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software design and usability

Klaus Kaasgaard talks with Bonnie Nardi, Jakob Nielsen, David Smith, Austin Henderson & Jed Harris, Terry Winograd and Stephanie Rosenbaum. this unusual approach is rewarding for this very fact. the answers given to a similar set of questions are often contradictory, but again this is one of its strengths (unlike the near arguments found in titles such as Information Design, Jacobson Ed.) this book provides a very accessible starting point for those new to the field whilst at the same time pushing the boundaries of the discipline (admittedly some interviewees more than others ;-). another interesting aspect (fmm) is the language used (which of course is the interface of a book), probably caused by non-native english but this adds a certain edge to the dialogue.


  • publishers info (Copenhagen Business School Press) Open link in new window
  • amazon UK info Open link in new window
  • Klaus Kaasgaard (info on CBS Press site) Open link in new window

ben hyde - July 16, 2002

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Designing Web Usability

For a long time I wanted to write a review of Jakob Nielsen's Designing Web Usability. But I knew it would be hard because the book is so controversial. On the one hand the book has a lot of important stuff to tell, on the other, it has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Instead of writing a review myself, I found a good one by Andy Ihnatko from NewMedia. Some quotes:

"Reading Designing Web Usability might make you collapse to your knees and repent your sins, taking up a tambourine and joining the preacher's crusade right on the spot. It might just as well further commit you to add increasing complexity and sophistication to your creations."

"Honestly, it's like we're the parents in a house full of unruly kids and Jakob Nielsen has mailed us a big envelope of pamphlets promoting military schools. Maybe we'll buy in, maybe we won't. But just considering it will make us into different parents."


  • Andy Ihnatko's review of Designing Web Usability Open link in new window
  • Read more reviews and buy the book at Open link in new window
  • Read more reviews and buy the book at Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 11, 2002

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Designing Visual Interfaces by Kevin Mullet and Darrell Sano

This is a book which graphic designers involved in web and application development should read, as it describes techniques used in communication-oriented visual design applied to graphical user interfaces.

Mullet and Sano's approach builds a bridge between the conservative web usability experts preaching their "speedy download" mantra, and the graphic designers who see the web as a media for artistic display. To Mullet and Sano "Communication-oriented visual design view these forces not as irreconcilable opponents, but as symbiotic components of every high-quality solution." As they say, "good graphic design can significantly improve the communicative value of the interface, leading to increased usability."

The book doesn't deal with the interactive aspect of interactive media, but describes principles and techniques to improve the aesthetic and functional aspects of screens and has lots of examples of good and bad interface design.


  • Read more reviews and buy the book at Open link in new window
  • Read more reviews and buy the book at Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 02, 2002

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Where The Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction

This book is about the notion of -what I think of as- 'context sensitive computing', though it isn't described in these terms. It brings together the areas of tangible and social computing to highlight the importance of looking at the 'big picture'. In other words, examining the practise of using the computer r/t than the specific tasks. As is stated in the title, the intention is to identify the foundations of this subject. I think that it successfully achieves this and in doing so also provides a surprisingly clear overview of the numerous underlying and interwoven theories that shed light on this topic. It concludes by outlining 6 design principles - as opposed to recommendations, rules or guidelines - which are: computation is a medium; meaning arises on multiple levels; users, not designers, create and communicate meaning; users, not designers, manage coupling; embodied technologies participate in the world they represent; and embodied interactions turns action into meaning.


  • book info Open link in new window
  • an essay built around the material in the book Open link in new window
  • a longer article about embodied interaction - somewhat out of date Open link in new window
  • also by Paul - hacking jakob nielsen :) Open link in new window

ben hyde - May 30, 2002

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Web ReDesign by Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler

Reading this book was like going to a party with designers from other web agencies chit-chatting about how our companies prefer to organize Web projects. Every agency has its way of doing things. You might be inspired to some degree, but mostly it's basically the same.

The book's subtitle "Workflow that Works" made me expect a guide telling me how to make the diversity of stakeholder in a web project work together - more systematic, more efficient and with better results. But I was disappointed.

One of the major drawbacks is that their development framework - the "Core Process" - is described almost entirely from the designers' point of view and show very little understanding of the interdisciplinary aspect of web development.

Worse is that Kelly and Emily go on and on telling the same stories, which we've all heard before: "think about download times", "mind screen resolutions", "test in browsers"...


  • Read more reviews and buy the book at Open link in new window
  • Read more reviews and buy the book at Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 30, 2002

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Why We Buy

Paco Underhill's Why We Buy is a primer to the anthropology of shoppers interacting with retail environments. The book deals with bricks-and-mortar shops, but has a short chapter about online shopping.

The most worthwhile aspect of the book is that it shows how detailed in-situ studies of shoppers shopping and subsequent refinements to the layout of a shop can raise sales significantly.

A pleasant surprise to me was that the art of making shoppers buy is not as much about seducing or bullying customers. It's more about usability: How to remove obstacles, how to help people find what they are looking for and how to make shopping more convenient and pleasant. This proves that usability isn't merely a nice-to-have


  • Read more reviews and buy the book at Open link in new window
  • Read more reviews and buy the book at Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 09, 2002

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Don't Make Me Think!

Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think! is the definitive if-you-only-want-to-buy-one-book-buy-this book for people interested in Web design and usability. It's short, it's funny, it's common sense.

Krug's overriding principle is that Web pages should be self-evident and obvious. People should be able to "get it" without expending any effort thinking about it.

If you have room in your head for only one usability rule, "Don't Make Me Think!" should be the one. If you have room on your shelf for only one book, "Don't Make Me Think" should be the one.


  • Read more reviews and buy the book at Open link in new window
  • Read more reviews and buy the book at Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 28, 2002

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