- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional (April 8, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0201379376
- ISBN-13: 978-0201379372
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 68 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems
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"The book that explains why you really hate computers."
I've admired Jef Raskin for years. For those who don't know, he is the "Father of the Macintosh," one of the original geniuses who guided the Mac in the early days. But, more than a computer scientist, Raskin is a cognitive psychologist. He studies how the brain works with special emphasis on how that relates to us using computers. His magnum opus was the Canon Cat, which was an excellent and well-thought-out little computer.
In The Humane Interface, Raskin goes into detail describing how computers can be made easier to understand and use. Ever want to know why you really don't like Windows? The answer is in this book. In fact, there's so much in this book that makes sense, I really want to send a copy to every employee at Microsoft.
I loved reading this book and nodding my head in rabid agreement. Raskin states, "There has never been any technical reason for a computer to take more than a few seconds to begin operation when it is turned on." So why then does Windows (or Linux!) take so darn long to start up? The PalmPilot is on instantly, as is your cell phone. But for some reason, we tolerate the computer taking a few eons to start. (And until consumers complain about it, things won't change.)
Computers can be easy to use, and the people who design them and design software need to read this book. Do you ever get the impression that the person who designed a piece of software must have come from the same company that designed the front panel on your VCR? Why should you have to double-click anything? What does Ctrl+D mean one thing in one program and a completely different thing in another? And what's the point of the Yes/No confirmation if the user is in the habit of clicking Yes without thinking about it? Raskin neatly probes all these areas.
While I admire everything Raskin has to say, the book is pretty heavy on the psychology end. Myself, I enjoy cognitive psychology (especially books by Raskin's cohort Donald Norman), though some may find that part of the book boring. Even so, Raskin builds and backs his argument in a most eloquent and scientific manner. Especially if you design software or need to teach or train people to use computers, this book deserves a spot on your shelf. --Dan Gookin
From Library Journal
Falling somewhere between Donald A. Norman's The Psychology of Everyday Things and Ben Shneiderman's Designing the User Interface, Raskin's book covers ergonomics as well as quantification, evaluation, and navigation. Raskin was the original creator of the Apple Macintosh project before Steve Jobs took over and has a background in technology and art, which gives him a unique perspective on usability; recommended for university and large public libraries.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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Unfortunately the whole concept behind the book is flawed.
I've been using computers for 40 very productive years and have
had numerous attempts at "interfaces" inflicted on me. I have to
say that the ideas of Don Norman and Jef Raskin are probably the
reason why I cannot use an Apple computer. I felt that the Apple
interface is too "user-affectionate" but Jef has shown me the
real root of the problem.
Jef argues that the user interface should be "noun-verb", that is,
you identify the thing and then do something to it. However, if
you use any tool you'll find that you "cut the board", not
"the board, cut". You naturally do "verb-noun"; at least I do.
And as I think about it, all USEFUL tools I use on a daily basis
are verb-noun based.
And there is the "quantifiable" nonsense about putting menus at
the top of the screen (Apple style) because it maximizes the Fitt
measure. Besides the notion that only one menu is of interest
(nonsense), there is also the notion that menus are useful at all.
I work for weeks without using any menu-based tools.
Then there is the idea that the available commands should be visible,
another point of nonsense. I have a command prompt which gives me
immediate access to 7,314 commands (per my search) at the moment.
Every command is immediately and always available. By GOMS measure
I am nearly at the optimal user interface. Anything else, e.g. mice,
menus, drag/drop, cut/paste, or any GUI-based interfaces are
measurably suboptimal. I should point out that I'm a linux command-line
user. I just type "print filename" and it prints. How hard is that?
Why does that need a menu, an icon, a print-preview, a file-chooser,
a printer-chooser, a command-bar, a keyboard shortcut, a help file,
a printer configuration wizard, a devices menu, ...
Please don't follow Jef's advice. You're only making computers hard to use.
The book does spend a fair amount of time describing various laws and rules for evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of user interface designs. This portion of the text is sure to remain valid throughout the years.
Although not exactly a page turner, I would recommend this book for anybody who designs user interfaces on a regular basis - even if you don't use the laws described, at least knowing about them is likely to make you design better interfaces unconsciously.
Moreover, the book has some "bugs" which limit its own useability. Mr. Raskin makes dozens of references to a product he designed and extols, the Canon Cat, but never actually explains what it is. I know that it lets users manage files without having to name them (interesting) but I don't know what kind of files they're making, so I can't decide whether this is a good idea. The book does not offer even a single screentshot of this device. Same goes for Swyftware, another oft-cited product with which the author assumes we are familiar, when we are not (Google reports only 7 references on the Web). Instead of showing us pictures these paragons of design in action, the book devotes precious glossy color plates to a gallery of black & white icons, a Windows menu bar, a photo of a grey radio and other illustrations in which color is meaningless.
In this book Mr. Raskin is really thinking, and he does back up his ideas with (talk of) empirical data. And as someone who has developed both hardware and software, he is not afraid to propose alternative input devices and new keys added to the keyboard. That's interesting stuff. But so many ideas just seem wrong. I don't think people want their computer to process keypresses while it is asleep. I don't think people are suffering for lack of a quicker way to enter a Carriage Return character into a search & replace dialog. And I don't think people want to have to learn a command-line interface and then type up their own menus (suffering through syntax errors in the process) to attain the convenience of a GUI. It's a novel book, but I won't recomment it on that basis alone.