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The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems Paperback – Mar 29 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (March 29 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201379376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201379372
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 1.5 x 23.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #359,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

"The book that explains why you really hate computers."

I've admired Jef Raskin for years. For those who don't know, he is the "Father of the Macintosh," one of the original geniuses who guided the Mac in the early days. But, more than a computer scientist, Raskin is a cognitive psychologist. He studies how the brain works with special emphasis on how that relates to us using computers. His magnum opus was the Canon Cat, which was an excellent and well-thought-out little computer.

In The Humane Interface, Raskin goes into detail describing how computers can be made easier to understand and use. Ever want to know why you really don't like Windows? The answer is in this book. In fact, there's so much in this book that makes sense, I really want to send a copy to every employee at Microsoft.

I loved reading this book and nodding my head in rabid agreement. Raskin states, "There has never been any technical reason for a computer to take more than a few seconds to begin operation when it is turned on." So why then does Windows (or Linux!) take so darn long to start up? The PalmPilot is on instantly, as is your cell phone. But for some reason, we tolerate the computer taking a few eons to start. (And until consumers complain about it, things won't change.)

Computers can be easy to use, and the people who design them and design software need to read this book. Do you ever get the impression that the person who designed a piece of software must have come from the same company that designed the front panel on your VCR? Why should you have to double-click anything? What does Ctrl+D mean one thing in one program and a completely different thing in another? And what's the point of the Yes/No confirmation if the user is in the habit of clicking Yes without thinking about it? Raskin neatly probes all these areas.

While I admire everything Raskin has to say, the book is pretty heavy on the psychology end. Myself, I enjoy cognitive psychology (especially books by Raskin's cohort Donald Norman), though some may find that part of the book boring. Even so, Raskin builds and backs his argument in a most eloquent and scientific manner. Especially if you design software or need to teach or train people to use computers, this book deserves a spot on your shelf. --Dan Gookin

From Library Journal

Falling somewhere between Donald A. Norman's The Psychology of Everyday Things and Ben Shneiderman's Designing the User Interface, Raskin's book covers ergonomics as well as quantification, evaluation, and navigation. Raskin was the original creator of the Apple Macintosh project before Steve Jobs took over and has a background in technology and art, which gives him a unique perspective on usability; recommended for university and large public libraries.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Jef Raskin was truly a visionary in the field of human interfaces and this book is a culmination of everything he learned over his lifetime. Jef was one of those who really cared about his work, and the fact that he was still involved in human interface design in his later years is only proof of this.

I would consider this book necessary reading for anyone who wants to think "outside the box" and look at human interaction at the simplest level of human thought--things not bound by windows and GUIs. I found the book delightful and easy to read, and many of the insights provided have stayed with me as I've continued to think about the future of user interfaces.

IMO the ideas and more importantly the very way of thinking in this book is still relevant in 2008, 8 years after it was published, for the very reason that it is not tied to any specific technology. In fact, Jef uses an example from a 1979 throughout the book.
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Format: Paperback
This is a book on software user interface design by the father of the Macintosh and the information appliance. Specifically, it is a collection of ideas on how software could be better designed to take into account human psychology and behavior.
I have been using and developing software on computers for twenty years, yet I still find most software annoying and frustrating to use. I was looking for a book on user interface design that explains why computers are so frustrating, and also points to better ways of designing software that is easier for people to use. Raskin delivers on both, though some may find the book itself frustrating to use at times.
Raskin calls out key ideas from each section in italics. One of the first and most important is "An interface is humane if it is responsive to human needs and considerate of human frailties". People cannot and should not have to remember what application is running or what commands are available, in other words what state or "mode" the software is in. The interface should minimize distractions so people can focus on the task they are trying to accomplish rather than on the software. Interfaces can accomplish this by encouraging habituation.
Many of the ideas in the book, such as eliminating modes in software, and reducing the number of actions a user has to perform to accomplish a task, can be applied in current GUI (graphical user interface) systems. But many require designing completely new interfaces. Raskin proposes replacing the application-centric operating system model of today with a command-centric model where users download only the commands they need, and once on their system, commands are available at all times. This is an intriguing idea.
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Format: Paperback
+ I read this book cover to cover, which is seldom, since I usually have 3 to 8 other books lurking around to make up a certain boredom factor.
+ His ideas are radical.
+ This books made me aware about the real ugliness of modes (my personal daily mode error counter got installed).
+ It made me wish for the global incremental search facility.
- His ideas are radical (get the hint?): I doubt that without investment from a major global player in the computing industry, his ideas will just not catch on with the broader public audience, and hackers will dismiss his ideas as being too, well, non-hacker-wise. (Which is of course not a problem with the book, but with our industry in general.)
+/- Sometimes the computing world he describes is too text-centered. I will always end up in discussions with my friend on how he wants to get a CAD package working with his ideas.
- Sometimes there is this "I'm the guru, you know nothing about computers at all." attitude.
Anyway, you should read it, just to know that there is something else than the button-menu world in GUI design.
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By A Customer on Feb. 3 2003
Format: Paperback
The positive reviews cover the positive side of this book.
The negatives:
1) The distinction of noun-verb vs. verb-noun behavior is strange since all his examples of good design are really verb-noun-verb (navigate-select object-perform action on object).
2) His section on user customization reveals the sort of 'the designer knows best' arrogance that has traditional brought us such design failures as soviet era archetecture, not to mention untold millions of dollars of unsellable products.
3) The worst part of his writing style is that he NEVER (ok make that seldom) describes the trade-offs that real design usually involves. He slams the beginner-expert design efforts without dealing at all with the real tradeoffs necessary. Similarly, icons are dismissed without dealing with the tradeoffs that icon use involves.
4) His approach is that of the industrial engineer who measures efficiencies with time and motion studies; after reading this book I have the dstinct impression that using software he designs would be similar to standing in an assembly line all day.
5) Very limited discussion of aethetics as they apply to ergonomics. For instance, no (well, very little) discussion of color and how it relates to the human interace; no discussion on fonts and how they relate to eye strain.
In general, the book has some good technical information, but writing style and lack of essential coverage of design issues make for pervasive flaws.
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