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118 of 119 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good but not gospel
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...
Published on February 9, 2000 by Anthony Boyd

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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Save your money and subscribe to Alertbox
I have been a huge fan of Jakob Nielsen for years. I am also a subscriber to his Alertbox newsletter (on useit.com).
I was looking forward to this book, but alas, found nothing in here that I would classify as new or ground-breaking.
If you have never, and I mean never, read a book on web design, then by all means, buy this book. But if you have read anything...
Published on January 30, 2000 by pete@totalhosting.com


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118 of 119 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good but not gospel, February 9, 2000
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
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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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intelligent Introduction to Web Usability, June 14, 2000
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
Nielson's book offers a straightforward and intelligent presentation of web design with a keen awareness of the big picture and what actually happens when users visit a web site. All times the practice of simplicity and ease of use are emphasized in page design, navigation, content and overall web site development.
The book is heavy (literally!) with high quality color printing featuring hundreds of web sites to illustrate each of the points discussed. This could be regarded as a serious textbook that takes a deeper cut into the art and science of effective web site design than the more amusing (and also valuable) reads such as "Web Pages that Suck."
Nielson addresses such issues as users with disabilities, the global nature of the web and the implications of multilingual sites, the use of metaphors, and the numerous other issues including download times, URL design, graphics, streaming video vs. downloadable video, site structure, color and text design, and so on. The book really "gets into it" and does not shy away from the nitty, gritty details, using its large quantity of illustrations to fully address each point. While it comes across as heavy handed on some occasions ("Do it this way") where an experienced web designer may see alternatives, this detail provides a great introduction for those new to web design.
This one text effectively captures the most significant topics associated with designing effective web sites that will accomplish the task at hand. Reading it will put the overly zealous gif animators and latest plug-in proponents in touch with the world of the average user. Given some of the hideous web sites I've seen even from Fortune 500 companies with large web development budgets, Nielson's book is a voice of reason and intelligence in an area where hype and flash can cause people to lose sight of their objectives.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Baseline Reference, January 14, 2000
By 
A Reader (CA, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
Desigining Web Usability is, overall, an excellent book. I agree with one of the previous reviewers who stated that if you are a seasoned Web designer/developer there is not a ton of information here that is new. But it is nice to have it all in one place and so lavishly presented. The production value of this book is very high and is itself an example of excellent information presentation (albeit in the print world).
The book is especially good for those new to Web site design and usability. I have seen all too often how graphic designers or especially marketing types and executives new to the Web insist on designing a Web page THEY like instead of one usable for the intended audience.
Overall you may not agree with everything Dr. Nielsen says but if you take the basic principles to heart your Web pages will be much better. A key principle is that just because a page looks good does not mean it functions well. Dr. Nielsen will show you how to do that.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a highly effective book with solid information, May 21, 2001
By 
Amazon Customer (Austin, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
In reading over the reviews it is easy to find people who are quite hostile to what Nielsen has to say and it's easy to understand why--he insults and threatens their very approach to web design. Nielsen's message is really quite simple: web sites should be constructed for the end user, not to demonstrate the skills and ego of the designer. Unless you are designing a site that is intended simply to demonstrate the breadth of your abilities, designing is not about fun--it's about taking information and making it as accessible as possible for your end users. It can be fun, but your own enjoyment shouldn't be the purpose.
In Designing Web Usability Nielsen does an effective job of demonstrating ways in which you can help your users to move through your site efficiently and accurately. Individual sections may seem seem somewhat self-evident, but taken as a whole these sections add up to an impressive amount of information.
Of particular interest are chapters 4: Site Design, and a section in chapter 3 on writing for the web. In the section on site design he discusses issues such as using navigational cues to orient the reader to where they are, where they've been, and where they can go, and different types of organizational schemes. As a technical communicator I found the section on writing for the web particularly relevant. Put simply--most people do not like to read online. You have a second or two to grab their attention and only a bit longer to hold them there if they are intrigued. Relevant information needs to be placed front and center and should be foregrounded through the effective use of headings, bulleted lists, etc. This section does a good job explaining how to do so.
None of this is to say that Nielsen is without fault. I do believe that there are times when his rules should be broken. He seems to assume that conveyance of information is the only purpose of the web and, obviously there are many other reasons people surf. Nevertheless, if your site has the purpose of communicating information of some form, this book should be read and absorbed.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite Usable, January 12, 2000
By 
Arnold Kling (Silver Spring, Md USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
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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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Save your money and subscribe to Alertbox, January 30, 2000
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
I have been a huge fan of Jakob Nielsen for years. I am also a subscriber to his Alertbox newsletter (on useit.com).
I was looking forward to this book, but alas, found nothing in here that I would classify as new or ground-breaking.
If you have never, and I mean never, read a book on web design, then by all means, buy this book. But if you have read anything by Waters, Weinnman, Pirouz, McClelland, Ibanez or Flemming (all excellent writers of web design and technique) then you have covered the topics in this book already.
There is no technical, or real design theory here.
Search the Useit.com archives and then subscribe either directly or through devhead (ZD Net) and save your money for his next book (of which this is Part I). You'll get the same information for free ;-)
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92 of 106 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent starting point for students of info design, January 25, 2000
By 
Rob (Round Lake, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
On pages 13 and 14, Jakob writes: "You are probably going to have to buy two books...this book will tell you *what* to do with your site and an implementation book to tell you *how* to put that design on the Net."
I wholeheartedly agree with Jakob's statement here. This book should be read required reading for anyone who saw a "kewl" webpage with lots of "neat" navigation elements and wants to try their hand at website design. There are simply too many badly designed, useless sites out there. We don't need to add any more to the pile.
This book's focus seemed to be toward the news publishing industry and producers of "static" pages in general. The only thing I wish this book covered more was how to design complex web _applications_ (non-static pages) for improved usability.
I've been watching Jakob's columns since 1997 and I have seen many of his predictions about the Web and usability come true. I highly recommend this book to site designers and CEOs alike. Users of their websites will be the ones to benefit.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jakob Nielsen is a Hammer, September 25, 2000
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
Jakob Nielsen is a hammer (read engineer) and to him everything Web-related--as the saying goes-- "looks like a nail (read schematic)."
Although he raises some interesting points, Nielsen stumbles in that he views the Web as a labyrinth of reference materials. To him, designing Web usability is a mater of properly navigating and indexing these reference material sites. Lacking is his understanding of visual design, interactivity, human psychology and medium convergence. As a result, he unashamedly and arrogantly disregards these aspects of not only the design of effective usability, but also the design of effective user experience as a whole.
Granted, the Web started out as tool for sharing electronic documentation. Today, however, it has evolved into a medium to deliver multimedia, as well.
"Designing Web Usability" is somewhat pathetic in that it seems to be pushing for a status quo that stays in the realm of old-school thinking. There is too much emphasis on giving the user total control without boundaries. He is apparently unfamiliar with the notion that certain boundaries are helpful in many cases. This realm is safe and familiar to those that are having trouble adapting to a view of the Internet as a confluence of not only information, but of communications mediums as well.
If the Internet is viewed as a structure, then certainly some nails are good--and Nielsen does raise some good points as they relate to his area of expertise--information architecture. There are, however, many other components of an effective Web structure that Nielsen glosses over. This is unfortunate in that Nielsen has wide influence. In terms of his overview of information architecture, he is not nearly as detailed as Louis Rosenfeld & Peter Morville are in "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web."
Effective usability does NOT equal effective user experience. Usability is a part, but not the whole. To have a complete perspective, it would be advisable to read more broadly, and from other schools of thought.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Physician heal thy self!, February 25, 2000
By 
Peter A Toukhanian (Huntington Woods, MI) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
First the bad news: This book was obviously not tested for usability. Jakob, you may find this hard to believe but some, perhaps many, people would like to use a highlighter on your book. Did anyone try to highlight a sentence on the left page? There's almost no gutter. It's very difficult. The glossy paper is difficult to read due to the high glare and should have been limited to the screen capture pages. People may scan web pages but they READ books. The numerous asides in garish colors were a constant visual distraction and made reading more difficult. If it's worth printing it should be worth reading. The notes should have been incorporated in the discussion contained in the main text.
Now the good news: Content rules and this book is loaded. Although Nielsen failed to apply his principles to his book he certainly knows what he's talking about. I'll give him the benefit of a doubt and blame some faceless/nameless marketing type at the publisher for insisting on "livening it up with some cool colors and layout".
One word of caution after reading this book you'll become even more impatient with poorly designed web sites. Nielsen's content is so good that it easily compensates for it's minor physical shortcomings. I highly recommend this book to any and every webmaster.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Put: Good book Bad Layout, October 6, 2000
By 
Susan Nare "Susan Nare" (Cincinnati, OH United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Designing Web Usability (Paperback)
As a technical writer and a web/graphics designer, I was eager to read a book that seemed to focus in both areas of my professional life: content authoring and design. Jakob Neilsen has authored a sound book about the need for simplicity in both design and content. He goes to great lengths to provide examples of what works and what doesn't. I was especially pleased by the amount of time he spent on navigation. An area that MANY web designers are very weak in. As he says in his book, so many focus on "kewl" and forget usability. Hence customers don't return. Be warned though, that this book is not a weekend read. I really felt I was reading a college thesis and not a typical web reference. So be prepared, it is a bit dry. It is however worth plowing through. He points out some very good strategies for identifying and maintaining a strong structure for your designs and site content. One other thing to note is that as one other reviewer I noticed already alluded to the book's poor layout. While it is not very fancy, it is somewhat distractful to the content as it is rather amatuer looking; surprising since it is a New Riders book. In summary, it is a book worth buying, as long as you have the time to sit and read it through and through with a pot of coffee and a notebook. If not, buy something else.
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Designing Web Usability
Designing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen (Paperback - December 30, 1999)
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