Top positive review
3 of 3 people found this helpful
Great for waking the brain up after a dull design meeting
on 24 July 2012
I've been interested in what Jeff Johnson has to say since reading GUI Bloopers years ago. This is a very different book, much more theoretical and scientific in approach.
Unfortunately Jeff seems to suffer from his books being a bit mis-described and mis-sold, the rather over-excitable description above suggests the book is for everyone from the cognitive psychologist to the milkman's gran ... it isn't, in the intro Jeff is quite clear it's for a subset of the development community, those of us involved in various aspects of designing and assembling user interfaces, but not the HCI professional, who should be beyond this stuff.
In terms of level, I think the content was taking me a little beyond what I covered (and mostly forgot since) on an HCI module in an engineering degree. So if you have a degree focussed on usability, or a masters in software, this is probably beneath you now.
That isn't to say it is inaccessible to others, I think you'll understand and benefit from it even if you don't code for a living, you just need to be interested in human behaviour and why we respond in certain ways to certain stimuli. The book steps through the various aspects of cognitive psychology that are relevant to humans interacting with devices, breaks them down into laymans terms and shows how they apply to a user interface. He uses a combination of real world, software and web examples to illustrate the principles. It actually ends up quite an exciting and engaging read. I got through it in a week, which is unusual for me.
I think Jeff has made a real effort to use a good spread of examples across different sectors, different types of interface and environment. Unlike many other books it doesn't suffer from being too web-specific, or too US-specific, although I will say it didn't render too well on a Kindle (tables truncated, colours, etc!). Sometimes you might disagree with the examples, or feel they are a bit quirky, but I still felt I understood the message, and pondering on the appropriateness of, say, chasing a rabbit for dinner as a metaphor for resizing a window is probably a good exercise in processing the subject matter.
The book refers you elsewhere for full usability guidelines, design guides etc. This is about why those lists are what they are, and thus will help you choose and apply (or reject) the rules for your domain. It also doesn't deal with "selling" usability to a client within a team, I find the biggest problem is everyone (I mean everyone) thinks they can design an interface and trying to steer managers and analysts away from crashingly naive errors is hard work (programmers, at least, tend to know they have a peculiar outlook). I guess that would be a different book, but I did feel I wanted a little more.
My feeling is 4.5 stars, so I'll be generous and round it up.