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Designing Web Usability  : The Practice of Simplicity

Designing Web Usability : The Practice of Simplicity

When Jakob Nielsen's "Designing Web Usability" was published in 2000, I quickly bought a copy and read it in one evening. Finally, I had a book that was the closest thing I could find to the "Chicago Manual of Style" for the web. I used it to review many websites, and ruined two copies of that book over the last two years. I just got another copy, and I am going to use it as extensively as the last two.

Title: Designing Web Usability
Author: Jakob Nielsen
Pages: 702
CD: no
ISBN: 1-56205-810-X
Publisher: New Riders

Why am I babbling about this book here, in FlashMagazine? Well, even though Nielsen doesn't talk in it about Flash, he has a lot of good advice for all web designers, regardless of the tools they are using: HTML, Flash, SVG, VRML, or any new technologies that the future will bring. In "Designing Web Usability," Nielsen discusses, and provides copious examples, of page design, content design, site design, intranet design, access for people with disabilities, and design for international use. All this advice and comments are applicable to all web documents.

As you will no doubt notice, when you'll start reading his book, Nielsen preaches (and practices) simplicity, sometimes taken to the extreme. Not all designers agree with him, because they are often tempted to use all 'flashy' tricks they can, which led many people to the conclusion that Flash designs are immature (which is, of course, not true, as it is not the tool but the people who have the final say of how their designs look like).

Granted, some of Nielsen's views are controversial, but two years after publication, his book is still one of the best publications on the subject. And, even though many designers using Flash reject his push for simplicity, they cannot ignore the fact, that Macromedia entered into a "strategic relationship" with Nielsen Norman Group (founded by Jakob Nielsen) in order to develop design guidelines for Flash application usability. And there is hardly a more qualified person for the job than Nielsen, who helped some of the most popular sites solve their usability problems. Nielsen Norman Group's clients include BBC, CMP Media, Financial Times, National Geographic,, Motley Fool, Google, Adobe, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Netscape, Oracle, Sun, US Navy and many more. This makes Nielsen one of the most influential people on the Web.

Surprisingly, as time goes by, "Designing Web Usability" becomes more useful for Flash designers. This is because we use Flash to deliver content that used to be delivered in HTML. Whole sites are being developed in Flash, and books like this one, or "Skip Intro" are needed to teach tens of thousands of designers how to make sites useable. This becomes an even more important issue, with recently introduced legislation that requires site owners to provide a way for the visually impaired to access their sites.

The book does not come with a CD-ROM, because it doesn't need one. It is filled with color screen dumps, and it's layout follows what Jakob preaches. You may not like what Nielsen has to say about web design, but you will return to this book many times.
Get the book now from Amazon

Copyright 2002 Jacek Artymiak


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