Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design Paperback – Sep 16 2010
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Simple and Usable is both an extremely approachable and an incredibly practical guide to simplicity. Author Giles Colborne compelling shares four fundamental strategies for accomplishing simplicity: remove, organize, hide, and displace.
First, figure out the most important tasks of mainstream users, and make those tasks really easy to accomplish. Then, kill all the features that aren't core. From limiting choice, to eliminating distraction, to using smart defaults, Giles offers many tangible tactics for reducing complexity.
But just throwing something out isn't the only way to simplify. Effective organization can make an interface feel simpler to use. "There are plenty of options open to you in organizing an interface--size, color, position, shape, hierarchy." Giles explains that organizing for simplicity involves emphasizing just one or two important elements. He shares useful techniques for achieving organization such as chunking, hard edges, grids, and layering.
For those features that can't be eliminated but that are used only rarely, Giles recommends a third strategy: hiding. "Often a feature has a few core controls for mainstreamers and extended, precision controls for experts," he says. "Hiding the precision controls is a good way to keep things simple." Giles shares how progressive disclosure and timely clues can be used to reveal a hidden feature at just the right moment.
While the first three strategies--remove, organize, and hide--work well in conjunction, the fourth strategy is, as Giles puts it, "a cheat." Displacement is the technique of moving functionality from one location, say a TV remote control, to a different location, such as onto the TV screen itself. "One of the secrets of creating simple experiences," Giles says, "is putting the right functionality on the right... part of the system."
Not only is Simple and Usable packed with practical strategies for achieving simplicity, but it's also quite an enjoyable read. Giles manages to infuse frequent examples into the book's impressively concise 1-page sections, making for inviting reading whether you're on a 3-minute bus ride or spending a Saturday at the cafe. As an advocate of simplicity myself, I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a hand in building websites, software, or products.
1. The content combines succinct mini-chapters with gorgeous and complementary images.
2. The quality of the paper stock, the book's information design, and the overall package is top notch.
3. I learned a couple new things despite having been around the profession for a while.
4. The focus is not on one particular type of product.
I don't think the book is all things to all people and I suspect it was not meant to be. A seasoned UX professional may not learn a lot from it, but this is a good book for students and for business people who might need an introduction to good user experience research and design principles. For the experienced UX person, I think the book could be a good review of some key precepts that sometimes might seem distant in the day-to-day rush of getting things done.
I do wish there were footnotes to the interesting research studies the author sometimes refers to in the chapters. The more we UX pros back up our assertions with proper research, the more we will be taken seriously by our employers and clients. Perhaps a bibliography on the simpleandusable.com website would be a good adjunct to the book?
Three characteristics shine through in "Simple and Usable":
Call it the "iPhone" of usability books - it's packaged better than other books in this space. It's a fast, easy treatment you can read in a few hours.
Nearly every page has a concept or tactic that you can use every day. The examples stem from products Mr. Colborne has created himself, such as online travel planners or automotive sales websites, or ones he has used, like Flip cameras or the elevator in Tokyo's Apple Store.
Easily the most noteworthy trait of the book is the information design of the book itself, from orientation to staging and continued through execution.
I would recommend "Simple and Usable" for novice and intermediate user experience designers looking for new ideas or quick reminders of the right way to go about designing interaction.
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