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About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design 1st Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Cooper mainly looks at the Windows GUI in this book, explaining the basic elements of the GUI, and why they do or do not work well. And he gives suggestions as to how things could be done better.
And he gives some interesting reasons why today's developers design software the way they do.
I highly recommend this book to every developer who has to design/code GUIs. I've actually read through it twice. I can't say that about any other computer-related book I've ever read.
In between the flaming rants, there are a few positive contributions. Unfortunately, they're typically presented in an oddly half baked way, with the metaphors being drawn much more sharply than the UI recommendations. Here are some examples from page 23, which I flipped to at random: "assembling bicycles on Christmas Eve was a cakewalk compared to getting _The Lion King_ CD ROM to work". Yes, we all know installation is hard. But what do we do about it? "Either the software industry will regulate itself like doctors and architects do, or the government will regulate it like hairdressers and taxi-drivers". Hmm. Still don't see how this relates to GUI design? "If carpenters designed houses, they would certainly be easier or more interesting to build, but not necessarily better to live in". Typical of his focus on getting design out of the programmer's hands. "It's as though the scaffolding is so labor-intensive that the urge to incorporate it into the finished house is irresistible". He goes on to discourage designers from using anything other than pencil and paper and to discourage prototyping because it'll stick. (You'll find much more insight on software engineering in toto in Hunt and Thomas's "The Pragmatic Programmer" or Beck's "Extreme Programming".
Just because Cooper's unfocused and condescending doesn't mean he's always wrong. Three topics, in particular, stuck with me: no dialog boxes, save is the default, and soverign apps. Reading this book caused me to completely rethink the current app I was designing.Read more ›
For one thing, he contradicts himself--a lot. On the one hand he complains that software tends to mimic the physical artifacts--for example, calendars are laid out on one-month grids. According to Cooper, this is a serious problem-- we are restricting a computerized calendar based on the limitations of the printed page. We should exploit the power of the PC. Then, not more than thirty pages later, he complains that computer file systems are deficient because they aren't centered around 'documents', which users know and love. We should restrict our file systems based on the limitations of the printed page. Be either fish or fowl; don't try to have it both ways.
I was very disappointed by this book. I expected insight, but what I got was Alan Cooper bitching about Windows. I knew what was wrong with Windows before I read the book. What I wanted was guidance on how to best interact with the user. I got Cooper's pet theories, most of which strike me as just plain silly.
Another reader described the book as "incredibly arrogant". I'd have to agree. Save your money; I doubt this book would help you create better user interfaces.
If you are doing Windows user interface development, you should also check out McKay's Developing User Interfaces for MS Windows, which gives a very practical treatment of much of this material and more.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
although information is years old now, it serves its purpose to showcase what a beginner like me should know.Published on September 27, 2010 by K. Tsang
I've long been curious about this book because it is so often cited and hailed by current usability experts as the "starting point of software usability. Read morePublished on November 5, 2003 by Brian Curtis
This book is by no doubt a valuable resource for any software developer, nevertheless, more liveliness, humor or variety would have made it less monotonous. Read morePublished on August 16, 2003 by Maxim Masiutin
Cooper was bold enough to say "the program must inform the User when it (the software) gets stupid"...[and not the other way around]. Read morePublished on January 30, 2003 by Robert E. Dornbush Jr.
Although the responsibility for user interface design should be delegated to experts, unfortunately as a programmer I have found myself on the "front line" doing user interface... Read morePublished on November 22, 2002
This book could have been half the size. The author makes a statement, then makes it again, proves it, uses several metaphors repeatedly, anecdotes left and right, makes the... Read morePublished on September 20, 2002 by Amazon Customer
If you are a software engineer or product manager, you simply must read this 580-page paperback! As promised in the subtitle, Cooper lays out "the essentials of user interface... Read morePublished on August 19, 2002 by Owen W. Linzmayer