am 16. November 1999
Although Neilsen has a lot of good information in here, the information is hidden beneath layers of writing. Every point is repeated several times, and the author is incredibly wordy. As a professional writer, it astounds me that someone could go on about usability without having the faintest idea of how to make his own writing usable. If edited properly, this volume could be reduced to half the size and give exactly the same information. The passive voice just about slaughters this book. One gets the impression that the author thinks he must write in this boring, textbook style in order to be considered "The Book" in the industry. This is unfortunate, because many readers simply won't make it through this book, despite the important information it has to impart.
am 2. Mai 1999
As a Web site designer, I've long been an advocate of JakobNielsen's ideas -- to an extent. Usability is arguably the mostimportant aspect of any design project, and an aspect too often ignored by many software and Web site designers.
Mr. Nielsen, in his book, very aptly points out typical errors and common stumbling blocks of interface design, and presents very convincing arguments and methods for solving these problems. However, strict adherence to Mr. Nielsen's interface design techniques, at the expense of less easily measured human factors, will often result in a sterile and boring product. Both are eminently efficient and usable, but are also wonderful examples of visual blandness -- nearly devoid of the human and aesthetic factors that contributes to a depth of personality and a richness of sensory stimulation.
Although Mr. Nielsen never specifically advocates this, the logical conclusion of his approach is an interface design whose personality and soul have been stripped away in a slavish preference for pure, unencumbered efficiency and usability. Contrary to Mr. Nielsen's examples, the quest for usability should not abrogate the need to avoid ugliness.
For the sake of efficient usability, I wonder if Mr. Nielsen has replaced his impractical, hard-to-maintain backyard lawn with efficient asphalt paving. Or maybe pulled out his expensive, hard-to-clean, dirt collecting, living room carpet and replaced it with an efficient concrete floor. I'm joking of course, but even if Mr. Nielson thinks this way, most do not. Yet, this is the result achieved by many of his user interface examples.
Perhaps on the planet Vulcan where everyone thinks like Mr. Spock, Mr. Nielsen's conclusions and methods might be the eminently rational final word on good interface design. But on Earth the value of his conclusions and usability tests must be weighed against the somewhat hard-to-measure and difficult-to-quantify factors of illogical human personality and perception.
Although Mr. Nielsen's observations, conclusions and suggestions continue to be very valuable in helping to pull interface design towards much needed greater usability and functionality, his mistake seems to be that this is all he sees as being important.
am 14. April 2002
When I had to read about usability engineering I took this book. I don't regret it. No one who is interested in getting an idea on usability engineering will be disappointed. Many ideas where one would mean it's obvious are explained in enough detail to make anyone see it is not so easy to satisfy usability needs.
BUT, yes there is a but, the author is far too self-centered in his writing. Take a look at his references and you will be disappointed if you were looking for other interesting titles. It seems like he is the only one writing on this subject. That this is not so can be found for example in Theo Mandel's book. HE names many other resources.
My advice: Read this book first and thoroughly. Then, when you gained some insight, read other references like Theo Mandel, Jeff Rubin, Joann Hackos, and others.
am 28. April 2000
I've read some of the criticisms of this book - its wordy, hard to read, etc. I have to say I don't agree. Whenever people ask me to recommend books on software usability, this is always one of the top 5 that I suggest.
Its a textbook, not a novel, and it has all the advantages (precise, scientific language) and all the drawbacks of a textbook (dry, dense).
However, there isn't any better source on things like how to put together a usability test, how to cost justify usability in the overall design process, or even simply, what the usability process is all about. You can't be serious about software usability if you haven't read this book!
And while Jakob's book "Designing Web Usability" is more popular, to me, this one is the better book.
am 1. August 2000
One of the best ways I judge whether a book is useful for me or not, is to look through the Table of Contents. So here it is:
I apologize for the format. The space allowed for comments makes it impossible to put this in true outline format.
The Table of Contents
Audience,Teaching Usability Engineering, Acknowledgements
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Cost savings, Usability Now!, Usability Slogans, Discount Usability Engineering, Recipe for Action
2. WHAT IS USABILITY
Usability and other considerations, Definition of Usability, Example: Measuring the Usability of Icons, Usability Trade-Offs, Categories of Users and Individual User Differences, 3. Generations of User Interfaces, Batch Systems, Line-Oriented Interfaces, Full-Screen Interfaces, Graphical User Interfaces, Next-Generation Interfaces Long term trends in Usability
4. THE USABILITY ENGINEERING LIFECYCLE
Know the User,Competitive analysis, Goal setting, Parallel Design, Participatory Design, Coordinating the total Inteface, Guidelines and Heuristic evaluation, Prototyping, Interface Evaluation, Iterative design, Follow up studies of Installed systems, Meta-Methods, Prioritizing Usability Activities, Be Prepared
5. USABILITY HEURISTICS
Simple and Natural Dialogue, Speak the Users Language, Minimize User Memory Load, Consistency, Feedback, Clearly Marked exits, Shortcuts, Good Error Messages, Prevent Errors, Help and Documentation, Heuristic Evaluation
6. USABILITY TESTING
Test Goals and Test plans, Getting Test users, Choosing Experimenters, Ethical Aspects of Tests with Human Subjects, Test Tasks, Stages of a test, Performance Measurement, Thinking Aloud, Usability Laboratories
7. USABILITY ASSESSMENT METHODS BEYOND TESTING
Observation, Questionnaires and Interviews, Focus Groups, Logging Actual use, User Feedback, Choosing Usability methods
8. INTERFACE STANDARDS
National, International and Vendor Standards,
Producing Usable In-House Standards, International User Interfaces
9. FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS
Theoretical Solutions, Technological solutions, CAUSE tools: Computer aided usability engineering' Technology Transfer
This book was required reading for a Human Factors class I took. I found it to be a good quick coverage of some basic human factors principles. Additionally, it had good coverage of the practical aspects as well. Some of the information is now dated but the basics still hold.