- Paperback: 233 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
- Average Customer Review: 65 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,045 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.
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He was right.
In those first four chapters, Raskin--the "inventor" of the Macintosh--offers what I think is a terrific introduction to the basics of interface design, cognetics and the quantification of interfaces. I lapped it up, despite Raskin's occasionally convoluted writing style. In fact, it gave me some ideas for a project I had worked on last year.
I suspect I'll turn to the first four chapters for reference in the future.
But Raskin goes afield, I think, in the latter half of the book. He proposes an entirely new interface for PCs--one that dispenses with file names, directory structures and applications.
I'm sure we all agree that the current Windows interface is far from ideal or humane, confusing untold millions and making work more difficult than necessary. But while Raskin's heart and intellect are in the right places, I think his proposed cure is nearly as bad as the disease. I am intrigued, however, by his ZIP or "zooming" navigation approach.
So--is this book worth your time (and money)? You'll have to make your own call. If you already have a background in interface design theory, The Humane Interface offers you a view of Raskin's dream for a new interface. On the other hand, if you know little about interface design, you might really enjoy the introduction Raskin offers and appreciate the stimulus his dream interface provides.
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.
The book discussses easy-to-understand and implement principles that improve usability. For instance, the principle of "monotony." This does not mean what we generally take it to mean, but it is the idea that people can focus on one thing at time. We broke the tasks of determining a shipping address and billing address into two separate pages and people were much happier.
The book also gives many metrics that can be used to quantatize the effort in using an interfaces. We have found these valuable in creating proposals.
I found the message here to be a call to designing for the human processor, since the race for hardware speed has already surpassed our bodily capabilities.