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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!
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on 9 March 2000
Some readers, more familiar with the author's online articles, already consider him to be a web design guru. My opinions are based purely on the basis of this book and differ in some respects.
Mr Nielsen may be a capable web designer - certainly he covers a number of good design points - but this book is about his opinion on what web design should become in the future and it is not supported by usibility studies. A few times in the book, he casually mentions that 'field studies have come to the same conclusion' over one point or another, but fails to give details of which studies, when they were conducted, on what range of subject etc. thereby stopping readers from deciding whether the conclusion is applicable to the target audience of their current project.
The main thrust of the book, logically enough, is that sites should be designed for the user rather than the designer or his employer. Things should be put where the user expects to find them rather than just where the designer thinks it will look good. Whilst this could be seen to limit artistic design, it is a sensible tenet within a book about usibility. But then Mr Nielsen says (on page 178) 'On all interior pages, the logo should be clickable and linked to the home page. Unfortunately, not all users understand the use of the logo as a link to the home page and it will take a while until this convention is fully established.' Considering his assertion that pages should be tailored to the user and not the reverse, this (and a few similar examples) cast doubt on the author's credibility (a topic that he covers well in the book).
Finally, whilst Mr Nielsen does make a number of very good points concerning designing for the web, most notably that designing for the web is different from designing for print, he falls foul of having the layout lean towards a web based layout, thereby reducing the usibility of the book. Mr Nielsen's tendancy to write in relatively short chunks (1-2 pages) which may be well suited to the web, but when spaced out over 6 printed pages (! ), a single side article can be confusing. Furthermore, the caption typeface is too similar (particulalrly in size) to the text typeface and with the numerous (verbosely captioned) illustrations and plentiful box-outs, following the flow of the text can be hard work at times.
However, despite these faults, this book is well worth a read if you are at all serious about web design, but it should not be taken as gospel.
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on 25 October 2000
Be you a print designer, html coder, project manager or a home user simply trying to dip your toes into the internet and thinking of getting into web design, this is a great introductory book. Jakob Nielsen is considered a standard in the industry, that doesnt mean his words of wisdom are gospel, or that he is always right, infact there were ares of this book that personally I felt were wrong. However as a whole this was an excellent summary of User Interface and web usage. He has proved that his views and opinions are accurate based on the longevity of some of his statements which although having been issued 3 years ago, still ring true today.
An excellent source and summary of this book can be found at his website... which is where much of this book comes from
Overall an excellent read, and a must have
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on 20 September 2000
I agree with other readers: Jakob Nielsen has no idea about book usability. Not only the flaps, but the comment-outs and examples that you have to interrupt reading the text to look at. They should have been integrated into the continuous text of the book.
While what he says about user behaviour is enourmously useful to any web designer, he doesn't really consider the design of sites that aren't trying to sell anything. If you're only trying to present information, or provide entertainment, there's not a whole heap of help for you here. And, oh boy, is this guy confident of his own expertise!
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on 10 January 2002
If everyone who ever made a website read this book before they started hacking code, Webland would be a much better place for all of us. Even experienced usability professionals will find this a very valuable reference guide to have within reach. Handily, it's also chunky enough to physically beat your web "master" about the head with, if you can't metaphorically beat him about the head with the book's message. It is true that there is little in this book that Jakob does not explain for free on his site..., but it's worth the investment. Go buy it. It really impresses the girls too. Honestly.
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on 27 January 2000
As a reader of Jakob Nielson's newspaper articles, and his bi-weekly column , it was a pleasure to see his ideas in print. If one is in the business of designing web pages this book is an essential part of one's library. However, with its avoidance of detailed HTML code, it is very readable by anyone who is a regular user of the Internet. If you wonder why you avoid some sites like the plague, and regularly return to others, this book will enlighten you.
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on 17 December 2002
If you are planning to design a website for your company, or indeed if your company already has a web site, you must read this book. It is very well written, and develops a clear, progressive and logical argument: design for usability or run the risk of having your customers turn elsewhere. Although Nielson can sometimes come across as slightly arrogant, you shouldn't let this put you off. What he says is more important than how he says it.
The book is primarily targeted at business users who are looking to design a corporate website, probably with some sort of online purchasing system. If this is not you however, there is still a lot of content that is relevant to all sites. I am currently designing an information website, and even though I have no 'customers' as such, I still find Nielson's approach useful, something that is reflected in the feedback I have received about the site layout.
In short, this is an essential purchase if you are looking to have a web site. Of any description.
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on 25 June 2002
I manage a web site for large company and this book is our Bible. It is probably the most insightful book on web design I've ever read read.
While I give 5 stars for the content, I feel the need to comnment on the book's lousy construction The inside flaps curl immediately (and irrepairably) and the book's coating seems designed to collect fingerprint stains...
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on 20 June 2001
Don't you get tired of reading all those books that warble and and on until you get lost and wonder what it was the author was actually trying to say? Well I do! This book is quite simply brilliant. It tells you exactly what you want to know and explains it in a way which is understand. What more could you want? It's a little expensive but I've paid more for books that were a lot less use. I wish I'd had Nielsen as a university lecturer.
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on 20 August 2000
Sad that Mr. Nielsen failed to follow his own guidelines when designing the book. Only 75% of each page is used, the rest 25% is reserved for tables, sidebars and anecdotes which occur only in 25% of the book! If this were taken into account, the book size would have considerably reduced thereby increasing its usability (carryability) not to mention the few trees that would have been saved.
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