I was very excited waiting for this book and after reading the reviews I decided to buy it. After reading it, I'm wondering if the reviewers actually read the book??? I spent some time writing this because I would like to see books better written and more useful. This is just my opinion, so read other reviews as well.
Dan tried to cover too much. After all "interaction" is an extremely broad term and I think it would be much better if the book would focus more on "Interactive Systems Design", the design for interactions in systems and technology. Jesse James Garrett, did an excellent job in his book The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web by focusing it on web applications, although you can extrapolate what you learn there to a more general approach of UX. I believe that if Dan would have done the same, the book would became an excellent book and a reference book.
In my opinion, Saffer could have made this book into a reference book by being the Editor and writing about what he knows best, e.g., craft of Interaction Design (IxD):
- Each chapter could have been written by an expert in that area
- The introduction is very general, with statement that I don't really agree and I felt it is very personal - what Dan things about IxD. I read it all for the safe of being entitled to write this, but I didn't find it useful at all.
- The Interviews: they cover very interesting topics and reading them gives a very quick and excellent insights of the topics they cover. (On the other hand, the text in the book repeats the interview points instead of going deeper). You can find the interviews online at [...].
- Organisation: very well organised and structured, which makes it easier to select what you want to read or when you want to go back to a chapter later on.
- The elements of IxD: this is quite interesting and to some extent useful. It misses some more work in the way the examples are used and in how to use these elements.
- Service chapter: this chapter is quite interesting and useful, however I would argue that it would belong to a book about User Experience.
- Very easy to read and not boring (except when you doubt about what he argues).
- Putting it all together. The elements, interviews, aspects of good design, craft of IxD, and so forth. Great that a book puts all these together but it's a pity that was done very poorly. I still consider this good because it was a good piece of work Dan did and it will be useful for people staring with IxD. However, I look forward for such kind of book but well written.
- Size of the book: I wish more books were like this. Short and delivers the message. However, the text is not that well written and repeating most of the times what we got by reading the interviews. Instead Saffer could have picked up from the interview and explored the issues in a deeper way.
- Examples: are OK, but when the explanation started to be interesting he stops. Most of the times I felt he explains the obvious but not the design "genius" behind the product.
- Meaningless text (not all): some explanations don't say more than what you see in the picture or you can read in the interview. The explanations are many times obvious instead of bringing up the design issues behind.
- No references/bibliography: Is Dan a god of IxD?? It seems so. Although he occasional refers to some people or books, there are no references at all. Not even in the end of each chapter. On one hand this makes the text very insecure and at sometimes I almost get the feeling that he is the only one believing on what he says or he is the only one that saw that example. On the other hand, saying that "this is common practice among designers" is not enough, especially when I know situations that are the opposite. In fact I cannot believe that such a book can be published without any references or bibliography. Maybe this book is a novel...
- Service Design: As I said above, I see this chapter rather in a book about User Experience. And the interviews somehow support my opinion by talking about User Experience. Perhaps, I could accept a service design chapter if Dan would have narrowed the services he talks about to more specific interactions. He might argue that Interaction Design is not just about technology but then he should have spent more time in writing the book and perhaps having other people as co-authors. In this early age of IxD it is much better to focus on concrete things, otherwise you risk you neck in talking about things that are actually from other disciplines.
- Some of the examples and explanations. I could almost say they are non-sense, but I think it just misses a bit more work to put the design explanation instead of describing the obvious. I hope I'll have time later on to put some here.
This book, in my opinion, is overrated! The book is good at collecting the arguable "elements for Interaction Design" but it doesn't deliver what the reviews say. You'd be better of by reading the interviews online and perhaps wait for a better book. If you cannot wait, then buy this one but read something else as well so you have a critical eye when reading the book and don't take everything for granted.
I think it would be useful to define and separate: "Interaction Design" and "Interaction Systems Design". The former is too general and the second is what I call what this book says it is "Interaction Design."
I'd recommend About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design and Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services (the best books on the topic with details on how-to) and Thoughts on Interaction Design (the best book on explaining Interaction Design, linking theory with practice and with excellent interviews as well as a quick and easy read).