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Designing Web Usability... In The 20th Century
on 30 April 2006
Having read the wealth of positive reviews for this book, both on Amazon and on various industry websites, I assumed that 'Designing Web Usability' would be the ultimate purchase for those interested in usability and related practices.
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!