4.0 out of 5 stars A great resource.
This one takes a bit of slogging through, but it's got great advice and the best thing about it is the illustrated examples. Lets you really see exactly what the author is talking about. It's not a Steve Krug book...I get the feeling if I met the author I might not like him much, but he definitely knows exactly what he's talking about. Not a light read, but absolutely...
Published 28 days ago by Zyna Taylor
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2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, very tedious
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...
Published on Mar 14 2003 by Douglas C. Bates
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4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe more webmasters should read his books.,
This review is from: 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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable book for web designers & directors,
This review is from: 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?
3.0 out of 5 stars Good suggestions, but very repetitive,
This review is from: 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
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!
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Information for Web Developers,
This review is from: 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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Rant,
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)I thought it ironic that a book on usability is such a ridiculous size and shape. Try finding a shelf on your bookcase for a 10" x 10" book. It sticks out a good 2" further than industry standards. While some of this is justified, because of the web screen shots, there is a thick red border on all pages that could have been trimmed to make this book more USABLE.
It's kind of like a book on brevity being 3,000 pages...
5.0 out of 5 stars A year later, it continues to be useful!,
This review is from: 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! ;)
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Worthwhile Information,
This review is from: 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Read the checklist and skim the site reviews.,
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)As fifty web sites are deconstructed (mostly criticized for poor design and lack of content), the main takeaway is a mental list of "don'ts" with some hints of what to do instead. The book could have analyzed only half the number of sites and still been useful: after the 20th or 30th, the critiques become redundant, and it's tiring to read the same problems (and solutions) over and over. However, the 113-point checklist at the beginning of the book makes for a great reference: use the list to systematically review your own site or next project, and see how it stacks up. You won't agree with every requirement of the authors, but at least you'll have to think and justify the times when you do something they wouldn't.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the top sources for usability,
By A Customer
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)This book shows why Jakob Nielsen is so highly respected in the field of usability. The first part of the book contains the principles and concepts used for properly designing Websites. They are very detailed and very complete. The second part of the book contains critiques of 50 different homepages. Most of the homepages are from medium to large companies (FedEx, Accenture, ...), but there are also a few from local companies. Nielsen sticks with the homepages because it's the most important page on most sites, and the homepage tends to reflect the structure of the rest of the site. Nielsen points out the good and bad aspects of the homepages. He also does it in a very clearly designed graphic presentation. He numbers the areas of the homepage he wishes to comment on, then follows the graphic homepages with pages of comments clearly cross-referenced to the numbers. A very easy to follow format that I will use in my own presentations from now on. Easily done using layers in Paint Shop Pro. This section of the book shows how few companies actually follow good usability practices. In fact, some of the companies that supposedly help other companies develop a Web presence actually have atrocious usability practices on their own sites (the Accenture site is particularly hideous and poorly structured, although they have improved it slightly since the book's release). The mistakes are common among designers, so Nielsen tends to be a little repetitive. Not really something he can avoid since the common mistakes are made by the page designers and they must be pointed out. We all know how bad Web design currently is because we're continually looking for things or confused by the structure or navigation of newly visited Websites. Using Nielsen's examples, any designer should be able to greatly improve their design practices. At least they'll be better than the designers at most of these 50 companies.
Along with Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think and Alan Cooper's The Inmates Are Running The Asylum, this book stands at the top of the heap of usability books. And it's a better tool, especially for quick reference, than Nielsen's last book, Designing Web Usability.
3.0 out of 5 stars an Usability book that's un-usable...,
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)This book basically lays out the fundamentals of home page usability and then points out things that are right or wrong with some 50 popular websites.
Although the content of the book is ok, it is highly ironic that the book itself violates the very principles it is trying to preach.
First of all, the book is very HEAVY because it has color pages which are printed on heavy bond paper. It is also unwieldy because the pages are LARGE (Since the authors print out those website homepages at almost 100% of their actual size). It is simply to cumbersome to read on the train, or laying on a bed. One has to read it with the book rested on a table because it is so hard to manage (It won't even stand by itself because it is soft covered.)
Second of all, some pages are completely wasted, which is again highly ironical since the authors talk about spaces WASTED on webpages...) For example on pages 5-6 entitled "Homepage Guidlines," page 5 is black with no content, and there's content on only half of page of page 6. In the "website decontruction pages" section, webpages that are being analyzed are printed in the same size twice, one with red numbered circles(to be pointed out in the opposite page), one without. The authors could have just printed the pages with the red cicles on it (or have the original in a smaller size) and still achieve the same effect.
The red border to the side of the book is completely useless (other than for visual effect). While its purpose is to indicate which webpage it is analyzing, it could have been done without this SIZABLE red border . They could also have used this sizeable border to color-code the various sections of the book. As it is, it is space wasted that adds to the already massive size of the book.
Without the wasted page real estate, the book would have been tremendously lighter, more portable, and would have allowed the reader to enjoy reading it more. I understand that it is suppose to be a book relating to webpage design (hence the fancy layout), but it is an "usability" book, not a "fancy design 101" book. While the information given is good, I could have brought another book that offers same amount of content, but with less hassle (and probably with less amount of money given the fact that bond paper is expensive.)
If Jacob Nielsen were to deconstruct his own book, he would fail to meet his own standard of usability.
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Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed by Marie Tahir (Paperback - Nov 5 2001)
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