Designing Web Navigation: Optimizing the User Experience 1st Edition
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About the Author
James Kalbach has a degree in library science from Rutgers University, as well as a master's in music theory and composition. He is currently a Human Factors Engineer with LexisNexis and previously served as head of information architecture with Razorfish Germany. He is an active speaker and author on information architecture and usability in Germany, where he helped co-found an IA community.
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This book is beyond doubt XXL, heavy-weight expertise.
A total 'must read' for anyone who wants to make any GUI application more user-friendly, easier to understand, hence more productive and pleasant.
The title of this book does tend to focus things, doesn't it? A book totally dedicated to working out navigation challenges in Web products means that it is destined to be a one-stop keeper on your shelf. If you work in any capacity on Web front-ends, navigation is often the issue of issues, the source of stimulating and heated team discussions. This book won't end those discussions but the information in it will certainly add calm perspective to them.
_Designing Web Navigation_ seems to have it all in one place, including practice discussion at the end of each chapter and further reading recommendations. The amount of information is impressive. There is not a page without a visual aid of some sort. I certainly like having lots of screenshots of real sites with the commentary of the author.
I also like the practical knowledge of the author which informs his writing -- he emphasizes the variability of the rules in the complex contexts we Web workers tend to work in. Note, for instance, how differently he approaches Amazon's tabbed navigation from how usability guru Jakob Nielsen writes of them. Nielsen never passes up an opportunity to exclaim what is wrong wrong wrong about Amazon's tabs. Kalbach, instead, explains the motivation behind each passing stage in the evolution of those same tabs, giving the dynamic context. This rings true for those of us with daily working knowledge in constructing user interfaces.
I was a bit disappointed that the book did not have more on the specific problems of designing Web *applications* instead of conventional Web sites. However, the book is written is such a way that this is not a problem. The advice and arguments on p.236 "Don't start by designing the navigation on the home page" encapsulates quite well something I have learned working on agile development teams over the years.
I had a few problems with the readability of this book. Page numbers look like squished gnats and all paragraph sub-headings were a pretty but painful light blue. The extremely large line-height weakened the separation of paragraphs.
As I mentioned, this book is chock full of the right material that belongs on your shelf for when you need it...and you will.
One thing that I especially liked about this book, is that in contrast to many other books or articles in this genre, Kalbach provides scientific research to back up his claims about what is and isn't usable. Many other books will make claims that something is a best practice, and back it up by citing other people who say so, but won't back their claims up with *actual data*. Many of the studies that Kalbach contradict "popular wisdom" on usability in areas such as the usefulness of breadcrumbs, or the appropriate length of anchor text.
I also enjoyed the questions/exercises at the end of each chapter. The book is extremely information-rich, with many deep concepts packed into each chapter. It was nice to give my brain a refresher at the end of each chapter, to make sure that I had retained everything.
I literally cannot think of a single problem that I had with this book -- it was accessible, in-depth, well ordered, and aesthetically pleasing -- I could hardly put it down. There are many other good books out there on these topics, but none of them that I've found has managed to pack as much useful information between the covers as this one, and some of the topics, I've seen covered nowhere else.
This is how computer science texts should be written! A+++.