on 2 February 2013
This book was recommended to me by one of the most talented UX experts I've met when I expressed an interest in learning more about UX and user interface design.
As the world of commercial web-design becomes an increasingly competitive world, so the importance of a positive user experience becomes increasingly important. Long gone are the days of static websites and basic functionality, today's successful websites have to leave the user feeling like they have been at a five-star spa. Designing this user experience is what this book aims to teach you.
The book is broken down into four main sections such as tools and processes with each section further broken into subsections for each topic. Plenty of coverage is given to each topic, though as others have said the book does at times feel 'waffly' and over-written.
As a newcomer to UX design you'll find a wealth of information here which while it won't make you an expert it will give you the breadth of information on the subject to really get to grips with the subject.
A seasoned UX professional will find interesting perspectives and perhaps more detail on topics you've only skimmed before.
In summary then, a good if not brilliant book that earns five stars for the wealth of information and breadth of the topics covered, though almost only got four because of the places few where the book feels forced.
As an old-school, stuck-in-his-ways developer, I must admit that I was cynical about the burgeoning new fields of functional design, and recoiled at trendy buzzwords and abbreviations like the book title's 'UX'. For a long time, I was focused on simply 'making stuff work', signing everything else off to the graphic designer. This book does a good job of challenging my old, dogged position!
This title looks at UX and the vital role it should rightfully have in planing along both dev and design stages of online projects. The structure of the book emphasises the planning-led nature of UX-focused development, and if you're an 'organic' developer (like I most certainly was!), you may well just see the error of your ways in the elegance and tidiness of the approach the book describes. With hefty attention to the entire process, including client meetings and feedback, it's a real-world workflow you'll pick up here, which both reflects the industry accurately, and equips the reader with the expertise to take advantage of it in the form of detailed, clear but concise technical chapters.
As with all Smashing books, layout and style are key to success - the volume comes across as friendly but knowledgeable, chapters are focused, not over-long and broken down expertly into subsections, the book is subdivided well into four overarching larger sections, and there's a good index, making the book great as a reference as well as a step-by-step guide. An excellent hand-held introduction to user-centred development, for both bright young things, and older hands!
on 7 April 2013
I liked the examples they use talking about real cases but that was it for me.
I don't like writing bad reviews but no body had mentioned the following:
- reversing the colours on the Kindle app produced an all white screen
- seems like it hasn't been proofread at all (cApitalisation issues and duplicate words)
That spoiled it for me so now I'm trying the oreilly book.
Aside from the above I'm not impressed with the structure and organisation of the content but that can be personal preference, the problems above are not.
I am currently working in the Digital department of a UK non-profit. Our entire web estate is in the throws of planning for a complete re-build from the ground up on account of it being quite disparate and sporadic in its current form with no thought towards usability. I work with Analytics on a daily basis, but extending my reach into UX is something that has been asked of me, to provide another viewpoint and help contribute to the site design and experience.
I've approached this book from a neutral standing and although I am only half-way through it, making various study notes along the way, there are a few points that I have observed that I felt worthy of including in my review:
Firstly, the book has a tendency to go over the same points several times. I often found that the briefest of paragraphs or summary table would have sufficed and got their point across just as much as the pages preceding that to me felt like rambling.
In many respects, the book reads like a diary of the authors' experience in the role of consultants to others, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and I certainly appreciate the use of case studies, but some of the situations really didn't seem like they were worth including as they either had nothing of value to add to the chapter, or simply repeated aspects previously mentioned.
One thing to definitely bear in mind is that UX design is an organic philosophy. It changes all the time as different ways of interacting with digital mediums arise with every generation of technology. For a book such as this to be on the bleeding-edge of technology would be impossible. References are made towards the back of the book about how mobile design has changed from preferences of producing an "App" to making a Mobile Site to using Responsive design. This is an area of great interest to me as my Analytics show that our own site's non-standard desktop audience has increased over the past 6 months from 8% to 12% in some areas, so it would have been beneficial for me to have seen some examples or pros and cons or caveats of these approaches to design instead of just a casual mention.
The pictures and illustrations I thought also missed the boat. A picture of a person sat at a computer showed "Visual Design in Progress". A different person sat at a different computer on the opposite page showed "Development work in Progress". They hardly seemed worth it. Perhaps they were merely used to break up the masses of text.
One thing I was looking to find as well which this book fell short of, was visual examples - such as poor UX elements in existing designs, and then the improved versions, together with reasoning and methodology.
But enough of all that. Taking a step back and looking at this book as a point of reference on certain techniques or stages in UX design review is probably more useful than doing a cover-to-cover read. This way, you can zero-in on a particular section and reflect on the ideas and suggestions that they put. You will also become less aware of the repetition of various aspects that are re-visited in each chapter.
Taking that on-board, my rating of this book sits around the 3.5-4 mark. I'll let it ride at 4 rather than be too harsh. My own personal preference would be around more use of case-study material, and more detail within those case-studies - such as particular granular elements that might be worthy of note or lessons learnt in themselves. Better use of illustration and an a less wordy approach to the book would also have been an improvement in my opinion.
on 26 September 2014
Great book. Covers a lot of best practices when taking on UX projects and breaks down key elements of UX projects in a concise and understandable way. Definitely a book I can see myself coming back to again and again in the coming months.
Smashing UX Design is a deep dive into the process of analysing what users are going to want from your website and then a slightly swifter precis of how to turn these into wireframes and sites, with notes on what makes generally great user experience for homepages, category pages, shopping carts, search pages, and other specific parts of your site. This is suited to the extended process of constructing a larger site project rather than a small business online presence, and gives a good handle on techniques used by high-end digital agencies for major clients.
The bulk of this book is about researching what it is your users will want. The presupposition is that you already know more or less how to construct websites, and so little attention is given to those technical aspects. If you have never been a social science or marketing researcher, then the extensive treatment of focus groups, expert groups stakeholder interviews and usability tests may seem a little superfluous. However, practical experience of running big web projects suggests that the more time and energy invested in the research and planning stage, the smoother the construction of the site goes and the greater the effectiveness and user-response when it is finished.
I went through more or less exactly the process described last year with a high-end London agency on behalf of a major UK hospital. It took three or four times as long as the actual coding and construction of the site, but there is no denying that the user response when it was completed was very substantially better than the hospital's original site. As well as guiding the developers to the right solution, the degree of documentation produced meant that the site was easy to defend when critics insisted on more of this or more of that, which is usually the signal for the start of strategic drift in a big online project.
If you are commissioning such a site, this book will be invaluable in telling you what the analysts are doing, and why they are doing it. If you are actually doing the analysis then you will need some fairly concrete experience beforehand: the book works at the guide-book/reminder level. It will not take you from zero to expert.
The final section which deconstructs best practice in various areas of websites is more directly applicable if you are leading the construction of a big project -- though, without the research programme advised by the first part of the book, you will be only applying general stuff, rather than specifically what your users need.
This is a deep-dive book, and requires a fair bit of experience to get the most out of it. If you are already skilled in researching user perceptions and understand how sites operate, this will give you an excellent framework for applying what you already know. Otherwise, it serves as a good introduction to the topic.
on 12 October 2014
This is a fantastic book. If there was a 3-year degree course in UX, I can't imagine it would teach you any more than this book. I read it once through, bookmarked and drew all over it and now revisit it regularly for my work (web design/basic development/project management). The first half focused on tools and methodologies for establishing your audience, assessing your effectiveness and dealing with the relevant people involved. The second half is a reference guide to web pages with different goals and how best to achieve those.
I have so many design books, dev books, UX books; if they were all lost in a house fire, this is probably the only one I'd need to buy again.
I've read a few of the other Smashing Magazine books and enjoyed them and found them useful so I picked this one up and then found that it really wasn't my thing at all. I may pick it up again at a later stage if that changes but really not my cup of tea at the moment 3/5
If you have been involved in the development or design of any systems requiring user interfaces, or indeed in any Agile projects recently, you are probably already familiar with at least some of the techniques under the UX umbrella. Such techniques include: product boxes, storyboards, personas, usability testing, usage analytics, competitor benchmarking, workshops, sketching, wireframes and prototypes.
Smashing UX Design does a good job in explaining such techniques, but it also offers insights from the authors' experiences in using UX techniques. The authors also describe how they actually plan and run their workshops, overcome problems and ensure the clients are kept engaged in the workshops and projects. All this is very helpful.
The first two-thirds of this book offer advice about the process and techniques of user experience design. The last third also offers tips and guidance for the design of web pages, focussing on a typical web site containing product pages, information pages, shopping charts etc.
The book gives a comprehensive coverage, but don't expect a quick read or a book that you can quickly skim through - the book has over 400 text-heavy pages.
This book changed the way I do my Web Applications. In the past I have beeen doing what I thought was good for the user. Of course, I do some reading on User Experience but I have not gone to the extent of really empathise with users who will be using the Web Applications I build. I have looked at competitor products but I had not really given that part of the design much thought, the book goes into details on how to do that. Usability testing is well covered and I am grateful I have read about, as it has changed the way I do things with regard to usability testing.
Well this book changed all that as I now place the user at the centre of the whole project. After reaching page 288, I went to one of my recently completed CMS (Content Management System) to improve the Home Page so that it becomes more useful to users. I have known the Home Page as the landing page and that it is supposed to create first impressions. After reading 75% of the book I realised the home page, needed certain links and I had to win over the visitor and that depended on what is on the page.
The book goes in a whole lot of details and I think personally I may not implement some of the suggestions, but that is not to say they are useless, it's just that it really will depend on what type of Web Application you are building.
I have read dozens of books on best practices and while those books are useful in their own right, they just cannot replace this book. Therefore I highly recommend this book to anyone designing databases and websites or any Web Application that will be used by real people out there.