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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What is UX Design, you may wonder? The theory behind it is that UX, or User Experience, is primary when designing a web site. The word "experience" suggests that this is not just about usability, or attractiveness, or performance, or enjoyment, but rather about all those things and how they combine when the end user is navigating your site.

This book is for professional designers who want techniques for putting UX design into practice. The authors work for a UK-based UX consultancy and the book is written from their perspective, including tips on how to work with your clients. That can be annoying if you are not working in that particular niche, but the expertise and professionalism of the content more than compensates.

It is worth noting though that Smashing UX Design is more about the process than about the outcome, though there are plenty of practical tips along the way. This is not a book about technology, so look elsewhere (perhaps to one of the other Smashing titles) if you want help with making beautiful web pages using CSS, or a how-to guide for building web sites.

The book is in four parts. Part one is a general introduction to the concepts behind UX design and planning UX projects. Part two covers tools and techniques for UX research and evaluation, such as running requirements workshops, usability tests, surveys, analytics, and expert reviews.

The third part is about tools and techniques for UX design. If you are wondering what an Ideation Workshop is, you will find out how to run one here. Another technique described is how to create a "user persona", a fictional user who represents a category of users. There is also a discussion of wireframes, sketches and prototypes.

Finally, the fourth part looks in more detail at UX design for specific site pages, including the home page, search, product pages, shopping carts, images and tables. This was the section which I enjoyed most, being full of practical suggestions and thought-provoking comments on what makes web pages work well for the user.

There is a too-brief chapter on mobile UX and I would suggest that this is a weakness of the book: not much on how tablets and smartphones are impacting UX design.

The book is written in such a way that you can turn to any page and learn something new; the chapters do not often refer to previous pages or sections. If you wanted to learn about competitor benchmarking, for example, then you would open the book and turn to chapter 6, which is on this subject.

Is this book for you? If you run or plan to run a web design business, then it is perfect. If you are doing your own web design, or just want to understand it better, then you will find good content here but also a rather jargon-heavy style and probably more information than you need about working with clients and running workshops of various kinds.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
UX (user experience) is something I've never formally learnt.

Actually, scrub that: I've never formally learnt *anything* to do with web design.

My problem is that I began in web design around 2000, and there were no courses or university degrees. Like everyone else back then, I just picked it up via trial and error on the job.
Twelve years later, I like to think I'm pretty good on the technical side (HTML, Flash, AJAX, and am able to explain alpha-geek stuff such as `the relative merits of web application frameworks using dependency injection vs. ones that use service locators'), but I always thought UX design was one of those degree course units that the code-illiterate fell back on. The photography unit tends to be the other one.

Over the last few years, the company I work for has developed from a few hackers and geeks poring over laptops to something a lot more serious, and it really is about time I got equally serious with UX, not least because we are currently moving from old desktop based technology (Flex) to true HTML5 multi-platform stuff (Sencha, Angular, Dojo and all the hipster frameworks they dig down in Shoreditch), and consistent user experience across a wide number of formats is now key.

I've looked at a few other UX books (and the only other good alternative to this book is (Effective UI: The Art of Building Great User Experience in Software) By Anderson, Jonathan (Author) Paperback on (02 , 2010)), but Smashing UX design hits right on the button. Not only does it cover all the stuff I've already used (wireframing, usability, user requirements, etc), but it presents it within an easy to follow framework that also includes all the other things I'm missing (stakeholder management and user requirements vs business requirements, competitor benchmarking, etc).

The entire book is written in an easy style that makes the process logical and easy to follow. Unlike some of the more techy books on the subject, this one is also full colour throughout. Bonus points go to the authors for using `two women looking at a laptop' and `woman staring at a screen with fists clenched' photos without resorting to stock photography. A web design book first!

If you are an old time web dev like myself (or a hacker who was too cool for school), this book is the best substitute for that degree course UX module you never had (I run a photography blog, so I'm covered for the photography unit there, might be an idea if you also need that one).

Bottom line:

This is not yet another usability or SEO book pretending to be a UX manual. It is a proper manual on multimedia project specification and design, covering the whole process except actual code/markup implementation.

if you are a web developer looking for one book on UX design (or even just plain old fashioned web usability) this is the one, especially if you are the manager of a small/medium web design department, and want to identify best practice project management, specification and testing workflows that will enable you to manage mid/large sized client spends, where there is now a much higher expectation of a UX centric process.

If you are a project manager or SME MD looking for something to read before commissioning a mid/large sized website (£30k+), get this book for an industry standard overview of the design process. You can then quickly identify whether your design agency is doing things properly or whether they are just a set of hackers, as I used to be before reading this book!

Notes and disclaimers
I have been involved in web design since 2000. I have written 20 books on web design (O'Reilly, Wiley, Springer) 2000-2005. I am currently employed as dev lead, working for the fastest growing online advertising company in the US/EMEA.
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 10 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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VINE VOICEon 24 June 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is absolutely brilliant! I'm a Senior User Experience Architect, and finding good books that cover a multitude of different techniques that are used in this industry is not always easy (especially when you want to recommend books to people who don't know much about what you do). There are so many of them that go into a lot of detail. Prior to getting this book, I would have suggested getting Communicating Design by Dan brown, which is a really useful book that covers a lot of the key deliverables for User Experience. The only problem with it, is that it's very Americanised, and it doesn't cover all of the methodology that goes behind delivering a User Centred Design approach.

This book covers everything you'll need and probably a lot more besides. The section on running a card sort is worth getting the book for that on its own. You could quite easily give this book to someone who doesn't work in UX and they would understand what it is that you do, and for the large part - why. Written with both a UK and a US market in mind it's a really useful book for reference.

The only gripe I would have, is why put the section on personas after task mapping? Surely you need to know who the users are before you start mapping anything against them? (NB - I always start with the who, before the what / why / how etc). Regardless - this book gives you the basic fundamentals to get you going, it doesn't however, replace the need to read books like 'Don't Make Me Think'.
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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!
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VINE VOICEon 16 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I work in bioinformatics and statistical analysis of large scale data. The first thing we always think about is the analysis and the calculation and the last thing is the user. For those who do not know UX stands for user experience and in my line of work the user is a biologist. They want to answer a biological question and they don't want to have to do it by fighting with a hard to use interface or by facing a command line or by needing to know all the algorithms and statistical methods that could be used. They need access to the right tools for the right situations and they need to be able to link what they know to what they want to find out.

The key to making all of these processes happen is the user experience. Doctors won't use a new online patient tracking and record system if using it takes too much time and effort. Many major government projects fail because of this. If the software engineer doesn't know what is really wanted then they cannot build it. Too often the end users do not really know what they want and so this book shows you how you can find it out using many different techniques that will suit all sorts of project, sizes, lengths and budgets. It is an invaluable resource and it should be on every software engineer's bookshelf.
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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.
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