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5.0 out of 5 stars What the WWW needed was a stylebook - Nielsen delivers
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...
Published on Jan. 12 2004 by Marcus Abundus

3.0 out of 5 stars Lesson Learned; Lesson Forgotten
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...
Published on Sept. 24 2003 by Craig L. Howe

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4.0 out of 5 stars This is a highly effective book with solid information, May 21 2001
Amazon Customer (Austin, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
In reading over the reviews it is easy to find people who are quite hostile to what Nielsen has to say and it's easy to understand why--he insults and threatens their very approach to web design. Nielsen's message is really quite simple: web sites should be constructed for the end user, not to demonstrate the skills and ego of the designer. Unless you are designing a site that is intended simply to demonstrate the breadth of your abilities, designing is not about fun--it's about taking information and making it as accessible as possible for your end users. It can be fun, but your own enjoyment shouldn't be the purpose.
In Designing Web Usability Nielsen does an effective job of demonstrating ways in which you can help your users to move through your site efficiently and accurately. Individual sections may seem seem somewhat self-evident, but taken as a whole these sections add up to an impressive amount of information.
Of particular interest are chapters 4: Site Design, and a section in chapter 3 on writing for the web. In the section on site design he discusses issues such as using navigational cues to orient the reader to where they are, where they've been, and where they can go, and different types of organizational schemes. As a technical communicator I found the section on writing for the web particularly relevant. Put simply--most people do not like to read online. You have a second or two to grab their attention and only a bit longer to hold them there if they are intrigued. Relevant information needs to be placed front and center and should be foregrounded through the effective use of headings, bulleted lists, etc. This section does a good job explaining how to do so.
None of this is to say that Nielsen is without fault. I do believe that there are times when his rules should be broken. He seems to assume that conveyance of information is the only purpose of the web and, obviously there are many other reasons people surf. Nevertheless, if your site has the purpose of communicating information of some form, this book should be read and absorbed.
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1.0 out of 5 stars The Jakob Nielsen Drinking Game, May 2 2001
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
1. Go to any web or internet related conference. 2. Sneak in lots to drink. 3. Sneak in lots of friends. 4. Attend the obligatory "User-Centered Web Design" keynote session featuring Web Usability Guru(tm) Jakob Nielsen. 5. Follow these rules:
Every time he says "micropayment", take one drink.
Every time his reasoning relies on having solved "the bandwidth problem", take one drink.
Every time he uses a made-up word like "linkrot" to sound more like Tufte, take one drink.
Every time he forgets that design can be fun, take one drink.
Every time he excuses his own refusal to observe the rules he dictates to everyone else on the grounds that he "knows his audience", take one drink.
If he mentions scrolling, take one drink.
If he mentions that users don't scroll, take one drink.
If he mentions link colors, drink: once for "blue" once for "purple" three for "red", which nobody who's used a browser since 1993 thinks of as a followed link color, anyway. It's the "active link" color, dammit.
If he mentions the Macintosh desktop metaphor, have a pretzel.
Every time he quotes statistics from an unrelated study to prove a point about Web usability, take one drink.
If he actually uses a relevant study, finish bottle.
If Nielsen admits he got his design skills from watching Jerry Pournelle work on his "web page", clutch heart and die.
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1.0 out of 5 stars whole lot of fluff, Feb. 26 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
It's hard to get through this book, partly because of poor design. It's padded with a lot of screen shots (of long gone websites) where he dissects the problems of the page. The screens aren't captioned, and often the accompanying text is separated from the page. There are many sidebars too, that sometimes deal with the topic at hand, often not. The end result, with competing areas of focus, is that this book is the hard copy equivalent of a <BLINK> tag. As for the content itself, it is mainly his opinon, when he does mention research it isn't referenced. Also, I've picked this book up often as a research tool, only to be disappointed that his guidelines were too generic/vague to put into practice--his idea of a web page is somewhat limited to a very general, text-centric information site. The examples, and guidelines in many instances, are dated; due to following the leader or listening to usability pundits many of his rants are obsolete. His free website is a better resource than this book.
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1.0 out of 5 stars It would help if the author had practiced., Feb. 13 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
This book can be summarized as a complete waste of time for anyone who really wants help with web design. Neilsen has not done any actual web design work in years and still looks back to his job at Sun (10 years ago) as if it has any relevance to the web today. 10 years ago a simple text based non graphics web site was preferable because no one had a connection fast enough to use the web in a graphical format, there were no real graphical browsers, and computers wre not powerful enough to do what a flash site today can do.
You don't need a PHD in interface design to know that less graphics on a site will make it download faster. You also don't need to pay him $175,000.00 to review your site (That is what he charges). Anyone who thinks this old man deserves that kind of money to look at their site and give their opinion needs more help then any one book can give them. You could hire a whole market research firm to do focus groups and surveys for less than this.
In no way has this man addressed the fact that every web site does not have to appeal to every possible person that comes to it. Web sites are made for a purpose and the only people that the site you design has to appeal to is your target audience. Neilsen picks apart every site because this person or that person may not like the site for whatever reason. You could find some reason to dislike any site, but that isn't how you design a web site. You pick you target audience and you design a site that appeals to that audience. You can't be everything to everyone.
Neilsen thinks a boring text only web site is what everyone needs. Maybe his eyesight is starting to go and he can't focus enough to keep up with a site that has actual visual appeal.
Try combining a little creativity with usability and see if people like the site better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Useful day to day. Period., Jan. 21 2001
Frank Lynch "frank_lynch" (Brooklyn, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
I've had this book for about a year, but have held back from reviewing it until I could see it in action in our work place. (In all honesty, I could have posted these same opinions six months ago; it was effective that long ago, but reviewing this was not one of my top priorities.) In my work place (a large large corporation whose website has scads of pages), this book has been a major resource for colleagues trying to support the user experience.
Nielsen makes his points clearly and supports them with germane examples. His tone is sober and persuasive, and while he often gives direction in absolute terms (allowing little room for judgment), he never sounds like Chicken Little. This increases his arguments' credibility, which is of course important if you need to cite an outside source.
The day to day usefulness? Well, where I work this book has buttressed discussions around page download times, organization, page real estate, intranets... I don't know of any other web book which could have filled this role. Granted, other books carry similar messages, but their authors are not quoted daily, and they are less likely to be recognized by those you work with. The fact that there is a mouse pad (intended as a joke) that asks you to ask yourself "What Would Jakob Do?" is a testament to the persuasiveness of his arguments. They are persuasive for a reason. BUY THIS BOOK.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Overall, a good book to read. But not a bible to follow., Jan. 14 2001
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
Jakob is a controversial figure on web design community, and will keep being that way for quite some time. It's not hard to figure that out for someone who put his name right on the cover of the book like what it is with this book.
But yet, many of the comments that I read in the book are very helpful. A lot of them are common sense, but for some reasons, they haven't been common on the web page design.
The way I see it is, as long as it helps users retrieve information that they want from a web site, it is a valid guideline.
And one common misunderstanding about Jakob Nielson is that he thinks users are idots. But I don't think that's what he said. What he said is, users are not patient. And that I can totally relate to. I mean, hell, I am not patient when I browse the web.
As to the rest of the comment that he made, I don't agree with him, especially his comment on the efforts that has been made to the web environment to make it a multimedia. It is not a waste, Jakob! If it were, all of us would still be using DOS, not WINDOWS, today.
One last thing to complain about the book, the diagram and figures are terribly integrated, if at all, with the main text. I kept being forced to jump back and forth between the text and the figures and found myself confused many many times. Talking about usability and readability, hummm...... Jakob? Anyone?
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Anyone Involved with Websites, Dec 25 2000
JB (Alexandria, VA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
Jackob Nielsen has pulled together an excellent primer on usability for websites. Perhaps the easiest way to summarize his book is the book's tagline: "The practice of simplicty."
Web design has to this point been more of an intuitive art for many designers. Many web managers look at general graphic and layout design and not the functionality that design is suppose to enable. Nielsen takes this intuition and describes exactly what solid, functional web design looks like and what it should do.
He uses numerous real world examples and screen shots throughout the book. Scattered throughout are statistics from his research which are helpful as well. Nielsen also explains how website should differ from Intranet sites and also how to "internationalize" your website for foreign users.
One particularly helpful chapter focused on how to write for the web. A common theme throughout the book is that web users are impatient and thus prefer to skim rather than read. Thus, when writing web content, you should do so with skimming in mind using lots of bullets, and highlighting key words. He also advocates using Title tags for links so that when a user places a mouse cursor over the link, a little bubble help will appear describing where the link will take the user.
The chapter on page design is also particularly helpful in building in designing pages that tells the user where they are, what they can do from there, where they can go from there, and what is offered - all without scrolling.
Nielsen has become the Father of Usability on the Internet. This is a great book to give you some practical advice on design. It won't tell you how to do coding, but it gives you the conceptual framework needed to design a site. Even if you do not agree with all of his points, it will at least have encouraged you to think about aspects of design that many haven't considered.
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5.0 out of 5 stars For Advanced Users, Nov. 28 2000
Sage Tyrtle (Ava, MO United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
I bought this book without knowing anything about it other than the title and the fact that it was published by New Riders (who I've had great luck with in the past). When you consider that in general I only buy 2-3 books a year and do all the rest of my considerable reading at the library, that's saying something.
Jakob Nielson takes the world of web usability and makes it understandable to a complete usability ignoramus like me. After reading this book, I revamped almost all of my websites and yes, I'm getting more orders as a result. I'm also making sure I listen more closely to the negative feedback I get - because after reading this book I know that behind every person who does give negative feedback, there are 100 more who didn't bother to write.
The only slightly annoying facet of the book was the way he kept wandering off into the future and what "might happen" and how that "might effect" the web in the year 2005. Well, that's all well and good, but I'm worried about designing in the year 2000.
I would warn beginners NOT to purchase this book, however. This book is about *why* to make your website more user friendly. It does not tell anything about *how* to accomplish this. It's really for advanced users, and I would recommend it to any advanced user without reservations.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, very helpful., Nov. 21 2000
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
I have seen harsh criticisms of this book. I suspect they may come from "artists" who are set on the defensive when Nielsen says something like, "Relish simplicity, and focus on the users' goals rather than glitzy design."
His book is based on research. And years of it. When he says something is confusing to a user, it's not because he doesn't like it, or thinks that the users are dunderheads, but rather because he has statistically seen it fail.
If you want good tips on usability based on statistics and research, this is your book. If you want to be pandered to and have some one tell you your graphics are king based on anecdotal information, look elsewhere.
NOTE- For those of you get the impression that this book limits creativity, think again. Nielsen in NO way tries to limit creativity. He simply adds "usability" to the list of page requirements [meaningful graphic content, navigation, etc.]. For some, this will add a new, bigger, and more exciting "creative" challenge. For others it may be threatening.
I doubt ANY BOOK can be a complete authority on any subject. But for usability, this has a LOT of information. It's not a "technical" book, so I found it easy reading. He may be repetitive at times, but lets face it, that's how humans learn (another statistical fact). So enjoy it, the ideas Nielsen shares can improve your site.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Time to drive a stake through the heart of Nielsenism, Nov. 7 2000
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
Jakob Nielsen's bizarre insistence on treating the Web as if the years 1996 through 2000 had never happened is the sort of lapse in his otherwise-cogent thinking that will doom him to irrelevance. He makes points that need to be made, but I worry about any sentence of the form, "*All* Web sites *must*..."
There's no way anyone can finish that sentence and have it ring true to me, since the Web is such a hugely multifaceted environment. It's not - and never has been, at least not since Mosaic 1.0 - a purely informational medium. Neither is it a purely commercial environment. It contains both these elements, along with a strong leaving of emotion and an increasing ability to display aesthetic sophistication.
With these thoughts in mind, it's purely irresponsible to *demand* that Web sites be designed solely according to the Taylorist precepts of Nielsen's so-called "practice of simplicity." Simplicity is a wonderful thing - even an underrated thing - but there are topics on the Web, as in life, that require complexity, even idiosyncrasy. The implied insult in "Designing Web Uability" is that users are dimwitted drones who can't be expected to deal with idiosyncrasy.
And while the review-of-a-review below may seem snarky, the guy's got a point. I don't want to sound elitist, but simplicity in practice demands subtlety - mastery of the sort that generally eludes "Dummies." This book will *not* make you a Web design professional, and if the below example is any proof, it cannot even teach you the basics of aesthetic balance. Nielsen himself admits as much.
Usability is a good thing. It is not a religion. Nielsen loses sight of this, which makes him dangerous; half-competent project managers who take up his cause without ever having designed a Web site themselves are more dangerous still.
I think it's time for the anti-Nielsen: a loud, proud statement that design is OK, that users are clever, that Flash can be useful, and that emotion is at least equal to commerce and utility in the life of the Web.
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Designing Web Usability
Designing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen (Paperback - Dec 20 1999)
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