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Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide Paperback – June 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: User Interface Engineering (June 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0966064100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0966064100
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,273,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Spool and his buddies are usability engineers; they study how folks use computers. For the past couple of years, they have paid a lot of attention to how people use webbed interfaces for navigation and searching. Their research is counterintuitive to many design dictates, but it is well substantiated. Contrary to popular opinion, people do like information-dense sites, they do like long pages, and they will scroll forever as long as the page is designed to encourage scrolling. This is applied research at its best. Clearly written and well illustrated, the book allows users to put the findings to work for them. This book is required reading for anyone designing webbed interfaces for libraries and an essential purchase for all but the smallest public libraries. Additional information from the researchers can be found at (world.std.com/~uieweb).
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Without a doubt, the most important book I've read this year on Web design is Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide. The book is easy to read and full of relevant information.--Bill Skeet Chief Designer, Knight-Ridder New Media

Even experienced Web designers should read these usability findings about 11 different site designs. Competitive usability testing is one of the most powerful ways of learning about design and this book will save you hours of lab time.----Dr. Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group

This report challenges many of my assumptions about Web design, but that's a good thing. We're still babes in the woods, crawling along trying to distinguish the trees from the forest. Any sign posts are helpful, right now.--Mary Deaton, KNOWware -- Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Jared M. Spool (1960-) is the founder of User Interface Engineering and a leading expert on user experience (UX) design.

If you've ever seen Jared speak about usability, you know that he's probably the most effective, knowledgeable communicator on the subject today. What you probably don't know is that he has guided the research agenda and built User Interface Engineering into the largest research organization of its kind in the world. He's been working in the field of usability and design since 1978, before the term "usability" was ever associated with computers.

Jared spends his time working with the research teams at the company, helps clients understand how to solve their design problems, explains to reporters and industry analysts what the current state of design is all about, and is a top-rated speaker at more than 20 conferences every year. He is also the conference chair and keynote speaker at the annual User Interface Conference, was on the faculty of the Tufts University Gordon Institute, and manages to squeeze in a fair amount of writing time.

Customer Reviews

I've used techniques similar to the ones described in this book to test sites I've designed.
Zephemera
Too many questions are asked with the answer being "we do not know why" and too many sentences beginning: "we believe, but do not know" 2.
aryxus
It is, if you will, a narrative approach to understanding the issues involved in usability design, and to a lesser extent, user interface design.
dawumail@progarts.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 84 people found the following review helpful By smartin2@us.ibm.com on August 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
When Jared Spool's Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide was published, I was so interested that I packed it as carry-on reading for my vacation. I had found very few published accounts of empirical studies of web usability issues, and was anxious to compare notes with a fellow professional's web research methods and findings. The book is a quick read, so by the time the plane landed, I was thoroughly disappointed. Mr. Spool sets high expectations in the early pages with these three humble claims: that his book presents "groundbreaking research on web site usability;" that this research "provides actual data - not opinions - about what makes web sites usable;" and that his results are "really cool scientific findings." But the book fails on all three counts.
Because the authors neglect to describe their research methods up front, the first errors the reader will notice are problems of logic, definition of terms, and overgeneralizations based on limited observations. The first chapter presents a set of "major implications," each of which is meant to debunk some common-sense idea of web design; for example, Implication 1 is "Graphic Design Neither Helps Nor Hurts." However, the reader who tries to follow the logic behind the titillating assertions will find it mortally flawed. In this example, a little digging reveals a misunderstanding of the meaning of graphic design, which the authors interpret as the quantity of picture elements in a given web page or site. This misinterpretation leads them to conclude that if a site with few pictures (described as a "nearly 'design-free zone'") fares better with subjects than do other sites with many pictures, it is because graphic design is unimportant.
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77 of 83 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a very poor attempt to provide advice on designing web sites. Right up front you should note that although this book has a publication date of 1999, the research was done in 1996. In Internet time that is a lifetime ago. A typical user in 1999-2000 is much more experienced using the internet than a user from 1996.
None of the web sites that they used for their study look anything like what they did at the time of the study. In fact, they failed to get pictures of one of the web sites (from the 1996 Olympics) which was no longer available when they got around to writing this book. In most cases, the problems that were found at web sites were corrected long before the results of this research were produced which shows that this book may have been needed in 1996 but is useless today.
No information is given to us about the people who participated in the study. Were they novice users or well experienced in using the internet? We will never know. That information, however, can be critical when trying to design a web site. The study also examined one small part of usability of a web site. How easy was it for the participants in the study to find a particular piece of information at a particular web site? But is that really the only reason that we visit a web site? Is that the only aspect of usability? And does any of this mean anything when we don't know who the participants were?
In short, this book might have been somewhat useful had it been published in 1996 but it is useless and a complete waste of money in 1999.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By dawumail@progarts.com on February 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
One of my challenges in dealing with clients is convincing them that design solutions for one medium rarely apply to another. Imagine trying to make a bicycle frame out of wood using the same design you'd use for steel. It's quite possible to have a wooden frame, but they look *nothing* like the steel frame.
"Web Site Usability" is excellent source of material for me when I'm trying to explain and/or justify differences in design approaches based on functional requirements. This book, which makes no pretense of being a comprehensive, academic review of theoretical methods instead presents a broad variety of *real world* attempts to solve web UI problems and then describes both the strong and weak points discovered. It is, if you will, a narrative approach to understanding the issues involved in usability design, and to a lesser extent, user interface design.
This narrative approach has proved far more helpful in dealing with the increasing numbers of non-technical folks who're being given the problem of creating interesting, usable, *and* attractive web sites than the typical academic approaches couched in jargon and steeped in rigid methodology.
Regardless of your degree of technical knowledge, reading this book will help you in establish a strong foundation for understanding usability in all its contexts.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By aryxus on November 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is useful if:
1. You are involved in designing a site that is solely information-oriented.
2. You want a counter-point to Jakob Nielsen, who really has some helpful information.
3. You have a boss who doesn't know anything about the web and you want back-up documentation for your decisions.

Otherwise, this book has the following weaknesses:
1. Too many questions are asked with the answer being "we do not know why" and too many sentences beginning: "we believe, but do not know"
2. The goal was too specific: how well do users find information. This leaves out any websites designed for casual use, 'browsing', or entertainment.
3. The authors keep comparing apples to oranges. They do not usually take into account that some sites might have done better due to the type of content rather than the architecture or design.
4. There is no credence given to learned behavior (which, admittedly, Nielsen also gives short shrift).
5. It's just a TAD obvious. For example, "The better users could predict where a link would lead, the more successful they were in finding information." Well, uh, duh.
6. I don't agree with the model of testing. Users were given 4 questions they were to answer on each of 10 existing sites. Hypotheses were created from the results. However, none of the sites were amended to specifically address these hypotheses (unless, through some coincidence, the sites were updated during the process, and even then there was little before/after comparison).
7. The authors keep stressing throughout the entire book that web site usability differs from software usability. However, not once did they step back and think "maybe web site usability TESTING differs from software usability testing."
While Jared Spool is a great speaker (having seen him in person, I was very impressed with his humor and intelligence), this book leaves a lot to be desired.
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