on January 12, 2004
This book is primarily a stylebook. The web is often mistaken for an electronic book and this is probably one of the reasons it has taken a while to find a guide aimed at web usability. Jakob Nielsen does a great job in creating a style manual for a medium, which has different aims and limitations from printed material. What made Tim Berners-Lee¡¦s innovation successful; the delivery of digital media on all manner of computer platforms; is also its drawback. Not every platform treats HTML tags in the same manner.
Nielsen¡¦s main point is that the web is primarily a communications tool, although an interactive one. He states, ¡§the main goal of most web projects should be to make it easy for customers to perform useful tasks.¡¨ In addition Nielsen points out that your display terminal is not a book. This means a screen that although interactive is harder to read than a book. The prime advantage is the ability to link to other current and active links or content in an immediate manner. The biggest mistake a site author makes is in creating slow, confusing, or cumbersome sites.
Make no mistake, the author knows is stuff and is consistent in his tone. This is the first part of a two-book set. By the time you have read both books some of the more obvious points are a bit overdone, but his main goal; to get web designers to change some of their bad habits worked with me.
on October 7, 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.
on September 27, 2003
this play must be read at least twice in order to get
a real sense of whats going on.Ibsen created a timeless work of art when he wrote Hedda Gabler.Here we have a simple plot,A woman who feels that she is trapped in a loveless marriage,discovers that her old love is back in town. To make things more complicated for Hedda, this old lover is a rival of her husband.To add insult to injury,her old lover is being helped by the woman she hates.But I wouldn't fell too sorry for our Hedda, from the very opening of the play we get a chance to see who Hedda really is.In this scene we see George Tessman, Hedda's husband admiring the new bonnet of his aunt Miss Juliana Tessman,who has just placed it on a chair.Hedda enters.
Tessman, this servant will never do.
Berta will never do ?
Whatever put that in your head, dear?
Look at that! She has left her old hat lying around on a chair.
Suppose anyone had come in and had seen it!
But Hedda! That bonnet's Aunt Julia's
It is ?
Miss Tessman(picking up the hat)
Yes, indeed. And what's more,it;s not old.
Hedda knew that the hat belonged to Miss Tessman,and that it wasn't old.This is where the reader get a sense of what Hedda is about.We see the woman full of jealousy,needing always to be the center of attention.
on September 24, 2003
This book did not resonate with me. Perhaps it is because I recently completed reading a great book on web design, "The Design of Sites."
It is not that the book is without merit. There are nuggets of wisdom buried in every chapter. Jakob Nielsen is an acknowledged web design expert. This book summarizes much of his thinking. Simplicity and usability should rule the web, according to the author. He is right. Users, or perhaps the term, surfers is more appropriate, are never more than one click from moving on to the next site.
There are some great chapters - the one on content design springs to mind. However, the book is like reading a W. E. B. Griffin novel. By the time you finish it, you realize it does not contain much new material. Topics and introductions are continually re-served and rehashed. At these prices, the author ought to credit his readers with enough intelligence to remember lessons taught in previous chapters.
The author's mantra is to know your user. This book would have been better if he accepted his own advice.
on August 10, 2003
This book is widely regarded as a web usability classic. Not everyone loves it, though. Opinions range from "he is a genius" to "the book is obsolete".
The book is bigger than it need be. Nielsen argues strongly that web sites should be concise, but that doesn't carry over into his writing. In several places a paragraph or two seemed very familiar, having been used several chapters earlier. There are lots of colour screenshots of web pages, mostly to point out flaws.
I agree with most of what he says: Make things simple, easy and effective for users; make your pages download as fast as you can; provide a site search and so on. Where he lets himself down is in speculating about what the internet might be like five, ten or even twenty years from now. This is a complete waste; I got fed up wading through it.
It's also too heavy on opinion and too light on practical detail for me. Nielsen claims he plans to write a "how to" book sometime, but that's no use right now. The section on internationalization, for example, tantalizingly mentions a few things (US switches go "up" for "ON", European ones go "down"; don't use baseball metaphors etc.) then leaves it up to the reader with very little further help.
Well worth absorbing, but I won't often dip into it again. Unless you are a collector, borrow it rather than buying.
on February 13, 2003
This book covers it all. It answered 99 percent of the questions and concerns I had about designing a usable site. Whether you agree or disagree with Jakob, you have to admire the body of work he's given the Internet. And you have to respect his opinions. They are very credible.
If one cares about usability, this is a page turner. I could hardly put it down. And I'm sure this is one of the few books I own that I will use daily and keep handy and probably well marked. To me, that's the sign of a very good, very important book. One you live with.
When you've read this book, you'll know more about usability than probably 90 percent or more of the people on the web. And you'll be able to create a site that will be useful to people, which translates into more business.
Most of the sites on the web today are really pretty bad. Both the design and the copy are bad. When you understand usability you can make a site that works for everyone concerned.
This book is fascinating. It's easy to read and understand. It covers all the topics that are usability concerns. This is NOT a book about web design. It's about usability and incorporating it into your design and into your writing. So writers as well as designers should read it.
I read "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug and I found it a very good book. I learned a lot from it. But after reading this book by Jakob Nielsen I really "got it". And you will too.
I highly recommend this very valuable book. It's an investment that will pay big dividends.
Susanna K. Hutcheson
Owner and Executive Copy Director
on January 7, 2003
When I bought this book, I did so under the false impression that the man who designed the book was also the author. Not so. As a CIW Master Site Designer, I am highly offended by this guy's oversimplified view of Web design and usability. One only has to take one look at his own Web site to see that his solutions are neither practical or "usable." Unfortunately, like so many in his profession, he completely disregards the fact that the Web is now a publishing medium - NOT a computer technology. More importantly, regarding e-commerce, it is a marketing tool; one can no longer disregard esthetics for the sake of "usability." Worse yet, like many of these so-called "usability professionals," he's treating the symptom and not the illness - poor browser software design. Most, if not all, of the usability issues for which Web designers and developers must compensate are due to lack of standardization and technological development in the browswer software industry. Sure, browser interfaces are getting prettier, but the guts of browser software still have not changed enough to appropriately accommodate the shift from technical tool to marketing medium. Of course, if these problems were solved, these high-priced "usability professionals" would be out of a job . . .
At any rate, I am a firm believer (and practitioner) of the philosophy that one does not need to sacrifice esthetics for usability, as opposed to the strategies presented herein by Herr Neilson. Do not listen to this man; he is a self-proclaimed "expert" who, by demonstration via his own Web site, has no clue how to address the true needs and concerns of Web customers - let alone, Web users. Stay away from this book!
on September 3, 2002
Okay, so everybody who every writes a review says that about "...a necessary addition..."
Some people may complain about this book, or say that it's not very useful, but like *anything* on usability, it's about lessons. Jakob Nielsen is quite the usability Yoda, and he very much shows what he considers to be elements of high (or in many cases) low usability.
His approach is nice for a couple of reasons. Often, when designing an element, you may ask yourself "Is this usable?" Most developers are blind to usability, as they can use their own code, and fail to take into consideration someone unfamiliar with thier process. Nielsen, through his copious examples, shows what's common on the internet, and describes usability elements based on that. The fact is, most of what we see and use on the internet could be vastly improved. He simply points it out.
Just like anything, this book should be read and taken with a grain of salt. Absorb what he has to say, and see how it applies to your development. While he is considered very yoda-like, he isn't the be-all, end-all authority (I can hear some people's teeth grinding at that comment... heh). Use what makes sense, and eschew what doesn't.
Overall, however, I *highly* recommend reading this book, if just for the usability perspective. You'll learn a lot, even if you don't try. An excellent book.
on July 24, 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.
on July 4, 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.