Author: Christina Wodtke & Austin Govella
Publisher: New Riders, 2009
Aimed at: Anyone involved in web design
Pros: Readable exposition of fundamental ideas
Cons: Doesn't cover implementation issues
Reviewed by: Mike James
This could be a complete waste of space in that it apparently covers the obvious in 300 pages - however it's very good! It's all about how you should design a web site including details of the interaction the user should have with any Web 2.0 application. The authors put emphasis on designing so that the user's expectations are met and hence you have a happy unconfused user. Their eight fundamental principles are outlined in the first chapter and built on in the rest of the book:
1. Design for Wayfinding
2. Set expectations and provide feedback
3. Design ergonomically
4. Be consistent; consider standards
5. Provide error support - Prevent, Protect, and Inform
6. Rely on Recognition rather than on recall
7. Provide for people of varying skill levels
8. Provide contextual help and documentation
They also provide lots of screen dumps in full colour to illustrate the points being made.
Many of the chapters I approached with a groan because they appeared to deal with trivia - for example, who are your users? Most of the chapters even start off with some small amusing comment or anecdote which could put the reader off - the stewardess's rolling suitcase for example - and there are lots of potentially irritating "limp" cartoons. The overall effect is, however, very readable and you can't help but nod you head in acceptance as the obvious is trotted out in a very logical and well-reasoned way.You also end up thinking that if this stuff really is so obvious why are there so many websites that simply seem to ignore it.
This may be all applied common sense but when concentrating on the difficult issues of implementation it can be all too easy to forget. This isn't a deeply technical book and it can be read by the non-programmer, indeed it can be read by the design team - in fact it probably should be read by everyone working on the website just to make sure that the "obvious" does indeed form a common body of working knowledge. The final conclusion is that this is a good book of its type, well written, easy to read but don't complain that it isn't advanced, technical or about implementation issues - these are websites of the mind, and aspire to perfection.