Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity Paperback – 20 Dec 1999
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Creating Web sites is easy. Creating sites that truly meet the needs and expectations of the wide range of online users is quite another story. In Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity, renowned Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen shares his insightful thoughts on the subject. Packed with annotated examples of actual Web sites, this book sets out many of the design precepts all Web developers should follow.
This guide segments discussions of Web usability into page, content, site, and intranet design. This breakdown skilfully isolates for the reader many subtly different challenges that are often mixed together in other discussions. For example, Nielsen addresses the requirements of viewing pages on varying monitor sizes separately from writing concise text for "scannability". Along the way, the author pulls no punches with his opinions, using phrases like "frames: just say no" to immediately make his feelings known. Fortunately, his advice is some of the best you'll find.
One of the unique aspects of this title is the use of actual statistics to buttress the author's opinions on various techniques and technologies. He includes survey results on sizes of screens, types of queries submitted to search portals, response times by connection type and more. This book is intended as the first of two volumes--focusing on the "what". The author promises a follow-up title that will show the "hows", and based on this installation, we can't wait. --Stephen W. Plain, amazon.com
Topics covered: Cross-platform design, response time considerations, writing for the Web, multimedia implementation, navigation strategies, search boxes, corporate intranet design, accessibility for disabled users, international considerations, and future predictions.
"Robust advice on designing for maximum speed and simplicity. Well, illustrated, bracingly opinionated and riveting."www.mantex.co.uk, Sep 2001 "Anybody who has the slightest interest in web pages, site design, and information architeture should read this book. I feel quite confident that it is destined to become a classic."www.mantex.co.uk, 2000 "If you want to know about usability and the Web, this is obviously the place to come to. Very well designed, plenty of white space with numerous coloured illustrations of real Web pages. Overall, it is a pleasure to browse it."http://informationr.net, August 2001See all Product description
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For newcomers to Web design (or others interested in the area, e.g. strategic managers) this is an excellent overview of what makes a web site work (from a usability) point of view. Nielsen also gives some insights into the way the Web is going (e.g., what content will / will not work).
This book is _quite_ suitable for some University level courses in Web technologies. However, the lack of an in-book set of references is a drawback (there is an online bibliography).
A good start and insightful. Jakob also predicts many developments that are or have already developed.
Had I made this assumption about five or six years ago, I may have been correct.
Sadly, this book is let down by an extremely dated outlook, which belies the author's "future-proof" claim that the principles advocated in this book will remain important regardless of technological progression. Certainly, some of the broader doctrines it advocates will always retain their relevance (such as the importance of creating simple user-centric designs) but these are sadly obscured by some spurious predictions and a seemingly complete lack of foresight towards some of the major advancements in web technology (such as the massive uptake of broadband, and the use of CSS for anything other than styling fonts and table cells).
Such woeful inaccuracies could be overlooked by virtue of the fact that this book was first published in 1999 (not an incredibly long time in any other subject matter, but an entire lifetime in the field of web design). Nevertheless, if an author is willing to retain a book on the market (without any significant overhaul other than a pithy preface) then they must be prepared to face the criticism, comparison and scrutiny that will inevitably ensue. Thus, despite the bet-hedging get-out clauses with which the author laces his final chapter, statements as ludicrous as "we have to wait until approximately the year 2007 for books to go away and be fully replaced with online information", will always colour the reader's judgment towards the book's other less questionable claims.
In summary, you are likely to find free, up-to-date, and much more relevant information from various locations on the Internet (Jakob Nielsen's website - [...] - included); and more concise and less spurious information from books such as Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach To Web Usability". For a snapshot of pre-21st Century web usability however, this may be the book for you!
The book is primarily targeted at business users who are looking to design a corporate website, probably with some sort of online purchasing system. If this is not you however, there is still a lot of content that is relevant to all sites. I am currently designing an information website, and even though I have no 'customers' as such, I still find Nielson's approach useful, something that is reflected in the feedback I have received about the site layout.
In short, this is an essential purchase if you are looking to have a web site. Of any description.