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A Pattern Language for Web Usability Paperback – January 31, 2003

ISBN-13: 078-5342788884 ISBN-10: 0201788888 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Despite the astronomical number of hours invested in developing websites for commercial and other uses, it is now clear that many websites are poorly designed and have floundered as a result.

There are four main aspects of website design that can affect a site's success: usability, content, navigation and aesthetics. The last three aspects all contribute in some way to the first. One possible solution to the problem of ineffective website design is to develop and follow a set of guidelines for designing usable websites.

One of the most important recent ideas in software development is that of design patterns. Design patterns are standard solutions to recurring problems, defined to help people discuss them easily and to share solutions to common design problems. This book introduces and details a pattern language that will help you to address all four aspects crucial to website design success.

As well as defining the 79 patterns that make up his pattern language, Ian Graham provides a handy reference to existing best practice, organized in a way that reflects the structure of a typical web design project. The book is lavishly illustrated with examples of good and bad websites to help you grasp clearly the essentials of successful website design. The full color pattern language is ready for you to apply to your own design projects.

This book:

  • defines 79 web usability patterns linked into a comprehensive pattern language;
  • will help designers write better sites and avoid errors of omission;
  • covers everything from understanding requirements to detailed design guidelines.

A Pattern Language for Web Usability is a practical guide for web designers and managers of website development projects and can be used as a simple checklist to aid the design process and ensure that websites are usable and successful.

About WU

WU in basic terms = Web Usability. This pattern language originated at an Object Technology conference in Oxford, England. Wu is also a natural language, or rather a group of dialects spoken in Eastern China, and also a common family name. We have used the simplified Chinese character for Wu as a graphical motif throughout this text.


About the Author

Ian Graham is an industry consultant with over 20 years experience, and has been a practitioner in IT for over 25. He is internationally recognized as an authority on business modeling, object-oriented software development methods, software development processes, and expert systems. Ian is currently Principal Consultant with TriReme International Ltd. Previously he spent six years in senior management positions with Chase Manhattan Bank and the Swiss Bank Corporation (now UBS Warburg). Ian is well known as a public speaker and writer on advanced computing and has published over 60 articles and papers. He is the author or editor of 13 books on the subject and has lectured in 16 countries across 4 continents.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson Education; 1st edition (January 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201788888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201788884
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,422,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jerry L Muelver on February 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Wu" is brilliant. This book is a template for wringing coherent exposition out of chaos.
While there are many web-topic books that promise to instill the secrets of designing for information access, this is the first web "how-to" I've read that actually delivers the goods. Graham has broken away from the pack by using pattern language analysis to derive guidelines for design decisions, instead of nailing rules to the door and justifying them after the fact with personal belief, or trying to bend established standards from older media to fit the demands of the web.
Graham shows more than just answers. He shows how to flay a problem down to its bones, then build a solution by piecing together related, interconnected subsolutions. By understanding the rationale and behavior of the pieces, we develop faith in the appropriateness and completeness of the solution.
The connections and relations of the 79 patterns in Wu lend themselve to graphic understanding. Dependency charts for Enhancing Usability (fig. 3.8) and Adding Detail (fig 3.13) lead you through the dance of the patterns in a way that compels to to flip to the pattern descriptions and read each one to follow the logic like an unfolding detective story.
There are no hard and fast rules here. What we have now, thanks to Ian Graham, is a set of building blocks from which we pick and choose according to our needs and to the requirements of the design problem at hand. Part 4 of the book gives examples of constructing web sites by sequentially evaluating the fit and contribution of the available patterns. This is a systems approach to usability design, with the added advantage that the system works.
This is a book you are going to wear out by constant personal reference and proxy reference.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
Wu is an acronym for web usability, a group of dialects spoken in Eastern China and a common Chinese family name. Despite millions of hours spent in development and millions of words written about how to do it right, many web pages still are poorly constructed. In this book, Ian Graham sets down a set of 79 patterns that are used to describe the principles of web usability. These patterns together form a set of best practices, therefore the pattern language is called Wu.
Like most patterns, this group is a set undergoing constant improvement and refinement. Nevertheless, they are mature enough to provide a solid basis for making web sites work correctly. In general, each pattern is introduced by giving the name and a figure illustrating the pattern. Most of the figures are screenshots of web sites and others are pictures of related topics such as a still life or a cartoon. The next step is to describe the problem that is to be solved, followed by a more thorough description of the problem and a sketch of the solution. This is followed by a therefore section, which is a one paragraph summary of the solution. If applicable, the pattern is closed by a list of the sources for the pattern.
These patterns are a valuable contribution to the literature describing how to do web page development right. Succinct and yet with sufficient detail, studying them will give you perspectives on web design that you most likely have not yet considered. Reading this book is well worth the effort, and you will be rewarded by having a web site that may take less time to construct, maintain and will be easier to use. Consider it spending a little to save a lot.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Nadyne Richmond VINE VOICE on January 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
The title of this book is promising. However, the promise does not hold. The author clearly does not understand patterns or a pattern language. The so-called patterns given here are not patterns in any way. Instead, they are an attempt at a roadmap for the design of a website. I would refer to the design methodology here as a flowchart, not as a pattern language. (And how can a computer scientist mistake a flowchart for a pattern language?)
If you ignore the dreadful attempt at creating a pattern language and simply focus on the usability, the book is marginally better. However, there is almost no focus on the user. There are merely a few rules to follow that may or may not result in a usable website.
If you are conversant with patterns from the seminal "Design Patterns" by the Gang of Four (Gamma, Helm, Johnson, Vlissides), do not purchase this book. I have not yet found a reasonable book that discusses patterns as applied specifically to web usability. Most of the books in this field either miss the point of patterns or are not conversant with usability.
If you are new to usability in general, I would recommend Barnum's "Usability Testing and Research". It gives you the necessary background, plus can be used as a handbook to design your own usability test. It is an excellent introduction to the subject.
If you are a bit more experienced with usability, but not necessarily with the special considerations for websites, I would recommend Nielsen's "Designing Web Usability". It is a much better-written book and describes the necessary concepts much better than this one.
If you are simply looking for a book because you've heard that 'patterns' and 'usability' will help your career, read through the books that I've listed above, in the order that I've listed them.
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