book narrows the field down somewhat by only concentrating on homepages. The first part of the book consists of a chapter on "Homepage Guidelines" which encompasses the first 52 pages. The following 250 pages or so show screen shots of various homepages from large organizations. Some examples are Citigroup, ExxonMobil, FedEX, General Motors, and Microsoft. There is some satisfaction however in seeing some large company with a richly funded web program stumble or just plain get it wrong. It makes my mistakes a little more tolerable.
The first page of a typical "deconstruct" is a screen shot of the company's homepage. This is followed by a description of the company, a short critique, a color map of the page showing areas devoted to content of interest, self promotion, advertising, navigation, filler, browser controls etc. A breakdown of the actual percentages is illustrated with a pie chart. The third page shows the homepage with numbers representing each of the points (mostly mistakes) that the author is trying to highlight. Yes, as other reviewers stated some of the mistakes he points out can be a bit repetitive, such as logo placements, taglines, and redundant navigations buttons, in general he (along with Marie Tahir) he gives you specific examples with which you can learn from.
Both his books have helped me, if only in thinking of web pages as one avenue of communication. Is your webpage communicating to others in a straightforward, consistent matter in the least amount of time as possible? Two main themes do shine through in both his books; make the file size small and the presentation clear so that users have to spend the minimum amount of time navigating your site, and don't over sell your links. Once users click to a link and it is not what they expected they just might not come back to your site in the future.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable book for web designers & directors, Aug. 28 2003
By 
Tim Wurst, tntdesigninc.com (Indianapolis, IN United States) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
First off, this is weird critiquing a critique book. ;-)
At the beginning of Homepage Usability is a big list of informative guidelines for creating a a useable homepage and a few pages devoted to homepage design statistics -- showing what other people are doing, but that's not this book's raison d'etre. It's the usability critiques -- I found it absolutely invaluable showing these 50 websites next to eachother. Some of the advice seemed unbalanced and a lot was repeated, but the authors really dissected each site thoroughly. At times the authors seemed to dispense anti-graphic design, lowest common denominator advice which may get you fumiing like it did me...but fortunately that is kept to a minimum.
Two gripes: One, something that was missing from the book that I would have liked to have seen is perhaps a simple chart or scale showing from 1-10 how "usable" each website is, to complement their critiques. Second, one of the sites that were reviewed was going out of business -- what's the point?
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good suggestions, but very repetitive, Aug. 19 2003
By 
Shaun W. Taylor (Raleigh, NC United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ce commentaire est de: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
Tightly focused on homepage usability, hence the title. 113 usability success elements are presented, and 50 popular websites are evaluated based on the success elements. After about 5 reviews, they become quite redundant, and many are nitpicky. Most web sites reviewed made the same common mistakes, which are harped on throughout the book. I stopped reading them after about 15, and then just skimmed the most popular ones thereafter.
Repeated at least 20 times are these themes:
* Title your pages appropriately
* Get a good tagline
* Provide example content on the homepage, not just links
* Write headlines as succinctly as possible, while retaining greatest possible meaning
* Have a search box available
* Categorize links and sections appropriately
* Use good labels
* Use images wisely, and not gratuitously
* Beware of ads, and anything looking like them
Readers of "Designing Web Usability" won't find nearly as much substance in this book, but Nielsen fans won't be disappointed. He certainly is consistent!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Information for Web Developers, July 1 2003
Ce commentaire est de: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
My first exposure to this book was from a handout in a class on web design. The handout was a photocopy of a couple pages of statistics on where to place search and what to label it. It makes sense to put our web page elements in expected places so that users will have an easier time finding the information they need.
I felt the guidelines in the first chapter were good. They were easy to understand and organized effectively. I wish, however, that there was a summarized checklist-format of these. The topics have an introductory paragraph that can help convince bosses and customers of the importance of the following suggested rules. For example, search is said to be important and easy to use and find. The numbered tips on how to do just that are easily implemented (and also easy to finally form into words why a site's search isn't "doing it for you"). Since I surf the web a lot, it didn't surprise me that input boxes should be big enough. I have seen search fields way too small on places I wouldn't expect it ....
The most valuable - and most easily outdated - part of the book is the Homepage Design Statistics. For example, it is suggested we design for the median page width of 770 pixels. But how long will this be true? The authors make a good point for having a page that resizes to your window (liquid layout), but it should still work for those with smaller browser windows. I prefer liquid and was surprised that only 18% of the 50 homepages surveyed used a liquid layout. Perhaps this number has changed since the book's printing. Most of the information is timeless like calling the link to job openings "Careers" instead of "Join Our Staff."
The rest of the book is dedicated to actual reviews of various well-known sites. The points found and discussed are labeled on a screen shot of the site so that it's easy to see what the authors are talking about. ...
I will reference the tips often and have already started using some of the terms I discovered in this book ("Smiling Ladies"). But, I felt like I was repeatedly being sold Nielsen's usability reports or testing. I felt that here are some great tips but not even half of what you need so go to the online store and buy more. ... Another problem I have with the book is the actual book. Why is it too cumbersome? It is attractive to look at but doesn't fit well on my desk shelf with the other frequently used books. The binding is also already starting to complain from use. Another problem I have is that it seems geared for corporate websites, but I know it is not. Perhaps next edition can have more small, not-for-profit website reviews so that it's easier for readers to convince their bosses that this applies to all, not just Ebay.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A year later, it continues to be useful!, April 9 2003
Ce commentaire est de: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
It's been over a year now since I first read and reviewed this book, co-authored by the world's guru on Web Usability, Jakob Nielsen and Marie Tahir. Still it provides incredible advice on what to do and what not to do on a Homepage. As much criticism as the author's seem to throw at web sites, if you read it, think Jay Leno and have fun! Don't take it personally and THINK whether you might be making the same mistakes on your own web site. For instance, a number of the sites featured in the book are still (even after subsequent redesigns) incurring in the same mistakes, some of them not even related to Web Design, but rather to Marketing at large. In fact, one of the most common ones continues to be the lack of an effective tag line that explains clearly what the site/company is about. After over a year, it's surprising how useful this book can continue to be, in spite of the very dynamic nature of the Web.
As a Web Project Manager, this book is a continuous reference for ideas and pitfall watchouts. Plus it is a very helpful guide to educate staff in areas outside of IT about why certain ideas for a web site don't quite work, while others have gotten to the point of becoming web design standards. Get it: it can become your biggest ally! ;)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Worthwhile Information, March 2 2003
Ce commentaire est de: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
After reading some of the reviews here, I almost didn't buy this book. But I'm glad I did. I agree that some people might find some of the critiques nit-picking. I also agree that the authors are not qualified to give copywriting advice.
But the point about exclamation marks on the homepage is a good one. They are overused. I've overused them myself. And they do make a page look like so much hype in many cases. Copywriters get carried away with hype and the web is no place for that.
I don't think we can take anyone's advice in total all the time. But I can tell you this. After I read only a few pages in this book I saw changes that I needed to make.
After looking at the critiques in the book, I can easily see the small very fine details that can make all the difference in the world in usability and, moreover, in marketing.
Jakob does extensive testing with real people and I have a lot of faith in his findings. His word is not the last word. But I trust him and I think people who are involved with designing or writing Web sites should read what he writes.
They don't have to agree with everything. But not to read him would be a mistake.
The changes I've made due to his advice have paid big dividends. I don't hold 100 percent to everything he says. But I believe I have a site that is very user-friendly in part because I apply his principals and I pass them on to my clients.
If people would just read the intricate detail in each critique, they would see what one small change could make and why it should be done the way the authors suggest.
I would have given the book five stars but the book itself had some misspelled words and it used the word "website" instead of "Web site" which is the accepted way to write it. I don't necessarily blame the authors for that. It was probably a low level editor who let those errors happen. But they shouldn't be there. Especially in a slick, well designed book and a book about usability and perfection.
But to anyone involved in making decisions about a Web site --- especially designers and copywriters --- I highly recommend this book.
Susanna K. Hutcheson
Owner and Executive Copy Director
Powerwriting.com LLC
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Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed
Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed by Marie Tahir (Paperback - Nov. 5 2001)
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