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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incisive, invaluable, heavy on Windows. Buy this...and Tog.
Reading this book really will make you wonder why most computer users don't storm software companies with torches and polearms every day. It will also make Mac users wonder if Alan Cooper ever seriously sat down and worked with a Macintosh. A surprising number of his Windows wish-list items are already integrated into the Mac OS. "About Face" is heavily...
Published on 24 Feb. 1997

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A promising "alpha" draft
This book leaves me with extremely mixed feelings. It makes some reall good points and paints some very good examples. On the other hand, it is much too thick, by which I mean that there is too much redundancy in it. Sometiems I'd realize that the last couple pages coupld have been said (better) in a single paragraph. I also felt he presented his points badly. Often,...
Published on 21 July 1998


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incisive, invaluable, heavy on Windows. Buy this...and Tog., 24 Feb. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design (Paperback)
Reading this book really will make you wonder why most computer users don't storm software companies with torches and polearms every day. It will also make Mac users wonder if Alan Cooper ever seriously sat down and worked with a Macintosh. A surprising number of his Windows wish-list items are already integrated into the Mac OS. "About Face" is heavily Windows-centric -- almost entirely so.

But not completely. Cooper's intended audience of programmers will find his insights invaluable for development on any and every platform. He's a Windows developer, so he writes in his native terms -- as does Bruce Tognazzini in "Tog on Interface," a Mac-centric volume which should be in a boxed set with "About Face." Neither, fortunately, engages in platform-bashing; each of these authors freely criticizes the shortcomings of his familiar OS.

"About Face" goes from sweeping design principles to nuts-and-bolts detail (wherein lies the Windows-centricity), all in pursuit of his (utterly correct) Holy Grail: Make the software convenient for the user, not for the computer.

The most heinous "computer crimes" are perpetrated carelessly, even with good intentions, by commercial software programmers who focus on the computer instead of on the human who uses it. The victims of these crimes go almost entirely unheard, hardly even realizing they've been wronged. Alan Cooper is the interface police -- and he comes not a moment too soon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important book written about UI design so far, 30 Jun. 2005
By 
Laakso Karri-Pekka (Helsinki, Finland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design (Paperback)
Cooper's first book is still his best one, much better than the "upgraded" About Face 2.0. His ideas were revolutionary back in 1995, and most of them are still waiting to be taken into use in the software industry.
However, this book's main benefit is not about how to *do* UI design but rather the attitude: why do UI design, what's wrong with the current UIs etc. The attitude is 100% correct and sadly missing from most of the textbooks about UI design. Cooper gives out his ideas about what should be fixed in most cases without a solution and he doesn't justify them properly, but even pointing out the problems has more value than approximately 5 standard UI design textbooks put together.
In the middle of the book there is a large amount (~ 100 pages) of rather boring interaction detail advice that you should probably just glance through, but for example chapters 13, 27, 28 and 34 are pure diamond - you should probably buy the book just to read them. I completely stand with the relevancy rating of the chapters my wife Sari put in the web already back in 1999, and I won't repeat it here: just type in "lukuohje about face" in Google to find it.
In summary, my advice is that if you decide to read just one book about UI design, read this one and forget Nielsen, Shneiderman, Norman and others. If you understand the attitude and ideas, it will change your life: you can never look at UI design in the way you did before.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A promising "alpha" draft, 21 July 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design (Paperback)
This book leaves me with extremely mixed feelings. It makes some reall good points and paints some very good examples. On the other hand, it is much too thick, by which I mean that there is too much redundancy in it. Sometiems I'd realize that the last couple pages coupld have been said (better) in a single paragraph. I also felt he presented his points badly. Often, his presentation pattern is: "assert, talk, explain why he asserted, back up assertion" or something like that. This made me say "This is idiocy!" only to find, (say) 10 pages later that he had good reasons for making the assertion. If this presentation order were reversed, I think he would sound more credible and be more convincing. There are other minor flaws: too many places where opinion is presented as fact, a lot of "Gosh, why are folks so stupid that they haven't produced quasi-smart gadgets like this?" when it is by no means clear that such things can actually be d! one, realistically. He never mentions who the audience for his suggestions are (presumably the average computer user doing the average thing). Yet, ihs blanket statements can't possibly be applied to all classes of software and users this simply. Having said all that, I'll repeat the opening: there are a lot of good ideas here. If this were software, I'd call this an alpha: it has all the right stuff, but it just needs cleaning up and debugging. I hope there is a second, significantly revised, version of the book done at some point.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fuzzy thinking or poor editing ruined this book., 1 Nov. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design (Paperback)
I opened About Face with high hopes, and much of the book is good. I even agree with nearly all of Cooper's larger points. But his thinking is so sloppy that I must recommend against this book: the weakness of his reasoning serves to undermine the validity of the conclusions.
An example is the design tip (p34) that "users don't understand boolean" -- in most cases a very valid point that is often overlooked. The problem is that Cooper is naive about how logic is expressed in English. It is not the case that Boolean and English meanings of 'AND' and 'OR' are merely reversed. Simply replacing 'AND' with 'OR' doesn't resolve the problem he raises ("Get employees in Arizona AND Texas"), as you can see if you try combining different phrases: "Get employees in Arizona AND with start dates in January"; here the English and Boolean interpretations coincide, but Cooper (or his editor) didn't think this through, so he would have users rewrite this as "Get employees in Arizona OR with start dates in January".
So he has a valid point: users don't understand Boolean logic well. But he didn't analyze the problem thoroughly, and then chose simple-minded examples that confound that problem with another: how to determine what the user is referring to (and this is extremely hard in general when parsing sentences).
One more example of poor analysis is at the end of Chapter 3, where he states "Whenever you take a mechanical process and put it on a computer [he means as a model for an interface], the user of that process will suffer.". Hogwash. Obviously a naive implementation or one that blindly imitates the physical artifact is going to be painful to use. His example of an address book is a straw man argument: there's no reason a computerized version couldn't let you search (or sort) your address book by first name, or phone number, or whatever, while remaining essentially faithful to the physical model -- and without throwing in dialog boxes or scroll bars. So once again, by failing to think about the problem, Cooper arrives at a generalization that is worse than useless: it may actually discourage people from doing clever easy-to-use interfaces that model real world things. Take, for example, TurboTax: sure, blindly emulating the 1040 form would be bad, but having it there as an alternate model really helps sometimes, because the form is a physical artifact which most people are familiar with (and shows you the output, too, unless you file electronically). Or think of the pinball game that comes with Windows NT or the 95 Plus! pack, or any simulator program: close modeling of the mechanical process is precisely the point here.
I don't know how the editorial staff let these things through, though I've never bought a book from IDG before. But it seriously detracts from a book with much good if not earthshaking content.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read This Review!, 13 Dec. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design (Paperback)
Listen to the negative things people have to say about this book with a grain of salt. Listen to the positive things with a bigger grain of salt.
Damned if the author isn't right about most of the concepts he expresses in the book -- the problem is that he doesn't offer effective advice on how to implement his suggestions. For example, telling me that it's idiocy to advocate data integrity and I should just accept whatever the user types in as gold, well...
Okay, fine I get your point, sir. But, pray tell, assuming that the user can type in a wide range of erroneous data (and the golden rule is, as always, "if it *can* be done it *will* be done") and I have to make sure that data doesn't crash the system... tell me, good sir, how do I do that without spending 100 extra programming hours on code that makes sure the program is protected from the "few" (as you put it) dunderhead users out there? Puhlease?
Should you buy this book? I dunno. It certainly helps if your company will buy it for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding..., 12 Oct. 2002
By 
B. Ashley "Bingo" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design (Paperback)
"You would not take a visitor to your house in to another room just to shake their hand". So points out the author of "About Face", an excellent resource for intuitive interface design. Before I read this book, I was working as a software engineer and interface design normally fell in to the lap of the designers who's job it was to make it "look and feel" good, but was rarely intuitive.
The book covers things you probably already knew (read "common sense"), but one doesn't skip these points, as they serve as a gentle reminder. Other parts of the book make you go "Of *course*". Again, common sense.
Just some points covered are:
* How to make your interface intuitive
* How to avoid bad mistakes (presented by example)
* Consistency
I recommend this book to anybody who is involved in some way (however remote) with interface design. It is clearly written, and humerous in places.
As mentioned on the back... buy two copies. Keep one for yourself and send the other to Microsoft.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More is less, 5 Aug. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design (Paperback)
About Face is largely a rant about examples of ineffective user interface design, with regular breaks along the way to expound upon some "golden rules" of user interface design. There's plenty here that's worthwile -- such as as his
arguments against the notions of "metephor is good" and "modal is bad" -- but it is spoilt by his poor writing style. Whereas Edward Tufte can concisely illuminate just the important elements, Cooper will labour for page after page over trivial points and then insist on trying to summate more complex interactions and subtle distinctions with clunky and trite generalisations. The examples and analogies are regularly unconvincing and sometime completely incorrect, such as when he tries to tell us the telephone was invented for business use. At nearly 600 pages, it's delivery ironicly echos one of its central points about user interfaces: more is less.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great book which makes you THINK, 22 Aug. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design (Paperback)
This book is not a cookbook of precepts, saying do "This" and your application will be great. Rather, it is a collection of concepts for you to ponder.
Alan Cooper presents a comprehensive book covering a wide variety of concepts, detailing what he thinks is wrong with a lot of modern software. He uses common applications which almost everyone will have seen to make his points, which are well written and informative.
More important than anything else, this book will encourage you to think about WHY you put together your applications the way you do. You probably won't agree with him on every point (I don't) but you will be able to explain why you do things a particular way.
This means that your applications will be more carefully designed, and hopefully easier to use. I reread this book every six months or so to challenge myself afresh.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sophmoric, Disjointed, Overly Creative, 25 Aug. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design (Paperback)
I bought this book thinking that it might be something that I could give to our programmers to help them in designing our software. The book is written in a style akin to James Joyce. He creates a whole ration of new concepts (ie, "what I call 'Interrogation Mode', 'Windows Pollution,' or 'preference threshholding'). He seems to have failed to read "Apples Guide to Human Interface," and missed the point of a GUI. He has so many DO's and DON'Ts listed that a programmers DOESN'T know what to do. Although "Apple's Guide to Human Interface" is MacCentric, you would be much better off reading it and applying the concepts to your program.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, but still worth a look, 25 Jun. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design (Paperback)
I have to agree with those who have criticized this book. Cooper seems to think that EVERYTHING is wrong in typical UI design, and the somewhat haphazard way he goes about presenting his criticisms and solutions fails to form a cohesive argument. High expecations were not fulfilled. Nonetheless, there were some very intriguing concepts peppered throughout the book, and anyone who hasn't thought about UI design AT ALL will certainly benefit from reading it.
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About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design
About Face: Essentials of Window Interface Design by Alan Cooper (Paperback - 11 Aug. 1995)
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