Customer Reviews


77 Reviews
5 star:
 (29)
4 star:
 (19)
3 star:
 (14)
2 star:
 (10)
1 star:
 (5)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 50 Web Site Deconstructed
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...
Published on May 29, 2003 by sherzodr

versus
83 of 91 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bitterly disappointing and over-commercialized
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...
Published on December 16, 2001 by Jeffrey Eisenberg


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 50 Web Site Deconstructed, May 29, 2003
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (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.
Although majority of the book is on annotating home pages, authors also give some generic tips on home page design. Some of those tips I recall are:
liquid page layout is preferred over fixed sized tables
the most optimal page width is 760 pixels (for fixed layout)
page length of the homepage should be around two full screens, but not more than four
frames suck big time
horizontal scrolling is the curse
"Guest Books" are not for pros
Do not use exclamation marks!
and on and on it goes
While reading homepage annotations, I felt very strong emphasis on the title of the homepages (the one between <title> and </title> tags). These tags are easily left un-noticed, one would think. But properly chosen titles make big difference while bookmarking your page. Try it yourself.
In other words, do not start your titles with "The" and "Welcome", because in person's favorites lists, it would be misplaced in the alphabetical order.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone venturing in Web Designs.
P.S. Although the book is on Home Page usability, the book itself doesn't seem "usable" at all. Size of the book is so clumsy that doesn't fit in a standard sized book shelf.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


83 of 91 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bitterly disappointing and over-commercialized, December 16, 2001
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (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.
There are dozens of other examples as curious as these. It's possible to glean good usability advice from this book. However, how will the average reader separate the wheat from the chaff?
This is an attractively packaged - but not user-friendly - coffee table book. I'll be using it to stabilize the uneven leg of my coffee table.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not scannable, January 28, 2002
By 
Marsha (san francisco, ca United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heuristic evaluation in a coffee-table book, February 12, 2002
By 
David Walker (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
Web site usability has come a long way. For proof, just consider the strange case of Dr Jakob Nielsen.
Back in 1995, Dr Nielsen was a Sun Microsystem Usability software usability expert with a string of published papers and books on topics such as "heuristic evaluation". Nielsen had spent a chunk of his career analysing the benefits of quick-and-dirty usability methods such as heuristic evaluation, where a group of experts rate a system's compliance with established usability norms. But such methods remained generally underappreciated, and Dr Nielsen's books and papers were read by a relatively small group of fellow specialists. In 1995, with Web sites becoming a popular new type of "software", Dr Nielsen started publishing his thoughts at his own Web site, useit.com.
Now move forward seven years, and here is Dr Nielsen again, peering out of the front of a book through neat glasses, wearing a red tie and perfectly mismatched greenish-blue shirt, with hair just long enough to mark him as a child of the 1960s. Except now Dr Nielsen is famous and runs sell-out executive lecture sessions on Web site usability. And the book out of which he is peering is not a scholarly tome but a big, glossy, full-colour 320-page compendium of heuristic evaluations on some of the world's best-known Web sites. It's called "Homepage Usability".
Yes, it's the world's first coffee-table usability book.
And if you can get over the price, "Homepage Usability" is both a useful contribution to the discipline, and more fun than you'd think. It's a set of design rules centred around an examination of the home pages for 50 major sites, including the highly-valued (Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, Google), the worthy (PBS, Art Institute of Chicago) and the famous (CNN, Google, BBC Online).
"Homepage Usability" is particularly useful because Nielsen and collaborator Marie Tahir use these 50 sites not just as a gimmick but also to help define the "standard" treatments of elements on a Web page. They do so in the belief that rather than learning a new interface on every site, users prefer your site to work the same way as the last dozen they were on.
Others, notably Michael Bernard from the Software Usability Research Laboratory at Wichita State University, have researched the placement of basics like navigation and search. Nielsen and Tahir analyse their 50 pages statistically and confirm and extend Bernard's work. For instance, their analysis of links to privacy information suggests that people will expect to see such a link on a site's home page (43 of the 50 had it there), and that it should be labelled "Privacy Policy" (20 of the 43 did this).
On top of the 15 pages of statistical analysis, Neilsen and Tahir also offer 25 pages of heuristics - rules - on eveything from displaying logos to communicating site problems. Many of these rules will be familiar to Web design veterans and to readers of Nielsen's last book, "Designing Web Usability".
Once the rules are finished with, Nielsen and Tahir take you into the instructive and oddly entertaining 240-page dissection of those 50 sites. They seek out and pull apart every misplaced button and vague label. The label "MTV news gallery" obscures the richness of the MTV site's feature articles. Drugstore.com probably thought the term "shopping bag" appropriate, but "shopping cart" has become an accepted term. And ExxonMobil might have thought their front page oil rig photo looked arty, but "oil companies would best avoid photos that show large shadows in the water next to their rigs". Heh, heh.
The home pages themselves are displayed at full-page size. Some of the comments verge on pedantry, but there's praise too - the informative headlines on CNN, the well-described sign-in at Amazon. And the sheer weight of commentary eventually starts pushing you to think more rigorously about how users see your own pages.
Many Web designers, especially the less pragmatic and those without formal training, hate Nielsen's approach. They can see it leaching the originality out of Web design. Neilsen makes no apologies for this; he believes the content should outshine the look, and he once wrote an essay entitled "The End Of Web Design".
Commercial operators may see a different reason for suspicion. The likes of Amazon and Yahoo have been around long enough, and have experimented enough, to know exactly what produces commercial results for them. Heuristic evaluations never ask what is working in a particular case; they just apply standards. As Graham Hamer notes in his review below: if Amazon wants to label a link "Friends and Favorites", it's probably because the link is known to provoke the desired book-buyer behaviour - regardless of what Jakob Nielsen thinks. Heuristic evaluation has its limits.
Within those limits, heuristics have real power. Usability commentators like Steve Krug, author of the excellent "Don't Make Me Think", argue that the average user is a myth and all Web use is essentially idiosyncratic, so the only way to design is to test. But the truth is that almost every designer uses heuristics at some point, adopting elements because they are familiar and because there isn't the time or the budget to test. They're too useful to resist. So is this book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love JN or hate him, you have to read Homepage Usability, December 19, 2001
By 
M. Bradley "mjbdiskin" (Decatur, GA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skim this book rather than buying it, October 1, 2002
By 
Greg Whisenant (Salt Lake City, Utah USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
As a software designer, I keep pretty close tabs on the current thinking about usability. And while Nielsen's periodic AlertBox column is excellent, this book seemed more like something you simply flip through rather than use as a solid desk reference on Web site and homepage design.
Several times as I read through the book, I thought to myself that he really sold himself short. Lists are so long as to be utterly unusable, and the "mistakes" he highlights are too repetitive, and often ambiguous. This is hardly the kind of empirical-evidence-based advice I was hoping for; in the end, it seemed like he just jotted down notes as he went along and found someone to publish it. And while the look and feel of the book itself is excellent, the content is poorly thought out. Maybe he just needs a better editor (after all, I found many typos, something that's hard to stomach when he is so critical of similar mistakes). Finally, some of the advice he offers merely serves to demonstrate his lack of business experience and basic branding and marketing, which is both ironic and embarrassing.
I'll admit that his task isn't an easy one, as he faces a central dilemma: he either must point out every little problem, or risk coming under fire for missing something. Unfortunately, I think he erred on the side of "too much trivia" at the expense of his readers. The book was fun to look through, and it gave me several important insights into homepage design, but I can' t imagine that I will ever refer to it. If you want excellent insight into web page and homepage usability, I would stick with the Alertbox.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


132 of 158 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Take a closer look, January 8, 2002
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
I was impressed by the first 65 pages of 'Jakob Nielsen's 50 Web Sites'. For the first time, it seemed, someone had stopped to analyse the genetic code that made for a successful homepage.
What happened on page 66? .......... What happened was that I came to the deconstruction (criticism) of THIS site (amazon.com) and discovered that things were not as they seemed. Having purchased regularly from three of the amazon sites over the last five years, and having written over 200 reviews on this site alone, I think I know the site as well as any other customer. Thus I was surprised when I saw some of the criticisms levelled by Jakob Nielsen and Marie Tahir. I'm not saying that everything is perfect - and fair criticism is wholly constructive - however, the authors have left themselves open to the charge of superficiality.
Take as an example their criticism of the page tabs (they say that users can make use of the other navigation tools on the page). Personally, I ALWAYS use the tabs at the top of the page. It seems that Nielsen and Tahir haven't considered user preferences.
They say that 'Friends and Favorites' is a meaningless category name. Not to me, it's not. Nor to hundreds of thousands of other site users.
They say that 'Free e-cards' should be in the 'Gifts' category. WRONG - Gift Certificates are in the gift category. e-Cards are e-Cards. Gift Certificates are Gift Certificates.
They say that 'Hello' is an unnecessary level of friendliness. Is it? I LIKE being welcomed to the site (even though I know it's only an electronic gizmo). What Nielsen and Tahir failed to understand was that, after signing-in, the message says 'Hello, Graham Hamer' (or Hello, Father Christmas if that's who you are). As I say, the authors have been too superficial in drawing their conclusions.
They say that Photo albums and Photo frames is an odd and seemingly random combination of items. Eh? Doesn't the word 'photo' conjure up a link?
They say that 'Kitchen' should be grouped with 'Lawn and Patio'. Why? I don't grow flowers in my oven.
In Nielsen and Tahir's specific examples, they criticise 'A Painted House' as being a poor description of John Grisham's 'A Painted House'. ... What planet are these people from?
They criticize the fact that there is more than one place on the page to sign in. I LIKE that feature since both my wife and I have accounts with Amazon, I often find that I am 'signed in' on her account. Having a convenient location to click is a useful addition.
Nielsen and Tahir have completely misunderstood the meaning of the heading 'New Releases'. If they had bothered to click on any of the categories below, they would have understood its function. (Superficiality again.)
I could rant on and on for pages, but I think you're probably getting the gist of things. Having discovered that the authors had made such a poor job of deconstructing a site I know well, I now don't trust their judgement on the remaining 49 sites. That's a shame, because the idea behind the book is good - just poorly executed.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, very tedious, March 14, 2003
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
Don't even bother with this book unless you've also read Jakob Nielsen's "Designing Web Usability : The Practice of Simplicity" -- his vastly superior work. It's not that the content of "Homepage Usability" is wrong. It's actually insightful analysis... repeated 50 times. The redundancy is the problem. I like Nielsen's work, and it's important to me because I manage a popular website. But this book feels like it was something written as a regular column for a monthly magazine. The redundancy is has a nice preaching-to-the-choir effect if it's a once-a-month reminder; it's mind-numbing if you try to ready 50 of them in a row.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


48 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Homepage Guidelines from Gurus, November 8, 2001
By 
Andrew B. King (Ann Arbor, MI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
Jakob Nielsen is out to change the Web, one page at a time. His latest book, "Homepage Usability" coauthored with Marie Tahir, takes on the most important page of your site, the home page. Now that Nielsen and the usability community have "defeated bad design" by reducing "user-hostile" design practices they are fighting for good design. What better place to start than your own home page? The authors present 113 homepage usability guidelines that will make your site easier to use, and apply them mercilessly to 50 popular sites.
This book is part of a strategic campaign against the "enemies" of usability. The members of the Nielsen Norman group, a veritable who's who of usability and design gurus, realize their Fortune 500 fees are too high for most small to mid-sized companies. They are leveraging themselves accordingly to spread the usability gospel by giving world tours, seminars and tutorials, writing books, granting interviews, and teaching other designers about usability so design teams can help themselves.
The home page is a company's public face to the world, and is often the most popular page on a site. Spending more time to get it right is time well invested, as usability improvements can yield two or three-fold increases in conversion rates. The problem is, there is only one home page for each site, so conflicting forces like sales, design, and marketing invariably vie for its attention. The challenge is to design a homepage that allows access to all of your important features without cramming them all onto the page itself, overwhelming new users.
>Homepage Usability Guidelines
The guidelines are distilled from the authors' combined 14 years of Web usability experience, and countless hours testing actual users. They are grouped by topic area, and show examples from the 50 website reviews. Here are some highlights:
Communicate the Site's Purpose
Tag lines should be brief and concise. TITLEs should begin with the company name for bookmarkability, followed by a good tagline. Avoid using "online" or unnecessary articles ("the" etc.) Don't include "hompage" or "online" in the title. Limit titles to less than 64 characters.
Content Writing
Optimize content for easy scanning. Be clear use consistent capitalization. Hire a copy editor. Avoid exclamation marks!!
Revealing Content Through Examples
Use examples to reveal the site's content, rather than just describing it. Examples instantly communicate what the site is about. Be specific.
Search
Search is one of the most important elements of the homepage so make it visible, wide, and simple. Provide a wide (25 char) input box on the top right or left of the home page. Use a "Search" button only. Search the entire site by default, users are confused by scoped searches. Don't search the Web, that's what search engines are for.
News and Press Releases
In order for them to work, you need to craft effective headlines and decks (story summaries). Give specific information, don't tantalize with hype. Headlines should be succinct, yet descriptive, to give maximum information in as few words as possible. Write and edit specific summaries for press releases and news stories that you feature on your home page. Don't just repurpose the first paragraph of the full article. Link headlines, not decks, to the full story.
UI Widgets
Use them sparingly as they invariably draw users attention. Never use widgets for parts of the screen that you don't want people to click. Make graphic bullets clickable. Avoid using multiple text entry boxes, users confuse these with search.
>Homepage Design Statistics
The authors also quantify homepage design conventions by tallying up the design stats on the 50 sites reviewed (page width/length, download time, search, wording conventions, etc.). Since most users spend most of their time *off* your site, the authors advise us to follow common Web design conventions. Don't fight your users' mental model unless you have a very good reason, and can back it up with user testing.
I found this to be the most useful part of the book, as the authors quantify things that usability experts heatedly argue about. I'd like to see a larger sample size however. Things like search placement (35% upper right, 30% upper left), navigation location (30% left rail, 30% tabs, 18% top), and naming conventions (55% use "About <name of company>," 21% "About Us"), contact info (89% use "Contact Us"), and privacy policy (47% use "Privacy Policy").
A handy table of recommendations based on these statistics sums things up. Some highlights:
* Download time at most 10 seconds at average connection speeds, < 50KB
* Page width optimized for 770 pixels, but with a liquid layout
* Page length of one or two screens is best
* Provide a white 25 character simple search box in upper right or left corner
* About us - always include this, helps establish trust
* Body text color - black 12 point (relative units) sans-serif font, on white background for maximum contrast
At $10,000 per home page review, Nielsen says this is a 1/2 million dollar book. I wouldn't put the price quite that high, but it is invaluable. You only get one chance to make a first impression, this book will help you ensure it's a good one. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Amazing, February 5, 2002
By 
Eric Leebow (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed (Paperback)
In my research of writing my You Are Here Internet Guides, I have personally visited and toured well over 15,000 Web sites and I must say I find this book very impressive. A flawless job of deconstructing these 50 sites makes you want to look more introspectively at what visually stimulates viewers. It explains in detail what insightfully makes Web design sufficient and efficient for the viewer. The commentary is very easily spoken and will make you think twice about some characteristics of Web design. Things you may have normally taken for granted in Web design are pointed out. For instance, intricacies such as arrows pointing at words and how to keep it simple with text links make the user well informed. Or how some redundancies keep the user from reading more, and in turn decrease the impact of the intended marketing message shows that somes sites may be susceptible to overusability. The book takes the word "clutter" and defines it, and explains ways around it. The simplicity concept is explored deeply, explaining a site can be easy to use without sacrificing good content.
I like how each site deconstructed has a pie chart that tells you can quickly and easily look at and see what the homepage allocates space for.
Much thought put into critiquing the sites. I found the homepage design statistics in the beginning to be quite useful and accurate.
Overall, the book is a masterpiece. There is a chock full of thought into each homepage.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed
Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed by Jakob Nielsen (Paperback - Oct. 2001)
$50.00 $37.49
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.