“Don’t defend your interface. Fix it.”
Back in 2000, I read Jakob Nielsen’s Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. This excellent book reinforced several theories of Web design that I had already suspected: simpler was better, Flash animations and splash pages were idiotic, and sites should be built to convey information in a way that was easy for visitors to find and understand.
Nielsen’s book was a summary of thousands of hours of usability testing with people and Web sites all over the world. It wasn’t just the opinions of an outside observer. He could make statements because he had proof that his statements were valid.
I liked his book so much that I mentioned in — and I believe I even quoted from it — in my own book, Putting Your Small Business on the Web for Peachpit Press.
Prioritizing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger revises and and expands the information in Designing Web Usability. Using new test results and taking into consideration new technologies and user experience levels, Nielsen and Loranger revisit many of the problem exposed in the first book, summarizing how important they are today. The goal of the book is to help Web designers create sites that are effective, easy to navigate, and informative. These are the sites that people want to visit and spend time on, the sites that communicate information and sell products or services.
Nielsen and Loranger are not shy about voicing their opinions. The book has hundreds of full color illustrations of Web pages, each with a detailed caption that points out page problems. For example, a caption for Burger King site page begins, “This is an example of the misuse of visual metaphors…” And, for a page on the Montblanc site, “Montblanc makes nice pens, but it’s impossible to find out anything about them on the company’s Web site…”
While I feel that some of their criticisms are a bit nit-picky, illustrating and commenting on what they see as problems gives the reader plenty to think about. You might not agree with what they have to say about a site’s problem, but you’ll remember it when you design the pages on your sites.
As for me, I learned a few tricks I can apply to my sites. But I’m more relieved that my sites don’t have most of the problems their book points out.
Do you design Web sites? Get and read this book!
[composed on top of a mesa in the middle of nowhere with ecto]