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Usability: The Site Speaks for Itself Paperback – May, 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

This book is for anyone wanting to gain an understanding of how to design and inplement usable web sites.

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Product Details

  • Series: Insite
  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Peer Information (May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904151035
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904151036
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 8.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,960,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I for one, am tired of being presented with a prescriptive list of 101 'guidelines' and being told that they will solve all my usability problems, if only I would just implement them. The authors of this book will explain why they bent the rules, and sometimes discarded them completely.
The book consists of a pragmatic introduction "beyond the buzz: the true meaning of usability" by Molly Holzschlag followed by the six 'tales from the design face'. Each chapter starts with a slightly cheesy, yet endearing question and answer session where the author(s) are asked to comment on items ranging from their favourite pizza, to their rating on a 'geek index'. I found this one page intro helped me to view the authors as human beings, rather than as 'subjects'. At the end of each chapter the authors are given the opportunity to give photographic examples of items that they personally rate as being 'usable'..
The sites covered range from large companies like the BBC and Economist through to community sites like Metafilter and Evolt.org. Also included are chapters on 'e-bay' with tens of millions of users, and the one man SynFonts site.
Each of the tales are compelling and you want to keep reading to see what happens next. The authors concentrate on why they did things, rather than how they did them, so you won't be getting tips on implementing navigation schemes in PHP or ASP. But you will find out why eBay merged their design and usability groups into one, why Flash was the right solution for SynFonts and why both evolt and MetaFilter decided that un-threaded comments were the way to go.
The publishers have put a lot of effort into every detail of this book.
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Format: Paperback
After being criticised by Jakob Nielsen, eBay get their own back in this book, by telling their own story. They say that changing all the features that Nielsen criticised them for so long after the site's inception would have been a major blow to usability for their 46 million registered users - exactly like Nielsen says links would be better if they weren't blue, but too late to change it now. Nice to see some real-world usability success
stories rather than other people savaging sites for usability crimes.
One of best things about this book, though, is the design and the tone. Its an easy read, like Steve Krug's book, and has very different styles of writing depending on which designer is talking. There's a team of people from the BBC talking about their sites and you get a real sense of a design team at work; the Economist is a serious site and the tone of the designer/ author is formal and serious; SynFonts is a flash site and the designer is not afraid to criticise his own site in far more lacerating terms than outsiders would, but evangelises the use of Flash in his circumstances while giving some excellent generic tips on Flash Usability: Don't restrict the viewing sizes of your movie; avoid hidden/rollover navigation; don't use Flash for navigation; test! test! test!
From the specific experiences, generic hints are drawn out, but they are never rules or guidelines. The book's central premise is that the web designer should know the audience, get feedback from them, use the server logs and design according to the user's needs and expectations.
There's also a gallery of real-world objects that each designer has chosen as examples of great design and usability.
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Format: Paperback
I got this book unexpectedly. I wrote to Glasshaus expressing the difficulty in purchasing their titles in India and Bruce Lawson, their Brand Visionary, promptly responded with details and followed it up by sending me a complimentary copy of this book. I was quite surprised, to say the least. It will be tempting to dismiss this as a mere publicity gimmick, but Glasshaus does have a unique way of going about their publishing business. Take a look at their site. I wonder how many other big names in publishing maintain an interesting and useful blog, to mention just one.
Coming to the book itself. I have copies of Jakob Nielsen's books, "Home Page Usability" and "Designing Web Usability". I also have Steve Krug's "Don't make me think" among other books on usability in my personal collection. This Glasshaus title is as different as can be from all those books. For the first time, one gets to hear first person accounts of the how and why of usability decisions made on major, major web sites. I mean, when you are talking about Economist.com, BBC, eBay, evolt, MetaFilter etc, you are talking about some of the most powerful and influential web sites today. The personal narrative form of exposition is another refreshing change; you feel each author is talking directly to you and sharing his/her experiences in making the kind of usability decisions they did for their websites. Each account, when read carefully, can help a web professional connect the excellent groundwork of experts like Nielsen to the practical compulsions behind real-life usability decisions.
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