Jakob Nielsen’s Desigining Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity hails back to the distant landscape of 2000. There are more modern books on usability (and more modern publications by Jakob) but it’s well worth a read and still relevant and correct. Many of the guidelines and tips throughout Designing Web Usability are nowdays acceptable norms rather than big news but that’s where the strength of this book lays – in its fundamental truths.
I’ll be honest and say the circa 2000 issues in the book did make it hard to justify reading. Further, I’ve read a number of usability books in the past and followed a lot of Jakob’s reports over the last four years as they came out. But what did give me a new found respect for the man is that in 2000 he was putting forward separation of content from presentation, the use of only external stylesheets, accessibility, and other methodologies which I would define as the use of web standards contemporary best practice. Given that even now only one percent of web developers appear to understand how (and more importantly why) to implement these aspects in designs I think Jakob Nielsen identified himself at the time as an impressively forward thinking professional.
This book covers the design of pages, content, sites, intranets and extranets, accessibility and the internationalisation / localisation of content. Lots of pre-circa 2000 juicy screenshots that could make a designer either blush (for being there) or chuckle.
While there are newer and more contemporary books out there on usability I wouldn’t underestimate the expertise of Jakob Nielsen. The website says it “is the number-one best-selling book ever about user interfaces, with more than a quarter million copies in print in 22 languages”. That’s impressive. Designing Web Usability is about the what of good websites.
The follow on to this book, titled Prioritizing Web Usability by Nielsen and Loranger (published in 2006), is about the how of good websites.