on 21 October 2010
Let's be clear: this is a very short book. It's not going to teach you tons of stuff about how to create a better product. It's not a textbook.
What it is: pared-down, thought-provoking, beautiful.
When I picked it up, my first thought was 'lovely' and my second was 'is that it?'. It didn't seem weighty enough to have that much of an impact.
As I read it, I realise that there's a lot more insight in it than the size implies. Giles has worked really hard to pare this down to a few simple messages that you can act on straight away.
Yes, you can read it all in a (fairly short) train or plane ride. I did that, but I found that I kept stopping to reflect on ideas in the book and how I wanted to use them, or challenge myself to use them, in various projects. I'll come back to it, both to read through and to dip in now and then when I need a little thoughtful inspiration.
on 2 October 2010
In "Simple and Usable", the author successfully compacts what seems like 10 or 15 years' experience at the sharp end of creating digital interfaces into a series of easy-to-read, bite-size chunks. Highly relevant and motivational, the book is written in an insightful and informal style with many quotable passages and enlightening anecdotes.
Featuring lots of clearly articulated examples and case studies, the book brings together research and latest thinking from a wide range of disciplines including human computer interaction, marketing, psychology and behavioural economics.
Using as it's core 4 different strategies of simplicity - "Remove, Organise, Hide, Displace" - the book gets to the crux of many of the key challenges of organising and presenting information via digital media, most of which will be familiar both to those new to UX design and seasoned pros.
Furthermore, this book practices what it preaches; it's easy to digest, beautifully designed and illustrated, and refreshingly free of clutter, opaque theory and philosophical pondering.
Best of all, reading the book is like having an angelic conscience sitting on your shoulder telling you not *what* to do, but how to *approach* a design issue. This is it's real value and in my view it's something that's pretty unique.
All of this adds up to what I think is one of the most inspiring books on usability and user experience design written to date.
If you've read and enjoyed Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think", then you need this book to take you and your team to the next level.
on 16 December 2011
Weirdly for a book of this nature, it is an ideal toilet book. Each page contains a message. Indeed, you shouldn't read the whole book in one sitting, or plane ride. Instead, read it a few pages at a time, then digest that. Repeat and learn.
And what will you learn? Well, obvious stuff really. But the best tips are always those that have been staring you in the face. Most people don't like clutter. The best way to design a site is to see how people use it. That sort of stuff.
Now, I don't necessarily agree with everything in this book. It is written purely from the perspective of the designer. A successful designer working big ticket contracts doesn't need to worry about the likes of SEO for instance. But the rest of us do. Its one thing adopting a less is more approach to the prose on your site, but if nobody can find the damn thing its irrelevent. Plus, I don't think there is anything wrong with the way Amazon lets you save items (read the book to find out what I'm going on about here).
However, there is an awful lot of stuff in this book that I do agree with, and still more stuff that I hadn't really considered. And best of all, the author's ideas are backed up with clear examples. I particularly liked the example of the Paris Underground Route Finder. Such an obvious fault to anybody who uses the thing, yet so easy to overlook if you are just designing from an idea.
Design is only part of my job. I spend more time coding and doing other web-related tasks. Normally I hate books purely on design, because, well, they are purely on design. However, this one I liked because it wasn't completely up its own posterior, and it delivered its message in an easily digestible format. If, like me, you hail from the Developer side of the coin, then this book coupled with "Don't Make Me Think" are the two design related books I would consider essential.
on 17 October 2010
This book is a delight. Everything about it is Simple and Usable - the layout, the beautiful illustrations, and the text.
It asks why every device we come into contact can't feel simple and usable. But it doesn't just preach this as an aim. It sets out to show what we can do to achieve it, as well as looking at what can get in our way.
It's packed with moments where you read and shout out "Of course, why didn't I think of that?" or "I'd totally forgotten that, I know how I can apply that straight away". A key piece for me was the section about designing for the mainstream rather than for expert users. And the section suggesting you describe what you want to change as a story or vision was very valuable.
It is a very practical book. Using four strategies: remove, organise, hide and displace is an excellent way to go about thinking of a redesign, and the idea is backed up with lots of examples of how to think about and implement these strategies. I can see this is a book I will return to again to deal with specific questions.
My only criticism of the book is the lack of bibliography. I would have loved to have recommendations for further reading
This book has a lovely personal tone, making it clear the author is experienced, knows what he is talking about, but he uses anecdotes to illustrate points rather than to show how clever he is. I'd recommend Simple and Usable to anyone involved in physical or digital product design. But it is also a great read for anyone frustrated by the complexity of current devices, who wonders how they could be improved.
on 20 October 2010
I read this book from cover to cover on a return flight from holiday recently. Having previously worked with Giles, I was of course expecting great things... however, I can say that on this occasion my expectations were surpassed. The only thing that I was disappointed with was that I wasn't armed with a highlighter and page markers, because almost every page had a tip that I wanted to put into action, or a phrase I wanted to quote. My company has its own website, I've worked in technology marketing for many years, and we provide digital marketing advice to numerous small businesses. This book has given me sound advice and compelling language to help my clients give their customers much better online (or remote interface) experiences. I will also be putting the powerful advice into action on our own site immediately. The style and format also lives up to its own title. The simple language is a breath of fresh air, and the layout of text and supporting image was just right for keeping me interested and inspired. I'm already looking forward to reading it again, armed with a to-do list!
on 15 November 2010
More books like these... it's good to see the "Simple and Usable" approach used on the books themselves. "Eat your own dog food", we can say. This is a really clear and concise book, you'll get 2 pages for each technique, one of them is a full color photo. The content is really good, just don't look for in depth analysis or case studies. These are along with the books from A Book Apart (not available through amazon), the new generation of books that are really good, simple and easy to read. It's all there, they just cut through the clutter to present you what is really important. Go grab it if you're serious about UX and UI.
on 27 April 2011
If you loved the lightness of Steve Krug's "Don't make me think" or the one-pagers of "Universal Principles of Design" then you'll probably love this book too. Short, sharp and to the point, the book serves as an important reminder of simple lessons easily forgotten. For example, why you should ignore expert customers and design for the mainstream and the importance of observation in the real world.
This book provides the confidence to stand up against the trend of complexity.
on 4 July 2014
Great clear quick easy read but one that just hits the nail on the head so many times. All makes absolute sense and a must read for any UX/UI designers working within software development. Also, one to help with advocating best practices in UX and product strategy. So buy this book and give it to your boss/line manager/director/client! Hopefully some of the common sense will rub off on them! :D
on 23 November 2014
This book stays true to its primary theme - simplicity. In a world filled with complex and thick tomes it would be easy to underestimate the value of this book. If you play any role in product design, read this book, and reread it every time you start a new feature, or a new product.
As you would expect from a book that preaches simplicity and usability in design, this is a very attractive book: well laid-out, uncluttered and with no waffle.
As another reviewer has noted, this is not a text book full of densely-packed detail. I have seen one of them years ago. It was a book on human-computer interfaces that was about two inches thick, with tiny text and a few black and white diagrams and screenshots in it. Look up the word 'daunting' in a dictionary and there would probably just be a picture of that book.
This takes a different approach and is more like a manifesto than a text book. The most striking aspect of the book is the layout which has each double-page spread comprising a left-hand page of text and a right-hand page that is a full-page illustration. At first I thought this could mean a paucity of content, but soon realised that it works very well, keeping one idea per page makes it a lot easier to absorb what is there. I suspect this means a reader could easily retain more information from this book than from one with 10 times as many words but less attention to design.
I read the book in a couple of sittings, but it just as easily lends itself to dipping in and reading individual pages in isolation because they are largely self-contained, though also part of an overall structure, if that makes sense.
There are plenty of real-life examples to demonstrate the concepts in the box as well as a recurring example of a hypothetical DVD remote control to anchor each stage of the structure to something that is easy to identify with.
One real-life example is the Telewest PVR box (which has now become the Virgin Media V+ box). I have one of those so was able to easily confirm the wisdom of that particular page. A recurring example is the Flip video camera from Cisco which the author holds up as a supreme example of simplicity and usability. I have subsequently used one and found that it really is that easy, giving me even more confidence in the validity of the precepts of this book.
In fact, having now experienced the Flip, I think the best way to sum up this book is to say it is the written equivalent of the Flip - it knows what it wants to do, and doesn't risk diluting that purpose by adding anything unnecesary for the sake of it. Yes it is a slim volume, but it is as long as it needs to be and would not be improved by adding lots of padding.