Ten years ago, the Web was exciting to people. Today it's routine. It's a tool. If it's convenient, they will use it; if not, they won't. Users are getting less tolerant of difficult sites, so every design flaw means lost business. Thus, usability has more more important than ever.
This is the introduction of the reviewed book and I fully agree that it is time we prioritize Web usability. Of course, we all know about the fact that usability is important, but are we only paying lip service to the issue. When we decide between great design and great us-ability issues there's is often a trade-off. How often do we accept a lower level of usability in order to show off cool design? By the way, it is not that difficult to measure: Can people use the site at all? Test it!
Author Jakob Nielsen has a world-class reputation as Web usability expert since 1995 and this book co-authored by Hoa Loranger proves that he is still going strong.
A "practice of simplicity" has always been characterizing Jakob Nielsen's approach to us-ability. A picture is worth a 1000 words and thus the authors has filled this book with new screen shots that show what design mistakes we should avoid. The authors' visualizing and keeping it simple approach makes this book very easy to digest. If you have your own Web site you probably cannot help browsing your own web site to find design mistakes.
After having read this book with a huge number of best practices, why do you still need to do your own user testing? The reason is because usability guidelines are based on three levels of research:
* general guidelines: user behaviour across most web sites
* specialized guidelines: findings about specific genres or areas of sites (such as e-commerce usability or e-government services)
* specific guidelines: detailed findings about a specific site and its customers
This book only deals with the general guidelines. They may solve 50-80% of your usability problems, but to become best-in-class you need to go all the way to the specific guide-lines.
I like Nielsen's $200 user test. It makes it accessible for anybody. No more excuses. Pick 3-4 people in your target group. Give them some specific tasks for your web site. Then observe. Discover what users actually do, not what they say they do (via questionnaires, etc.). So observe, don't survey. Discuss what you have learned and make the changes. Test again, if need be. It's simple, it is cheap, and it is fast. Use.it!
I have always been very inspired by Nielsen's manifesto for usability. But beware. He may be a little radical in his approach to usability (although seemingly less so as he matures!). For instance, I always found the design of his own Web site awful. It is very usable obvi-ously, but .... To me it just proves the fact that all Web site owners have to find their own right balance between cool design and great usability.
I also recommend Steve Krug's easy-to-read "Don't make me think", and McGovern's books on Web Content. I addition, I strongly recommend the Eisenberg brothers' book on "A call for Action", especially targeted for the e-commerce segment.
A final note: This book is about your customers and what they need, not about you. If that is of your concern, then do spend the next week in companion with this book. Ultimately, it is about you also. Once you start working actively with how people interact with your de-sign, you can make it better than your competitor's.