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Customer Review

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant 100 page essay, hidden in 500 pages of waffle, 28 Jan. 2003
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This review is from: GUI Bloopers: Don'ts and Do's for Software Developers and Web Designers (Interactive Technologies) (Paperback)
Jeff Johnson is an enthusiast about his subject. Through this book he is disseminating years of accumulated wisdom and anecdotes about interface design and (for the greater part) what is wrong with modern systems.
Unfortunately the book is betraying that he's a bit too close to the coal face to have a wider influence than his own team or client base. What I mean by that; Johnson has understood the fundamentals of good vs bad in interface design, and is presenting fairly explanatory examples. He then goes and spoils it by far too much nit-picking analysis and constant flawed analogies to non-IT tasks. The book also spends over 300 pages slinging mud at, mostly, three or four apps ... it transpires later on that one of these is probably there because the author had a run in with a certain MD. It does get a bit tiresome to read yet another 3 page diatribe about the same form in the same app for a slightly different infraction of GUI design.
Now I am not dismissing the substance here, the points he has made are valid and helpful, just not vastly readable. This means a book that is supposed to be a manifesto for a better future with our computers, comes across more like a lab report from hell. Maybe the best way to approach this is to use the first 7 chapters as reference only. The book is remarkably well categorised and indexed, and so is perfectly suited to quickly providing a reasoned answer when one is, say, wrangling over whether a set of buttons would be better than a list or combo.
Unlike Cooper (Inmates are running the Asylum), Johnson presents very well balanced interpretations of the failings which result in poor interface design. The essay towards the end (Management bloopers) is the 100 pages I refer to in my title ... that should be compulsary reading for everyone. One of the best deconstructions (I have read) of software development and the fundamental flaws that give us poorly designed user interfaces.
To conclude; I think this is actually a very useful and informative text, but being a bit mis-sold by the publisher. "Do's and Don'ts" is not that helpful, as there aren't really very many Do's in there. The book is not going to help you with how to design better interfaces, what it will do is help give more confidence and credence to your ability to criticise poor interfaces and poor design decisions.
Although I've given it 3 stars, that is due to it being overly long and rambling. It could have been done better in half the number of pages with a stricter editor. I still see it as a very useful and informative text, one I always have to hand when programming.
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