Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed

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ISBN-13: 978-0735711020
ISBN-10: 073571102X
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Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed + Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition) (Voices That Matter) + The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

While there is a plethora of books available that provide tips on Web design, most authors leave a significant gap between the theory and practice--a gap that is left up to the reader to fill. Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed boldly steps into that gap with specific observations and suggestions backed with solid quantitative analysis. This book focuses only on home page design as the most important point of presence for any Web site.

This definitive work is coauthored by Jakob Nielsen--the accepted industry expert in Web usability--and Marie Tahir, an expert in user profiling. Their collaboration has produced a guide of such rare practical benefit that Web designers will likely wear out their first copy scouring the pages to savor every last morsel of wisdom.

The book begins with a chapter of precise guidelines that serve as a checklist of the features and functionality to include on your home page. The specifics found in categories such as "revealing content through examples" and "graphic design" will quickly hook you and whet your appetite for more. These guidelines are followed up with hard statistics and an examination of the ominous Jakob's Law: "Users spend most of their time on other sites than your site." Here you'll find some interesting statistics about how various conventions like search, privacy policies, and logos are used.

All this leads up to the showcase element of the book--a systematic deconstruction of 50 of the most popular home pages on the Web. The authors painstakingly pick apart each in an uncompromising autopsy of usability. Each site is graphically analyzed for its use of real estate and summarized with the frankness only found from true experts. Then each section of the home page is bulleted and analyzed for potential improvements.

It's a bold move to offer a critique of industry-standard Web sites such as Yahoo, CNET, and eBay, but the authors have done such a fine job that the designers of those sites will surely make reading this book a high priority. For the rest of us, this work will serve as an invaluable gospel. --Stephen W. Plain

Topics covered: Design guidelines, convention usage, screen real estate, navigation, content presentation, search facilities, links, graphics and animation, advertising, news, customization, and customer feedback.

From Library Journal

Nielsen, dogmatic don of web usability, and his strategy director Tahir believe that a company needs a well-designed homepage to succeed online. They provide 113 brief usability guidelines that lead into a chapter on homepage statistics, giving readers an idea of conventions to follow or break. The homepages of 50 major web sites, from About.com to Yahoo.com, are then pictured and critiqued in terms of those recommendations and statistics. A useful resource for both novice and professional web designers; recommended for all libraries.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: New Riders Publishing (October 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 073571102X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735711020
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 0.7 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #784,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By "sherzodr" on May 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
According to this book, users spend most of their time on other sites than your site... When a user visits your site, he/she will be bringing a large load of mental baggage accumulated from prior visits to thousands of other home pages. So by the time they reach your web site, users have accumulate a generic mental model of the way a homepages are supposed to work, based on their experience on these other sites.
It is a very interesting point. According to authors of the book, there are few large web sites that might count themselves among the first 10 to 20 sites visited by new users. And design of these web sites dictate the design conventions that a user will expect when he/she visits other web sites.
Example of some of these conventions mentioned in the book are:
upper-left corner is the best place for a site logo
upper-right corner are more generic locations for search widgets and "help" links
Navigation of the site is best usable either as a tab-style (such as in amazon.com) or as a column on left side of the page (such as in CNN.com)
Links should be blue-underlined, and visited links should be purple-underlined
footer navigation links should be only for "foot-note-related" content and should be limited to no more than 7 links
on and on it goes
So how do authors derive these conclusions? The process is actually very interesting. They conduct studies of top 50 chosen web sites and group their findings into conventions.
The book also "deconstructs" those 50 chosen Home Pages, and provides annotated analysis. You may find it interesting. Among those are such sites as About.com, Accenture.com, Yahoo.com, BBC Online, CNET, Disney, eBay, Microsoft, IBM and many more.
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83 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Eisenberg on December 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
In the past Jakob Nielsen has written intelligent and cutting-edge commentary on the state of online usability. When it comes to software and web usability he has only a handful of equals. This book is a huge let-down following his excellent book, "Designing Web Usability" - that is a must read. Anything worth learning in "Homepage Usability" is already in "Designing Web Usability."
Jakob Nielsen goes well beyond usability here. He now either believes he is qualified to give sales, marketing, copywriting and advertising advice or, as the hefty price-tag for this book indicates, he may have just sold out. The latter may be truer. Evidence for this is how he recently sent out his widely-read newsletter with advertising suggestions for Google.com without disclosing the nature of his financial relationship to the company.
Deconstructing homepages is only a somewhat useful exercise anyway. Most user actions take place deeper within the site. The goal of the homepage is not just usability, but to persuade the visitor to click beyond. Nielsen misses this completely when he offers advice suggesting that navigational elements never be repeated. Does he believe every user studiously examines every navigational element before deciding what to do next?
Here are another couple of examples of how poorly thought-out, inconsistent and inaccurate his advice is:
+ Internal Search Engines - Advising that every homepage must have a search engine input box contradicts research that shows how inefficient search queries are for most users and how it compromises conversion
+ Copywriting - Dogmatically proclaiming that exclamation points don't belong on homepages is arrogance running headlong into ignorance. Good copywring is sensitive to context.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Marsha on January 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
The first 50 or so pages provide a good summary of the authors' advice on making web sites usable, and back some of it up with statistics. This is valuable information.
The remainder of the book is comprised of the home page reviews. On page 55 the authors state, "Some of our comments may seem picky; we have tried to comment on everything big and small. In terms of sheer volume, the smaller usability items dominate the reviews. Most of these minor problems will not prevent a determined user from using the site, so they are not true usability catastrophes like the ones we often find when we study people trying to complete an entire task on the web." This pretty much tells you what you will see in the remainder of the book.
Unfortunately, the reviews do not make it clear whether the authors consider each home page a usable home page or not. Positive comments and problems are both noted in the home page reviews, but not visually differentiated from each other. In addition, there is usually no indication as to whether a given comment represents a "minor problem" or a "usability catastrophe". Nor is there any indication as to which review findings are supported by research; many seem to be based purely on the personal opinions and preferences of the authors. I disagreed with many of these statements based not only on my own browsing experience, but also on my experience providing user support. These factors limited the usefulness of the reviews for me.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By M. Bradley on December 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
A decent overview of the corporate homepage as first impression, with its own conventions and caveats.
Drawbacks: Each page -- all 50 of 'em -- is critiqued in unprioritized detail, the book's worst oversight. Most developers have mission-critical tasks, and some of JN's pronouncements are nothing but opinion, not proofs backed up by research. Minor proofing errors just aren't on the same level as critical path architectures, and the book doesn't differentiate this for readers.
Sheer volume does work in one area, however: the most interesting part of the book is the appendix, which offers side-by-side comparisons of all 50 sites that zoom in on particular aspects of design: page titles and taglines, screen real estate breakdowns, search features, and more. These comparisons reveal the homepage as a landscape with its own map, for good or ill.
The best reason for a web professional to read this book is that most decisionmakers for corporate websites will read this and declare expertise. It's good to be armed -- and love him or hate him, JN is quoted often enough that he can't be ignored. So read it, but make sure to pursue alternate points of view.
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