About Face

About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, 4th edition
By Cooper, Alan

Book – 2014

Many years ago in the mid-’90s, Alan Cooper wrote the first edition of this leading UI design book. Its revelation for me was the concept of automatic save. When you are using, say, a word processor, you normally want to save before closing. So that is automatic, and if you want otherwise then you have to ask for it via some menu or control. There are never confirmation dialogs saying “are you sure you want to …”. Instead, there is an undo function which can reverse any action when you want to go back.

Cooper got his ideas while designing the original Microsoft VB. But ten years later, users of Word still need to save their work manually. It brings to mind a horror story I witnessed when an inexperienced senior was closing a word processor and asking with concern why it was asking ‘do you want to replace your existing file’. For someone who does not know the difference between volatile memory and permanent storage, this is a hurdle.

Of course, Google got the right idea, so you don’t have to tell Doc to save your work.

About Face discusses all aspects of interaction design in great detail. It has advanced with the times and covers touch-screen tablet devices. But in a world which is rapidly moving to do everything in the browser, perhaps Cooper should devote more of the book to web apps. There is a great but short section on web search UI which I find to be the high point of the book.

This edition, at 650 color pages, is much bigger than the original. That is good because there is so much to discuss.

Dont Make Me Think

Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug – 2014

Design your site to be usable. This book will convince you in 5 minutes how critical it is to design for usability, and in another 55 minutes (or so) you will know how to do it. It is a pleasure to read the book, so 60 minutes will fly by.

Krug originally wrote this in 2000, and warmed it over in 2006. Now in 2014 he has added a look at mobile clients, and how that affects usability.