James Kalbach succeeds in bringing together the fundamental components that determine great, and not-so-great, user interfaces. The UI itself must always be respected and the author illustrates exactly why in the journey the book takes us on.
What the book does is show how this can be achieved, from the past, notably from the present and into the future. The illustrations are in colour (critically important for any design book) and give clarity to the text's important insights.
In his book, Kalbach manages to frame the complex design practice of building websites by analysing the building blocks of the process. He covers usability, research, information architecture and interaction design (amongst others) all with well researched quotes from the who's who of the UX world. For any student who wants to become a part of this industry this book is invaluable.
For those who have been involved in the industry for years its a valuable reference book for meetings where you are challenged by the ignorant yet persuasive. It is always great to have a book that has been so well-researched that it becomes undeniably powerful in its authority. Evidence based design is irrefutable and arguing against it only proves the frailties of the objector's opinion. Just to have the references cited here is enough for your armoury when dealing with that difficult question or situation.
Something that must be said is the accessibility of this book's reading style. There are many complex concepts that are written here, and many contributors from specialists in different fields, but the message conveyed is always easily understood. By having so many individuals participating you feel that the author has collaborated with some brilliant minds and in doing so has produced a brilliant book with great clarity - and that's so important here.
Each chapter closes with questions that make you think and exercises that will challenge and push you. It is a fun and interesting way to reassert the summary that Kalbach makes in each chapter. It is not a coding book, but then it shouldn't be. The technology is not the focus here, the user is and that is what is key to the book.
It may not set you alight if you are looking for inspiration, but I feel that is not the purpose of this book. If anything, it is a carefully considered manual of the processes and applications of specialisms that need to be involved in building successful websites. Some have argued there isn't enough personality from the author in the book. However, one assumes this is a conscious decision as it would only detract from the importance and objectivity of the statements made.
To undermine the importance of navigation is like undermining the importance of findability, and the point of the Internet itself. Information discovery is made possible through navigable elements, this discovery is aided if they are intuitively designed and feel right to the user. In the age of Agile, it is more important than ever that we as a group of professionals do not lose sight of where we have come from as we propel ourselves beyond the Web 2.0 world.
Verdict: Its a classic and truly indispensable in the user experience library. Well researched, well executed and as comprehensive as you can imagine. A holistic view on the art and science of web design.
In the book "Designing Web Nagiation", James Kalbach explains what makes a website usable for Humans. In order to achieve this goal, he has separated the book in 3 parts. Pay attention to remember during the reading that the subject of the book is navigation and not the creation of websites.
Before having a brief view of the content of each part, you should understand that the navigation is the first mechanism that we face when we are surfing on websites. It is very important because it generates the first feelings that we will associate with the website. For example, if it is frustration, there are less chances that you will visit this website again.
In part I, we find a lot of interesting information on the theory of navigation. There are explanations on why people try to find information and how they do that. The beginning of the book is more theoretical than the end. I say so because there is a deep presentation of every navigation mechanism used on Internet. In conclusion, this part is really interesting to find arguments to criticize the navigation of websites.
In part II, we find a framework to construct the navigation mechanisms of a website. Each activity in the framework (analysis, architecture, layout) has an equivalent in software engineering (analysis of the domain, architecture, implementation). It is valuable for people that are used to the creation of softwares. There is also an interesting chapter on the presentation of the solution to people involved in the project (customers, graphical designers, etc). The main problem in this part is that there are different examples for different activities. The understanding of the framework and how to use it would have benefited from an unique example evolving through the activities. There is also a lack of links with the first part, which could be interesting as arguments for the presentation activity.
Part III is less important, navigation is presented in different contexts (web applications, social tagging systems).
A special attention was attached to issues related to people with visual disabilities.
The book is made from 400 pages in color and there are a lot of up-to-date examples. It is really impressive.
In conclusion, it is a nice book to read if you want to have a successful website. I had a lot of good ideas emerging from the reading of each parts. To avoid forgetting them, I advise you to have always a sheet of paper not too far from you.
It's an OK reference book, but it's quite unreadable. Other books in the series I find I am able to sit in the bath and read them almost cover-to-cover. Perhaps the author should read up on "Writing readable books"...