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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Web Usability Books [1]

I have twice promised to recommend books on Web Usability, so it's about time I got on with it. I have organized the books I like on a scale from simplest to most comprehensive. Today I will review the first, and simplest, of my recommendations.

Before we start I have to point out that I am not an expert in the subjects these authors devote most of their pages to, which I have labeled Clarity in my four-dimension usability model. My particular interest in writing these reviews is not primarily in the authors' expertise in the Clarity dimension, but in the extent to which they also acknowledge or discuss the dimensions of Availability, Responsiveness, and Utility.

[To understand what I mean by that, you must first read at least yesterday's post on The Dimensions of Usability. The previous post, where I introduced this model, was Web Usability: A Simple Framework.]

That is not to say that I am completely ignorant about their subject matter, either. I own a copy of each book I will discuss. I did my homework before buying them. I have spent time studying them. So I don't have a problem in offering my observations about their content. It's just that I do not have to use a lot of this material on a day-to-day basis in the course of my job. So think of my reviews as Web Usability books for people who don't already specialize in it.

1. Don't Make Me Think, by Steve Krug

Steve Krug: Don't Make Me ThinkSubtitled A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, this is an excellent introduction to the subject. It is widely praised for its simple approach -- in fact, it's hard to find a bad review of this book anywhere, starting with over 250 reviews on Amazon. At under 200 pages, the worst criticisms are from people who think it should be longer. Published by New Riders, the style and mix of text and illustrations is similar to the Visual QuickStart Guide Books from Peachpit Press. If you like those, you'll probably like this. The first edition that everyone likes was published in 2000, but you can see from Steve's site that he has a 2nd edition just out. I have ordered it but not seen it yet. Apparently it is updated, and is about 30 pages (and three chapters) longer. If you're buying a copy from Amazon anyway, you can double the author's royalty by ordering it though his site.

Finally, as you might have guessed from its title, this book is all about site Clarity. It doesn't have anything to say about Availability, Responsiveness, or Utility.

[Next book review: Designing Web Usability ...]

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