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3.9 out of 5 stars
Designing Web Usability
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Showing 11-20 of 55 reviews(4 star)show all reviews
on April 24, 2000
Rarely do I deface a book by underlining phrases and scribbling comments in the margins. When I do it means that this is a no longer just a reference book but a working tool, a work which will always sit within arms reach of the keyboard.
I squirmed when reading this. Perhaps it was that I successfully convinced others to implement frames on a site or that users who come from search engines deep into one of my sites are in grave danger of getting lost. This book exposes your mistakes. It does this with great clarity of writing and ample use of screen shots.
However I found some things annoying:
* The author repeats himself. In later chapters when we should be building on the early arguments we get a regurgitation of earlier advice and the book runs out of steam. Perhaps this repitition is deemed necessary for people who are delving straight into particularly chapters. * While there is a chapter specifically called International Use the author at times uses very US specific imagery. Should we in Australia be expected to know of Tom Brokaw (p149)? Also the stats on web connections speeds and their future projections seemed to be for the US only - although this is not specifically stated. * Almost the whole of the discussion about usability is limited to HTML and Cascading Style Sheets. I would have appreciated consideration of Javascripts as well as Flash - which is completely ignored.
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on February 25, 2000
First the bad news: This book was obviously not tested for usability. Jakob, you may find this hard to believe but some, perhaps many, people would like to use a highlighter on your book. Did anyone try to highlight a sentence on the left page? There's almost no gutter. It's very difficult. The glossy paper is difficult to read due to the high glare and should have been limited to the screen capture pages. People may scan web pages but they READ books. The numerous asides in garish colors were a constant visual distraction and made reading more difficult. If it's worth printing it should be worth reading. The notes should have been incorporated in the discussion contained in the main text.
Now the good news: Content rules and this book is loaded. Although Nielsen failed to apply his principles to his book he certainly knows what he's talking about. I'll give him the benefit of a doubt and blame some faceless/nameless marketing type at the publisher for insisting on "livening it up with some cool colors and layout".
One word of caution after reading this book you'll become even more impatient with poorly designed web sites. Nielsen's content is so good that it easily compensates for it's minor physical shortcomings. I highly recommend this book to any and every webmaster.
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Nielsen offers many excellent, authoritative insights into enhancing the usability of websites. Any person designing websites for professional use would definitely benefit from reading this book, though much of what was said could be gained from sites on the net like websitesthatsuck.com. I'd advise listening closely to the general thesis of this book, and not necessarily adhering to all of the specific points. Some of Nielsen's recommendations are a bit extreme (the oft-cited example of link colors). But most of his points are backed by experience and research, and as such are valuable observations which should be heard. Of particular value are his many references to the studies he has performed. Very interesting! The book is also littered with numerous illustrations which help to clarify his points, though his examples do seem to focus more on what doesn't work than what does. And finally, it's amazing to find a book about usability which itself has such a usability flaw. What's up with those big flaps on the inside covers? If they are supposed to be bookmarks, they don't work well. Very annoying. All in all, a good (but not outstanding) book which every web designer should read. You can never get too much education about good website design!
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on February 9, 2000
This book will quickly give you the information you need to design a web site well. It is part of a two book series with this one focussing on the "how" and the next one on the "why". Sure, Nielsen mentions the results of research and user tests throughout the book, but doesn't dwell on it. This information is just used as supporting evidence for his design points.
It is fair to say that the material in this book is common sense. While you read it, everything Nielsen says makes perfect sense, but look around the web a bit and you'll find many sites that violate these basic principles. Other books make the same points, but I haven't come across any that do it as well as this one -- by backing the points up with research and several examples. If you are looking for one web usability book to buy, this is it.
Some reviews clearly feel the other way, but I think the book itself is a case study in usability. The layout of each page is create and the screenshots are very clear and well captioned.
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on February 9, 2000
I agree with other reviewers, Jakob does present his ideas as Rules You Must Follow, rather than observations or suggestions. On a few things, he offers no data to back up his assertion, and on a couple things I know he's factually incorrect. I also agree that there are a lot of typos in this book, but only if you're observant.
However, what he does present is just great. I like the writing style. I like the example images. For example, when he says to design for "any" screen size, and then shows you 3 screenshots of Web sites that lock themselves into a certain size, that certainly illuminates how stupid some designers can be.
One other point. Jakob is writing for usability, about how people get information. He pays no attention to marketing issues, such as branding, creating product interest, giving the customer a memorable experience, entertainment, etc. It is fine that he concentrates on other areas, but know before you buy the book that you will have to make up you own mind in those areas (at least). For instance, site reports from the Web site I work on show that any time I throw a DHTML "whiz-bang" widget onto the site, the area it is promoting gets a doubling to a quadrupling of traffic. That flies in the face of his "don't use whiz-bang features" philosophy. But I've learned that his data and my data don't always agree. So take Jakob with a grain of salt.
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on January 26, 2000
Enough of the reviews here already praise this book for theauthor's qualifications and his good advice, and they're generallyright. It might be useful in addition to note that the book isprofusely illustrated (it had better be, at [the price]). The emphasis on commerce may not appeal to all readers, but Nielsen's recommendations are usually easy to apply to non-commercial projects.
There are some points on which I'd disagree with the author (e.g., I'd say the "tradition" of blue for unvisited links and red for visited ones is not worth preserving), but Nielsen is good at outlining the sometimes conflicting priorities in web design so that readers can have an informed basis for agreeing or disagreeing.
So let's talk about what needs to be fixed for the second edition. Start with the cover. Why is it that the subtitle ("The Practice of Simplicity"), which encapsulates the book's message, appears not on the front or the spine, but only on the back cover? In fact, the only other places it appears are on the inside flap (which also features nearly unreadable text in white reversed out of fluorescent lime green) and the copyright page. A bizarre flaw in an otherwise crisp and readable design.
This is a book whose topic cries out for checklists to refer back to after the argument has been digested. They would be a tremendous asset.
Nielsen has read Edward Tufte's fabulous "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information", but apparently the book designer hasn't: the pie chart on page 314 is needlessly rendered in 3 dimensions, causing slight but noticeable distortion of the data.
Note to the author and New Riders Press: the ethnic slur on page 182 ("Chinese Embassy design") is disgraceful.
Still a good book.
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on January 25, 2000
On pages 13 and 14, Jakob writes: "You are probably going to have to buy two books...this book will tell you *what* to do with your site and an implementation book to tell you *how* to put that design on the Net."
I wholeheartedly agree with Jakob's statement here. This book should be read required reading for anyone who saw a "kewl" webpage with lots of "neat" navigation elements and wants to try their hand at website design. There are simply too many badly designed, useless sites out there. We don't need to add any more to the pile.
This book's focus seemed to be toward the news publishing industry and producers of "static" pages in general. The only thing I wish this book covered more was how to design complex web _applications_ (non-static pages) for improved usability.
I've been watching Jakob's columns since 1997 and I have seen many of his predictions about the Web and usability come true. I highly recommend this book to site designers and CEOs alike. Users of their websites will be the ones to benefit.
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on June 1, 2001
This is a must read book for all concerned. Mostly, the book is well organized: on one page with text explanations, including HTML code hints mostly, and the other side with the example website. Although, if I have one slight argument about books today in general, it's that the writing style should be more "highlight arranged"; To borrow from the book's cover: readers want to quickly access the pertinent information they need. Time-wise, this book would be cost-effective with half the words at the same price, but more useful if organized as an indexed reference; for example, similar to the excellent book "A Writer's Reference", by Diana Hacker. It's not an easy book to master on first read; it covers a lot of ground, so I'll have to re-read. I wouldn't skip this book by any means, but I agree with some reviewers: to get more than just one expert's perspective, different perspectives if possible; For example, the O'Reilly book "Web Design In A Nutshell."
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on January 14, 2000
Desigining Web Usability is, overall, an excellent book. I agree with one of the previous reviewers who stated that if you are a seasoned Web designer/developer there is not a ton of information here that is new. But it is nice to have it all in one place and so lavishly presented. The production value of this book is very high and is itself an example of excellent information presentation (albeit in the print world).
The book is especially good for those new to Web site design and usability. I have seen all too often how graphic designers or especially marketing types and executives new to the Web insist on designing a Web page THEY like instead of one usable for the intended audience.
Overall you may not agree with everything Dr. Nielsen says but if you take the basic principles to heart your Web pages will be much better. A key principle is that just because a page looks good does not mean it functions well. Dr. Nielsen will show you how to do that.
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on February 22, 2001
I don't know what so many people are moaning about when it comes to reviewing this book. I think this is an excellent resource; full of insight and experience that Nielson has gathered from his usability studies both past and present. I am sure this book would help many many Web developers to build better sites. Maybe there are people out there who are beyond this book and have the sophistication, knowledge and experience to lean on their own resources, but for the rest of us this is a very solid place to start. If you are interested check out Nielsen's own Web site and dig into his mailing list archive. It is an invaluable resource to me, and I have printed out many of these article and put them in a folder for my own reference. His site is useit.com. My Web development company has a fantastic designer and a great production team, this book only helps enhance our existing talents. Go to your local book store and read through it there even.
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