Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide is a report that every person involved in Web design, commerce, or online marketing will want to have. This book is, undoubtedly, the most comprehensive data demonstrating how Web sites actually work when users need specific answers. Researched and compiled by User Interface Engineering, the results are written in an easy to understand style, illustrating the need to make Web sites useful, not complicated.
Features: Based on an extensive study of actual users—not theory, not graphic design principles, and not new tricks to make a "cool" Web sites. Demonstrates how people actually navigate and extract information on Web sites.
Offers guidance for evaluating and improving the usability of Web sites.
Review By: Greg Turner 07/08/2010This book follows from a scientific study of eleven Web sites and comprises two parts. Part one explains in detail how the study was conducted, provides a breakdown of questions asked and how they were asked, provides test subject types, and discusses some of the findings made during the testing. After testing, the sites were ranked by a numerical accounting of their usability, and placed on a scale. Part two includes the study’s “scrapbook” which details problems discovered on each individual site.
The book provides a basic foundation of usability information, including definitions, reasoning, and methodologies. Testers, developers, and requirements people could benefit from the extensive discussions of usability test methodologies. As the formality of scientific study is not routinely found in Web testing, the discussions of methodologies were very informative, particularly of how to properly interact with test subjects.
Although released in 1999, the study is based on Web sites from around 1997, and therefore it doesn’t cover items related to expectations of privacy and security which are far more important issues today than in 1997. Though the book is already dated, most of the basic principles will hold true for many years.
I found the book to be very informative, but basic. As more of a developer than tester, I found myself seeking more tips on improving usability rather than a discussion of the test methodologies used to learn about usability. However, given the lack of scientifically conducted studies of Web site usability, I believe that testers, and perhaps developers and requirements architects, will find the discussions extremely beneficial–particularly if they have the resources available to conduct similar testing.
The second half of the book, the “study scrapbook,” discussed in detail what was learned on each site, but didn’t necessarily spell out what a better solution would be. Because usability has been a concern at my company for a number of years, I hoped to take usability to a new level. The “scrapbook” provided me with the kinds of information that I was looking for. Even without explicit solutions, exposing problem areas on test sites, coupled with my usability experience, prompted a myriad of possible solutions.
I would recommend this book, particularly for those entering the Web today. It will provide a solid foundation of the basics, and more important, add knowledge to the pool of usability information, and hopefully improve usability in practice.