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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.
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on 5 September 2012
I'm a pro web developer (technical), having worked on sites for quite a well known games company. I used this to help me understand more about why the excellent design team at that company made certain decisions about page design. I wouldn't say this book is exhaustive, hence 4 stars - but in a way you never can be, it's such a fast developing area. The design team I worked with was way beyond this book. But it did at least give me some ground rules and decisions in web design that they didn't even realize they made any more.
I certainly pitch this at beginner to intermediate. The glossy pages and typeset are nice to read, and it's not an overlarge tome like some computer books. Follow it and you will improve the design of your sites, and along the way know why you're making those changes.
Of note, it cites the studies where the bits of information it talks about came from. Whilst it is good to know that this book is thoroughly based in fact, I didn't personally see a need to know up front about them, in an index would've been fine. This makes me wonder if the psychology/HCI Comp Sci. crowd might get more out of it because they get citations really easily!
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on 1 July 2015
A fantastic and accessible introduction to the perceptual concepts behind good user interface design. This is a must-read if you're interested in user interface design. Johnson does a great job of anchoring the science with concrete examples and screenshots from real UIs which makes the book a fast and fun read. This is a great primer for both graphic designers and also for engineers who find themselves having to make UI-related decisions on projects.
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on 1 April 2014
As a conversion optimisation specialist this is a great read as I am not a web page designer, but need to have an understanding of the psychology of design. This is a very well written and easy to ready book that covers a wide range of issues related to design. Also a great book for generating ideas to test on websites.
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on 27 April 2014
Very clear and useful in that it describes the psychology of the user before suggesting how the designer can cater to this. Useful for web designers and app builders as well as informative to those engaged in the wider business of design. It also made me understand myself as an impatient user!
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on 25 October 2011
This is a good introductory book for any web designer wanting to transition into the world of HCI. But If you have an HCI background, be aware that it is a waste of your money. The books consists of examples from user interfaces paired with texts that could have been cut and pasted from any introductory book on psychology.

I just wish I had read the review more carefully, when they say: "provides designers with just enough background in perceptual and cognitive psychology that UI design guidelines make intuitive sense" they really should have underlined "just".
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on 25 December 2012
i was expecting more from the book, it summariese design rules, heuristics etc. which also can be found in another HCI literature. Could be useful for designers who are not familiar with HCI basics.
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