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Information Appliances and Beyond: Interaction Design for Consumer Products (Interactive Technologies) Paperback – March 13, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

As computing expands beyond the Beige Box, multidisciplinary product teams are beginning to explore new ways of thinking about content delivery and user interfaces. Sun Microsystems interface expert Eric Bergman has done abundant pontificating and research on post-PC systems, and he (in concert with an eminent group of experts) shares it eloquently in Information Appliances and Beyond.

More practical than other books about the so-called post-PC era, Bergman explores the various manifestations of real-life, nontraditional computing devices (mobile phones, personal assistants, set-top boxes, animated toys, etc.). He displays and critiques various creations, detailing the tradeoffs designers make to accommodate both physical requirements (batteries and screen size, among others) and general human ideas about efficiency and pleasantness in a user interface. A section of full-color plates drives home the effect colors have on users' perceptions of interfaces.

One particular highlight surfaces during a protracted interview with Rob Haitani. Now with Handspring, Haitani was the project manager of the original PalmPilot, and he made numerous design decisions while developing the Palm OS. At one point in the wide-ranging interview, Haitani says, "[I]f you only read one book to understand handheld user interfaces, it should be Strunk and White's The Elements of Style." That's the kind of thinking that defines this book, and that's why it belongs on the reading list of everyone interested in the near future of computing and communications. --David Wall

Topics covered: Information appliances--including mobile phones, palmtop computers, Internet appliances, and on-board navigation devices for automobiles--and the way people use them. Specific products analyzed include the Netpliance i-opener, the Nokia 7110 mobile phone and 9110 keyboard-equipped communicator, and three operating systems: Palm OS, Microsoft Windows CE, and EPOC.


This book is both visionary and practical: future consumer electronics, toys, and games need great usability or customers will abandon them. "My new cell-phone is so complicated that I need a two-week training class. Not!
--Jakob Nielsen Usability Guru, Nielsen Norman Group

An important book. Anyone involved in either interaction design or the development of information appliances will find food for thought, and everyone in the industry should read Rob Haitani's observations about designing the PalmPilot.
--Alan Cooper, Cooper Interaction Design

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Product Details

  • Series: Interactive Technologies
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann; 1st edition (March 13, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558606009
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558606005
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,409,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Well written and interesting to read, Information Appliances & Beyond is the lone book (at least that I've come across) that helps product designers create Information Appliances. The Interview with the creator of the Palm Pilot is excellent, as are the examples of the Nokia 7110 mobile phone, and the i-opener. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the future of consumer computing.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Koomey on May 13, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many information technology designers forget that the purpose of product design is not to display technical virtuosity, it is to help their users solve problems in the real world. This book, alone among those I've read, confronts this issue in a compelling and useful way. It's a "must read" for anyone thinking seriously about how to design information products.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Matthew G. Belge on April 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
In this book, Eric Bergman surveys some of the most influential and thoughtful people in the user interface design world - Don Norman, Chuck Clanton, David Haitani (designer of the Palm Pilot) and more. Their comments are insightful, practical, and visionary at the same time. I particularly liked the chapters by David Haitani and the one by Chuck Clanton on computer game design. This book will be helpful to anyone who has designed software user interfaces for desktop machines or web sites and is now wondering what the brave new world of wireless devices might look like.
I find that I like read the chapters in order of what interests me, not necessarily in the order they are bound together in the book. And that is a strength of the book - it acts more like a reference than like a novel. In this way, it reminds me of Brenda Laurel's excellent book "The Art of Human Computer Interaction."
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Format: Paperback
My favorite mental image from this book is a Palm Pilot designer walking through his office pretending to write on a block of wood. It communicates the essence of contextual design to both experienced and novice designers. Bergman's collection of case studies illustrates basic interface design principles while making a strong case that PDAs, mobile phones, and even children's toys require fresh thinking about design.

Information appliances are specialized devices requiring more focused design than general-purpose PCs. The first chapter, an interview with design expert Don Norman, highlights differences between PCs and information appliances. Norman hopes that computers will largely "disappear" as they are embedded in these special-purpose tools. The second chapter is an information appliance design tutorial. It advocates five design principles: (1) focus on the task domain; (2) customize the user interface; (3) configure functions according to frequency and importance of use; (4) simplify to a small set of core functions; and (5) design for interruptability and continuous feedback.

In subsequent chapters, designers answer Bergman's question: "What is different about designing software in this domain than designing software for a desktop computer?" Chapter 3 discusses "Internet appliances" designed for broad appeal and accessibility through the web. A key challenge is presenting content "to suit the tastes, requirements, and device limitations" of such a large audience. Chapter 4 is a conversation with a member of the Palm Pilot design team, filled with examples of design and redesign. Chapters 5 and 6 describe the design of Microsoft Windows CE and the EPOC interface in the Psion Series 5, two efforts to design scaled-down personal computers.
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