UX Book Reviews: October 2010

Book Reviews

Johnny's reviews of great UX books.

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This month we’ve reviewed books on many different topics. We move from sustainable design to undercover UX and iPhone design.

Undercover User Experience Design

Type: practical
Edited by: James Box / Cennydd Bowles
Publishers: New Riders
ISBN: 978-0321719904
Details: 192 pages, paperback

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According to it’s cover this book will learn you ‘how to do great UX work with tiny budgets, no time and limited support’. In about 180 pages it will introduce you to the world of UX design and tries to can help you create better products in a company that has never even heard of the term UX.

The moment you open the book you get all sorts of practical tips and methods to create better products. There are a total of seven chapters: ‘exploring the problem’, ‘generating ideas’, ‘making it real’, ‘refining your solution’, ‘working with’ and ‘where next’. Each chapter shortly introduces the theme and gives you mainly hands-on advice on how to do stuff. This ranges from the creation of low cost personas to making good sketches and doing simple usability testing. The explanations are very clear and to-the-point, don’t expect extensive explanations, variations and cases to dive into a subject.

All this is really interesting for people who are new to the field or who want to introduce UX into their organization. All the information in the book isn’t new, it has been collected and written in a very accessible way. The thing I found most interesting was the ‘generating ideas’ chapter and the explanation on how you should deal with different disciplines in a company. In that part of the book you can feel the true experience of the writers, where they show that you shouldnt just work from your UX point of view, but should also understand where the other people (programmers, designers, CEOs, marketers, etc) come from and how you could best work with thim.

As a conclusion I would say this is a very interesting read for people who are new to the field. It gives a short and simple explanation on every step of the process and great tips on how to do your job. For experienced UX designers there shouldn’t be any surprises in the book.

Product Design in the Sustainable Era

Type: case studies
Edited by: Dalcacio Reis / Julius Wiedemann
Publishers: Taschen
ISBN: 978-3-8365-2093-5
Details: 440 pages, flexicover

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Over the past years sustainable design has been a hot topic. As designers we want to have to have the feeling we design for the good of the planet. In this book Taschen has tried to create a good overview of the different products and initiatives worldwide to create a more environmentally friendly world. This has resulted in a beautifully designed book full of cases ranging from cradle-to-cradle shoes to new ways of generating energy.

I found it a very inspiring book, but at the same time it shows the hype around sustainable design. There are many great examples that would inspire every designer, but the book also contains several examples that have nothing to do with the core beliefs behind sustainable design. In any case it’s a good overview of the current status of sustainable design.

The Internet Case Study Book

Type: case studies
Edited by: Rob Ford / Julius Wiedemann
Publishers: Taschen
ISBN: 978-3-8365-1895-6
Details: 384 pages, hardcover

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Usually I’m not a big fan of books that show collections of websites. Most of the times the examples are already outdated a week before the book goes to print. But for some reason I kept turning pages in this one. In total ‘The Internet Case Study Book’ has 60 different cases in four different categories: campaigns, e-commerce, promotional, social media and corporate. Each case has four short paragraphs describing the brief, the challenge, the solution and finally the result. This simple approach really helps to get a quick overview of the project and to get inspired for your own projects. I must admit that sometimes I felt the descriptions were a bit short (and personally I always want to know what went wrong), but still it’s a great overview with inspiring examples. If you want to buy the book do so within half a year, otherwise the cases are too old.

Designing the iPhone User Experience

Type: practical
Edited by: Suzanne Ginsburgy
Publishers: Addison-Wesley
ISBN: 978-0321699435
Details: 336 pages, paperback

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In the book ‘Designing the iPhone User Experience’ Suzanne Ginsburg explains in an easy way how to design intuitive, easy, powerful and useful apps for the IPhone. The purpose of this book is to provide a clear foundation to interaction and visual designers when starting to design iPhone apps. But also for developers the book is interesting to get an understanding of user needs, planning, visualization and usability-testing skills.

Suzanne describes a user-centered approach to sketching and prototyping. The following subjects are treated; overview of the iPhone hardware and iOS application styles, step-by-step advice on how to conduct upfront user research, tips for analyzing user research and evaluating the competition and an explanation how to develop and refine your app concept.

The book is clearly written and provides many interesting examples and case studies – interviews with superb iPhone designers and developers, providing first-hand insights into the thought processes behind their apps.

It is a pity that the parts about user research, generating ideas, prototyping and usability testing are very general. As almost everybody that will this book, has already been in design processes, the principles explained are most probably already known to them. What is interesting though, is what aspects differentiate this topic for the iPhone app in specific. This interesting, relatively ‘new’, context of the iPhone could be elaborated more. Moreover, the summaries at the end of each chapter are not very substantial. So reading the summary, doesn’t provide you the knowledge of the chapter.

(review Designing the iPhone User Experience by Rose-Anne Dottinga)

Johnny Holland

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