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on July 30, 2003
The book is an introduction text to the field of user interface design.
What I found useful in the book is thinking about the user interface as a number of layers and this reminds me of the layer approach used when explaining communication technologies. I've been using a simpler 3 layer model to communicate what is a user interface to non-professionals and that works.
However, even knowing that a user interface contains several layers does not help you build a user interface. From my experience, building user interfaces requires synthesis. This is where I found this book lacking, it tells you about the required parts but unfortunately doesn't really help tell you how to put them together. Using a cooking analogy, you have the ingredients for the meal but you are missing the quantities and cooking times.
Therefore this book is great to understand what a user interface but it is of limited help to build a user interface.
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on April 29, 2003
Not to diminish the value of this great book, but, it is very basic. Establishes a good basic overall process to efficiently manage user interface development. Takes you through step by step. Essential to have this approach before looking at other aspects in more depth. Not technical, so you don't need to be a developer to understand concepts. Good value and a quick read.
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on March 26, 2003
First off, the author is reportedly disdainful of "design education" (ie, scholarly programs that foster legitimate inquiry and exploration of critical issues in user experience) so it's no surprise that this book, mildly sufficient for beginners puzzled as to how to even start a web project, lacks the necessary conceptual foundations of design thinking for examining complex, application oriented, "beyond the web" design problems: interpretations, perspectives, etc. to enable a designer/IA to step "beyond" the immediate problem and extrapolate principles and patterns. Fundamental issues of cognition, social interaction, drama, emotion, etc. are not even hinted. Also, the core diagram, while visually interesting, has many gaps and simplifications. The fact is, the areas of interaction design and information architecture are quite dynamic in practice (and theory) to be declared with such an "easy" diagram. And the false dichotomies between UI, IA, ID, etc. reveal a unhealthy temptation to simplify and codify, leading to false perceptions by newbies about design practice.
So, while the book offers the rudimentary basics of web projects (which are quite useful), the array of techniques and over-simplification of process/forethought can be a disservice for someone truly trying to understand "user experience" elements. Instead, I'd highly recommend Clement Mok's "Designing Business", Veen's "Art and Science of Web Design" (especially the last chapter), HIllman Curtis' "Making the Invisible Visible", and Shedroff's "Experience Design" (though it is hard to "read" his book :-)
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on March 13, 2003
There was not much in this book that I didn't glean from Jesse's one page PDF back in 2000. If you're a professional designer that is curious about this book, just check out the PDF. It's free, quick, and concise.
On the other hand, if you're someone that is new to UE, or maybe a designer struggling to get some core concepts across to a clueless team, client, or boss, then this book might nail what you're looking for. It's well-written, physically small, and not intimidating at all.
Jesse said it best in the intro: "This is not a book of answers. Instead, this book is about asking the right questions... This book will tell you what you need to know before you go read those other books."
This book provides no insight into techniques or methodologies for user experience design. It only brings to light that those techniques and methodologies exist.
Summary: Jesse, you wrote a good book. I just didn't pull much else from it past your excellent, excellent PDF a few years ago. Cheers.
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on March 13, 2003
There was not much in this book that I didn't glean from Jesse's one page PDF back in 2000. If you're a professional designer that is curious about this book, just check out the PDF. It's free, quick, and concise.
On the other hand, if you're someone that is new to UE, or maybe a designer struggling to get some core concepts across to a clueless team, client, or boss, then this book might nail what you're looking for. It's well-written, physically small, and not intimidating at all.
Jesse said it best in the intro: "This is not a book of answers. Instead, this book is about asking the right questions... This book will tell you what you need to know before you go read those other books."
This book provides no insight into techniques or methodologies for user experience design. It only brings to light that those techniques and methodologies exist.
Summary: Jesse, you wrote a good book. I just didn't pull much else from it past your excellent, excellent PDF a few years ago. Cheers.
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on February 8, 2003
"Ready...Fire...Aim!"
How many times have you been involved in a Web site design effort that seems to fit this approach? Sadly, we all have such experiences in our lives. This delightful little book provides user experience designers a conceptual model for producing Web sites. This allows for a process that is rigorous, logical, and easily communicated.
Jesse James Garrett defines the term "user experience" as "...how (a) product behaves and is used in the real world." He focuses this book on consideration of one particular kind of product: Web sites.
In the Introduction, the author describes this book as
"...not a how-to book, ...not a book about technology, ...(and) not a book of answers. Instead, this book is about asking the right questions.
"This book will tell you what you need to know before you go read those other books. If you need the big picture, if you need to understand the context for the decisions that user experience practitioners make, this book is for you."
I agree wholeheartedly. The role that this book can play in developing your skill as a user experience practitioner is analogous to the role of ground school for a fledgling airplane pilot. Before a prospective pilot gets behind the controls, ground school teaches the principles of flight, aircraft systems, and other basics that need to be understood before actually taking off. Similarly, this book provides a way of understanding user experience that helps you make informed decisions as you begin and continue the design of a user experience. Garrett suggests (and I agree) that the two primary audiences for the book are newcomers (such as an executive responsible for assembling a user experience team) and those who are more familiar with user experience design and need to communicate their methods and concerns to others in an understandable way.
In a subsection of the Introduction entitled "The Story Behind the Book," Garrett relates the tale of how the book came to be. It goes back to a three-dimensional diagram he developed in late 1999 and early 2000, that serves as a model for visualizing both the elements of user experience and their interrelationships. Garrett points out that there is a duality to Websites, which he describes in a note accompanying that diagram as follows:
"The Web was originally conceived as a hypertextual information space; but the development of increasingly sophisticated front- and back-end technologies has fostered its use as a remote software interface. This dual nature has led to much confusion, as user experience practitioners have attempted to adapt their terminology to cases beyond the scope of its original application."
Furthermore, the diagram provides a clear and consistent way to use the plethora of terms that have been used (and, in many cases, misused) to refer to aspects of user experience design. He includes such terms as User Needs, Site Objectives, Content Requirements, Functional Specifications, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Information Design, Navigational Design, Interface Design, and Visual Design, shows them in the context of his model, and clarifies their underlying relationships. This diagram, which is available on the Web, was first published in March 2000 and, in the ensuing year, was downloaded more than 20,000 times. Garrett's Web site also includes other information useful to user experience designers.
A more detailed explanation of that diagram and how it can be used to understand the aspects and processes of intelligent user experience design form the core of the book. Garrett begins with a lucid and succinct explanation of what is meant by "user experience" and why it is important. He follows this with an introduction to the diagram and chapters on each of its five planes: Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton, and Surface. He then ties it all together with a chapter that looks at how these understandings can be applied to the actual development of Web sites.
The book is very well written and executed. Diagrams are clear, terminology is used consistently, navigation aids and advance organizers are used to good advantage, and the book design is clean and visually appealing. Garrett's writing style makes approachable a highly complex subject, while still including all the essentials. The book includes a 13-page index, which is quite extensive for a volume of this length. This serves as a useful tool that allows you to dip into the information as needed once you have read it through. This slim volume is just the right length to be read in a single sitting, say, on a business flight.
I wish that this book and the diagram upon which it is based were available when I first attempted the design of user experiences. It could have saved me from false starts, sub-optimal choices, and other hard-won lessons, and would have made it much easier for me to communicate my ideas to my fellow team members and to the managers for whom I worked. "Better late than never" is an adage that applies here. I'm glad it is available now, and I expect to get my money's worth from it.
Get this book. Read it. Understand it. Apply it. You'll be a better user experience designer because of it.
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on January 6, 2003
Ok, tons of books on user experience, UI desing, IA, etc....
So if you have limited budget, then I suggest trying out some
other books.
It has some interesting and useful stuff.
Book is tries to be "theoretical", but it doesn't quite work.
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on December 28, 2002
This book might be good for a beginner, but for anyone who does web design professionally, this book is much too basic. It's also extremely thin...not much text on the pages, and has been laid out in a way to make the page count much higher than it should be.
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on December 28, 2002
Subtitled 'User-Centred Design for the Web', this new book is designed to give the big picture, addressing ideas rather than techniques. At less than 200 pages and with many graphics, it's a book you can read in an afternoon, but at the same time it manages to cover a remarkable number of ideas.
The most powerful idea in the book is the Garrett's 'elements' referred to in the title, which he defines as five planes or layers of experience - surface, skeleton, structure, scope and strategy. Garrett explains clearly and elegantly how user needs, content requirements, navigation design, visual design and other components fit into this 5-plane scheme.
I can see Garrett's graphics become standard tools for UX professionals needing to explain to clients what they do, why it's important, and how it fits in with what others do.
This is a good book to put into the hands of senior and middle managers who know little about Web development, and specialists in other disciplines - such as graphic designers - who need an appreciation of how all the elements from different professionals slot together.
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on December 5, 2002
There is a fundamental question that must be asked about Jesse James Garrett's book: why did he need to write it? Mr. Garrett's well known "User Experience" stacking diagram is already a very clear rendition of the complicated process of designing for a web user's experience, so why did he have to write a book to explain it?
The answer is that vast numbers of people who should know about these processes don't. While JJG's stacking diagram may be familiar to Information Architects and other user experience designers, it is virtually unknown to the other 95% of the organization that is responsible for selling, marketing, building, and/or maintaining web sites.
True to his words, Jesse James Garrett delivers a book that neither explains how to do anything, nor provides answers to technology questions about web sites. In fewer than 200 pages, Mr. Garrett does provide a whirlwind survey of the intricacies of interactive design for the web.
Mr. Garrett begins by promising that the book will take only a few hours to read, and he's pretty close to the mark. As I would have expected, the book's design helps keep his promise. The pages are well laid out with plenty of whitespace and supporting diagrams nicely illustrating his points; his language is clear, concise and direct; his presentation not only supports (and is guided by) the stacking diagram, each point logically follows from the last.
Within a few pages, it is very clear that Mr. Garrett did not write the book for practitioners already familiar with his three dimensional diagram. He is focused instead on those people who are not in the daily struggle of designing appropriate experiences for web site visitors. But that doesn't mean the book can't be used by well-heeled user experience designers. Practitioners will find the book an invaluable aid in their on-going evangelical efforts within their own organizations, or as part of their consultancies, as they explain the processes, methods and vocabulary of user experience design to those unfamiliar with this emerging discipline.
For those individuals, the book provides a clear and straightforward introduction to the very complicated and intertwined issues of designing engaging experiences for the web, whether they are "content" or "application" driven.
I, for one, will be recommending Mr. Garrett's book as a "must read" for everyone in my company.
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