Designing Web Usability:
The Practice of Simplicity

Jakob Nielsen

New Riders 1999
A book review by Danny Yee © 2000
Designing Web Usability is the most important book on web publishing yet to appear. While it contains little that is novel, at least to those who have read Nielsen's web site and other such resources, the lessons it teaches have not reached widely enough: there are all too many web sites that are a continual source of frustration and stress to users. (Nielsen begins by explaining why he chose to write a printed book on web design: for comprehensive, sustained arguments online reading is not yet as effective as print. Another consideration is that, going by the utter un-usability of so many corporate web sites, there must be many web site managers who don't actually use the web: some of these might read a printed volume.)

At the core of Designing Web Usability, and two thirds of it by page-count, are chapters on page, content, and site design. The first covers cross-platform design, the importance of minimising response times, how to use links effectively, and the advantages and disadvantages of style-sheets and frames. The second covers writing for the web, micro-content (titles, headlines and so forth), and multimedia content (images, animation, audio, and video). The last covers navigation, home pages ("splash screens must die"), search support, and "URL design". Other chapters cover special usability issues with intranets, accessibility for users with disabilities, and internationalisation and localisation; in a final chapter Nielsen takes a stab at predicting the future of the Web.

Because Designing Web Usability addresses underlying ideas rather than specific technologies, it will date far less rapidly than most books on web publishing. It doesn't contain as much as its four hundred pages would suggest, since a lot of space is used for screen shots of example web pages. (These are not, however, gratuitous, as is often the case with books on HTML.) Web publishing is very different to paper publishing, but Designing Web Usability is a high quality, usable book — only a few minor things got past the proof-readers.

March 2000

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- Jakob Nielsen - Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed
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- books about publishing
- books published by New Riders
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%T Designing Web Usability
%S The Practice of Simplicity
%A Nielsen, Jakob
%I New Riders
%D 1999
%O paperback, index
%G ISBN 156205810X
%P xiii,417pp