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About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design 1st Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1568843223
ISBN-10: 1568843224
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An excellent book for anyone who wants to understand why so much software is so poorly designed -- and an even better book for anyone who wants to DO something about the problem. Must reading (and doing!) for programmers of any level.

Review

Alan Cooper is the "Miss Manners" of software design...My advice is to buy two copies -- autograph the second, and send it to an engineer at Microsoft. -- Paul Saffo, Director, Institute for the Future
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 580 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 25, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568843224
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568843223
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,668,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By P. Thompson on April 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book changed my life. No kidding. Before I discovered this book, I thought I was a pretty decent GUI programmer, but in retrospect, I really had no concept of usability. What I was doing was slapping an interface on top of my code. This book will change the way you design & write software, and even how you use software yourself. And at least in my case, it even changed the way I look at everyday life. I find myself asking why things were designed the way they were, and realizing how much better things could work if they were re-designed with usability in mind.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Alan Cooper needs an editor as badly as the builders of GUIs need a UI designer. This book reads like a hastily-assembled series of email flames.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'd heard about this book for years. Alan Cooper is widely regarded as the guru of interface design. After reading this book, I wonder why.
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.
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By A Customer on August 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Many of the GUI design books I've read just tell obvious things (align your controls, don't use saturated colors etc). This book is different. It's deeper. It's about how users interact with computers and how to build GUIs that (to use Cooper's words) don't make the user look stupid. The book is provocativly written which might not be everybody's taste. I'm a programmer myself but didn't find the book offending. Although five years old by now I consider this the best book on GUI design out there. Note that there is no mention of Web specific issues in the book.
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By A Customer on October 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
Cooper's book is a must read for anyone serious about user interface design, especially for Windows. It explores a wide range of subjects, from understanding users and the goals of UI design to an analysis of the major Windows user interface components. He has many interesting things to say and a great deal of insight. The presentation (which could be significantly improved with better editing) is enjoyable reading and thought provoking. One oddity - Cooper has a penchant for naming things, but unfortunately he isn't very good at it. The book is filled with original, often bizarre names for user interface concepts and components, but you could never use them in public without embarrassment.
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.
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