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am 27. Februar 2000
As a programmer, I have a difficult time recognizing any limitations on what web functionality that I can code. However, I will push people aside to be the first in line to admit my inherent weaknesses in making it esthetically correct. According to some sources, that is a common problem in web design. This book is not about the coding, but is an extensive treatment of how to improve the user experience. In that sense, all web developers should read it.
Web users have a level of impatience that will put a cranky two year old child in second place. Even what may appear to be relatively minor adjustments can and does lead to a higher rate of users returning to the site, which is the true currency of success in the e-commerce environment. The author uses an extensive number of figures to explain the rights and wrongs of page design. While some of the problems would require an extensive reworking of the site design, many are near the area of tweaks that could be done rather quickly.
Generally, in the area of aesthetics, there is a great deal of room for interpretation, but it is hard to argue with the points that the author makes. If there is a negative side to what is done, it is that many points are repeated. A judicious elimination of 20-40 pages would not have sacrificed a great deal of quality. However, in his defense, these are points that tend to be ignored, so pounding it in may be necessary.
I came away from reading this book with an enhanced understanding of the need for cleaner and smoother user interfaces in my design. In the future, I will incorporate some of the examples into my teaching of web development.
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am 25. Januar 2000
It was with great trepidation that I bought this book, but did so because of the hype surrounding it. I am sure I am not alone. This book in common with so many others makes the fundamental mistake of ignoring the fact that the internet is a new medium with new aesthetic imperatives as well as new technological criteria. This is a handsome book, well published albeit with more than its fair share of typos. The usage of English by the author is appalling, but nowhere near as bad as the content matter.
As someone professionally involved in the design, mark-up and content resourcing of web sites, this book offered nothing. To start a tome purporting to offer advice about developing sites, it seems disengenous to offer advice on cellphone and PDA technology straight off the bat, as these technologies have not yet been developed. The author appears obsessed with 'telling' rather than advising how best to offer up a well designed site. This imperical stance is let down wholesale by bad examples of the advice offered and instead of accepting the fact that the web will shortly become one of the biggest branding exercises in the history of business, the author seems content to give further advice on arcane and automatically out of date statistics on page loading, screen real estate and design criteria. Nowhere, but nowhere is branding or aesthetics mentioned. The big mistake - 'content as design' is automatically assumed in this book. This is a rehash of the 'Web sites that suck' mentality, that achieves nothing and gives the term 'American Design' a reputation it does not deserve.
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am 27. Juni 2000
This is an excellent book that I would recommend for anyone involved with development of web content. This includes not only the technical person laying out the actual web page, but the managers responsible for certain segments (e.g., tech support for your company), and all the way up to a CEO who wants the company web site to be an integral part of the business.
The book covers issues about how to design an individual page. The importance of color choices for anchors, screen real estate, older browsers, and slow connections. To backup his positions, the author constantly cites studies and includes statistical information.
The author then steps back from the individual page and looks at an entire site. He touches on consistency, metaphors, and navigation. Oh.. and *content* There is no substitute.
The author also has chapters on a wide range of other issues such as designing specifically for internal Intranet use, international considerations, and the future of the web (i.e., the computer with its crisp 17" monitor may not be the primary device for accessing the web).
I only had two problems with this book. First, I came away with a wealth of ideas, but I did not of the knowledge to implement them. This book needs a companion book describing the "how to".
Second, I hated the binding and to a lesser extent the basic layout. I found this moderately amusing for a book about "usability".
If you are involved at any level with web development, this book should be on your shelf... *after* you have read it.
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am 12. Januar 2000
I already was familiar with Nielsen's views from his Web site. I am an enthusiastic supporter of most of his opinions.
There are one or two ideas with which I disagree. For example, I believe that there should be comment forms on sites, and that these should go to high-level executives (I personally answer comment forms for my business). If you are getting overwhelmed with dumb questions, take that as actionable information.
Also, Nielsen believes in treating your home page as an orientation page. Because the majority of links to our site do not point to our home page, we cannot assume that the consumer ever will go to that page during a site visit.
Those are nits. Everything else in this book is advice that we either have taken or have compromised on taking (not necessarily the right compromises, either).
This book is more usable than Nielsen's web site in three ways.
1. Screen shots. Having the screen shots on the pages is like having Nielsen sitting next to you, jabbing you in the ribs and saying, "See what I mean?"
2. Time to absorb. Reading his advice in book format, I have more time to absorb it. I picked up on little details (like using Link Titles) and I became more motivated to implement some of his other ideas.
3. Bookmarks. I don't use bookmarks much on the Web (I can't keep them organized), but I have some of his pages marked, which makes it easy to refer to them.
Because of these usability advantages, the book is value added relative to Nielsen's web site.
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am 10. Februar 2000
I agree with other reviewers, Jakob does present his ideas as Rules You Must Follow, rather than observations or suggestions. On a few things, he offers no data to back up his assertion, and on a couple things I know he's factually incorrect. I also agree that there are a lot of typos in this book, but only if you're observant.
However, what he does present is just great. I like the writing style. I like the example images. For example, when he says to design for "any" screen size, and then shows you 3 screenshots of Web sites that lock themselves into a certain size, that certainly illuminates how stupid some designers can be.
One other point. Jakob is writing for usability, about how people get information. He pays no attention to marketing issues, such as branding, creating product interest, giving the customer a memorable experience, entertainment, etc. It is fine that he concentrates on other areas, but know before you buy the book that you will have to make up you own mind in those areas (at least). For instance, site reports from the Web site I work on show that any time I throw a DHTML "whiz-bang" widget onto the site, the area it is promoting gets a doubling to a quadrupling of traffic. That flies in the face of his "don't use whiz-bang features" philosophy. But I've learned that his data and my data don't always agree. So take Jakob with a grain of salt.
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am 5. Januar 2000
Endlich! Langsam war das Warten auf das Buch des Usability-Gurus kaum mehr zu ertragen. Doch es hat sich gelohnt, kaum ein Buch hat das Potential, die Welt des WWW's so nachhaltig zu beeinflussen wie "Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity". Uneingeweihte könnten jetzt natürlich sagen, dass Nielsens Buch ein weiteres in der langen Liste der Web-Design-Bücher ist, das die endgültige Lösung aller User-Probleme verspricht. Nun, Nielson bietet wirklich brauchbare, vielleicht sogar DIE Lösungen, aber sein Buch ist alles andere als ein Design-Buch. Vielmehr geht es ihm um die Frage, was denn nun sinnvolles Design, sinnvolle Navigation, brauchbarere Content etc. überhaupt bieten müssen, um in den Weiten des WWW im Sinne der User zu funktionieren. Er kann dabei auf einen langjährigen Erfahrungsschatz und aussagekräftige Studien hinweisen. Kaum ein Web-Designer oder Konzepter, der nicht regelmäßig auf seiner Web-Site vorbeischaut. Das Buch bietet nun in konzentrierter und übersichtlicher Form das Wissen wieder, dass wir alle so dringend benötigen: Wie man Web-Sites konzepieren, bauen und betreiben muss, um den Besuchern dieser Site den optimalen Erfolg zu ermöglichen.
Kein Einsteigerbuch in HTML und auch keine Geschichte des Internet. -Wer ernsthafte Arbeit im Netzt der Netze leisten will, kommt jedoch nicht an Niesens Buch vorbei.- (Dies ist eine Amazon.de an der Uni-Studentenrezension.)
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am 25. April 2000
Rarely do I deface a book by underlining phrases and scribbling comments in the margins. When I do it means that this is a no longer just a reference book but a working tool, a work which will always sit within arms reach of the keyboard.
I squirmed when reading this. Perhaps it was that I successfully convinced others to implement frames on a site or that users who come from search engines deep into one of my sites are in grave danger of getting lost. This book exposes your mistakes. It does this with great clarity of writing and ample use of screen shots.
However I found some things annoying:
* The author repeats himself. In later chapters when we should be building on the early arguments we get a regurgitation of earlier advice and the book runs out of steam. Perhaps this repitition is deemed necessary for people who are delving straight into particularly chapters. * While there is a chapter specifically called International Use the author at times uses very US specific imagery. Should we in Australia be expected to know of Tom Brokaw (p149)? Also the stats on web connections speeds and their future projections seemed to be for the US only - although this is not specifically stated. * Almost the whole of the discussion about usability is limited to HTML and Cascading Style Sheets. I would have appreciated consideration of Javascripts as well as Flash - which is completely ignored.
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Nielsen offers many excellent, authoritative insights into enhancing the usability of websites. Any person designing websites for professional use would definitely benefit from reading this book, though much of what was said could be gained from sites on the net like websitesthatsuck.com. I'd advise listening closely to the general thesis of this book, and not necessarily adhering to all of the specific points. Some of Nielsen's recommendations are a bit extreme (the oft-cited example of link colors). But most of his points are backed by experience and research, and as such are valuable observations which should be heard. Of particular value are his many references to the studies he has performed. Very interesting! The book is also littered with numerous illustrations which help to clarify his points, though his examples do seem to focus more on what doesn't work than what does. And finally, it's amazing to find a book about usability which itself has such a usability flaw. What's up with those big flaps on the inside covers? If they are supposed to be bookmarks, they don't work well. Very annoying. All in all, a good (but not outstanding) book which every web designer should read. You can never get too much education about good website design!
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am 3. Juni 2000
Anyone who wants to design more than 5 web pages should be required to outline the major points in Jakob Nielsen's Designing Web Usability. Anyone who is hiring someone to design a web site should read this book first. Anyone who uses the internet as a regular source of information will tend to scream "YES" when Nielsen points out examples of bad web design.
Jakob Nielsen's book describes a way of thinking about the World Wide Web. It is not a how-to book tied to a particular software package. He simply wants the internet to be a useful place where communication takes place. He talks about what a web page should be like rather than focusing on the HTML required to create it. He illustrates his ideas with many examples of sites that work and ones that don't. As a result, it is one of those rare computer books that will still be useful 5 years from now.
Much of the information in the book seems obvious. After all, isn't communication the goal of a web page? Yet I would guess that after reading a chapter of Nilsen's book, you could identify significant design problems in the majority of web sites. Read all of the chapters and you'll begin to understand what it takes to create powerful web sites.
Dale Fast fast@sxu.edu
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am 2. Februar 2000
One of the best things about this book is that Nielson actually bases his dictums on usability testing. There is NO substitute for user testing when designing, and his data alone makes the information in this book vastly more useful than 95% of the other web design books on the market.
One of the big problems is that sometimes he makes rather crusty assertions without actually testing them. For example, he continuously says to minimize scrolling. But as is evident on his own website, this often happens by letting text stream to the full width of the browser window. Unfortunately, this creates vastly more serious usability problems than narrowing the text column and letting users scroll more. it's easiest for the eye to read text if the angle between the end of one line and the start of the next line is about 13 degrees, which translates into about a 500-pixel wide column of text.
Overall, though, his insistence that designers design for the user, rather than the technology or the Vice President, is crucial. The book is worth a read if you've never read his stuff before. If you're already a heavy user tester, buy one of his more technical books on usability engineering, such as *Usability Inspection Methods*.
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