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Eight Favorite Usability Books
Article by John
Below is a list of my
favorite usability, human factors, and web design books. If I did not own
these books, I would buy them. I find myself going back to these books
again and again. A couple of them have been replaced because I've worn
them out. These are the books that I recommend to other people all of the
time. Simply put, if I did not have them available to reference and read,
I would feel like my library was not complete.
The Psychology of Everyday Things by Don Norman Amazon
This easy-to-read book is awesome. It is so much fun. If you want to get people jazzed up about human factors and usability, this is the book you need. Don's book will help you understand why simple design is critical in your life. He uses real examples, with great pictures and descriptions. You will recognize the problems he describes and you might even laugh as you read his book. If you want to explain usability to your friends or parents, get them this book. If you want to help designers and developers understand the general idea of usability, get this book. I highly recommend it, although it doesn't directly relate to web design or the internet.
Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug Amazon
This is probably the most simple, concise book on usability you will find. However, just because it is short and easy-to-read, don't think it lacks value. This is my favorite book on web usability. If you don't have time to dig through all of the usability research, but you want the knowledge, get Steve's book. You'll be able to read it in just a few hours. I can honestly say that this is required reading for any person interested in web design.
Designing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen
Jakob's book is full of excellent ideas, and he backs up most of what he says with his research. This is probably my second favorite book on web usability. He covers content design, page design, site design, and accessibility. The index is great and the color screenshots are excellent. If I am stuck on something, I can usually get back on track with this book. In some ways, this is a stronger version of Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think. I'd get that first, and then pick up Designing Web Usability.
Usability Engineering by Jakob Nielsen Amazon
If you really want to dig into usability, you'll need this book. In this important book, Jakob digs into usability methods. You will get an excellent background in usability; learn how to do it yourself to some degree. Unlike most other design books, you will be able to apply the ideas from this book immediately. I think I can say that this is still the most important usability book you can buy, although it is nearly 10 years old.
Web ReDesign - Workflow That Works by Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler
When I first looked at this book, I thought it sucked. I didn't buy it. However, New Riders Publishing decided to send me a review copy. I almost threw it into my I'll Never Read This Book heap. But, I read through it and realized that it is the best book on the web design process available today. Unfortunately, the title is dead wrong; the book isn't really about re-design and it isn't about workflow. Instead, Kelly and Emily cover all the angles: project management, project development, usability testing, standards, creative design, strategy, and more. They repeatedly emphasize usability; excellent! They also give you checklists, useful tips, and expert interviews. Whether you have a large site or small, whether you are creating a new site or revamping your old site, this is a good book to have. It definitely deserves more praise by more people.
Cost-Justifying Usability by Randolph Bias and Deborah Mayhew Amazon
I'll keep this simple. People who do usability do a terrible job selling the benefits of usability. If you need to explain why usability is great, pass along a copy of The Psychology of Everyday Things. Then, follow up with facts, figures, and details from
Cost-Justifying Usability. You be able to pump up almost any proposal with real data and a solid economic justification of usability. Are you really serious about usability? Get this book.
Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 2nd Edition by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville
I really liked the first edition of this book but I love the second edition. This is the most important book on information architecture. If that is your bag, you simply must get this book. End of story. However, if you are mainly concerned with web usability, this is still an excellent reference book. You'll learn all about web site structure, effective navigation, proper use of labels, and a lot more. Peter and Lou also dip into information architecture justification and business strategy. You might find the case studies useful too. For what it is worth,
I recently interviewed these guys.
Submit Now - Designing Persuasive Web Site by Andrew Chak Amazon
I've been saying for years that web design, usability, and marketing need to come together. Usability books tend to miss the point about marketing, and, of course, web marketing books miss the point about usability. They were oceans apart. Submit Now bridges the gap. This is the absolute best book on usability combined with web marketing. Unfortunately, this book is a sleeper; not enough people know about it. That is a shame because Andrew's book will help so many people understand how to improve their e-commerce web sites while simultaneously improving usability.
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