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About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design

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An excellent book for anyone who wants to understand why so much software is so poorly designed -- and an even better book for anyone who wants to DO something about the problem. Must reading (and doing!) for programmers of any level.


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An excellent book for anyone who wants to understand why so much software is so poorly designed -- and an even better book for anyone who wants to DO something about the problem. Must reading (and doing!) for programmers of any level.

30 review for About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    About Face is widely considered one of the most important books ever written about Interaction Design: the design of software, websites, mobile apps, or any other digitally-mediated experience. Alan Cooper pioneered key concepts like designing for intermediates, goal-directed design, and personas which have become cornerstones of this burgeoning profession. In these moments of the book, Cooper is nothing short of genius. He literally helped invent a new field, consequently changing how we all use About Face is widely considered one of the most important books ever written about Interaction Design: the design of software, websites, mobile apps, or any other digitally-mediated experience. Alan Cooper pioneered key concepts like designing for intermediates, goal-directed design, and personas which have become cornerstones of this burgeoning profession. In these moments of the book, Cooper is nothing short of genius. He literally helped invent a new field, consequently changing how we all use computers. Along with Steve Jobs, the people at Xerox PARC, and a few others, Alan Cooper has had a profound effect on making computers more human and delightful. So why did I give this book a measly three stars? For a few reasons: 1) It was painfully self-redundant. Easily 200 of its 600 pages were almost word-for-word repeats of content found earlier in the book. With very strict editing, this book could have been spectacular. Instead, it felt sprawling and obnoxiously repetitive, especially in picture captions which were often re-written versions of the text preceding the picture. 2) Cooper dwells on a few topics for way too long, specifically the downside of error messages. After reading this book, you would think that error messages are Adolf Hitler reincarnated. A handful of pages about this topic would have sufficed, but instead there were easily a hundred. 3) The book focused too much on inventing wacky buzzwords. There are easily 200 Cooper-invented terms in About Face describing minor interface elements, some of which were downright ridiculous. After he rambled on about so called "butcons" there was a section about "radio combutcons." The excessive naming was distracting and totally unnecessary. About Face has the makings of a truly great book, it just needs a strong editor to rip it from Alan Cooper's clutches and whittle it down by a few hundred pages.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nathanael Coyne

    This book is pretty much the bible of interaction design. Covers project process, Goal-Directed Design, persona development and everything about windows, dialogs, controls, user feedback. Very comprehensive and well-presented. You can probably get away with reading the first third of it and then using the rest for references as needed for when implementing drag-and-drop interactions etc.

  3. 5 out of 5

    John

    I know the content is supposed to be amazing, but I was so bored with page after page of text and theory so I couldn't finish the book. I know the content is supposed to be amazing, but I was so bored with page after page of text and theory so I couldn't finish the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emanuel Serbanoiu

    It took me a while to read this book but felt that it propelled me to the next level (even after 6 years of being a designer). The most important lessons for me were about personas, pliancy, idioms, and excise. Throughout the book, I found lots of great explanations and many great points of view that will come in handy for me in the future. I would recommend this to any designer with more than 2 years in the field. Definitely a book that is worth reviewing once in a while.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Alan Cooper’s About Face is one of those pillars of UI/UX design, the reading of which is a rite of passage. I figured few books would be more appropriate as a capstone to my long list of design-oriented reads. It is nearly an institution in and of itself. Last night I turned the final page and ticked a pretty big 560-page book off of my reading list. Full review at http://livollmers.net/index.php/2008/... Alan Cooper’s About Face is one of those pillars of UI/UX design, the reading of which is a rite of passage. I figured few books would be more appropriate as a capstone to my long list of design-oriented reads. It is nearly an institution in and of itself. Last night I turned the final page and ticked a pretty big 560-page book off of my reading list. Full review at http://livollmers.net/index.php/2008/...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adam Wiggins

    Unbelievably thorough examination of all aspects of how to design digital products, mainly software. It's a bit of a slog, reading like a textbook. But well-worth it if you do IxD for a living. I've not found any other text that manages to work through all the core skills of this field. Unbelievably thorough examination of all aspects of how to design digital products, mainly software. It's a bit of a slog, reading like a textbook. But well-worth it if you do IxD for a living. I've not found any other text that manages to work through all the core skills of this field.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hiran Venugopalan

    A must-read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    A foundational read for learning what exactly makes digital products/software "user-friendly" -- not only for designers. Can be dense, but the information is worthwhile; it's interesting to see how this edition has aged, but many of its principles (e.g. direct manipulation, goal-directed design, the power of idioms over metaphors & implementation-based design, etc.) continue to hold true for intuitive software UI design. A foundational read for learning what exactly makes digital products/software "user-friendly" -- not only for designers. Can be dense, but the information is worthwhile; it's interesting to see how this edition has aged, but many of its principles (e.g. direct manipulation, goal-directed design, the power of idioms over metaphors & implementation-based design, etc.) continue to hold true for intuitive software UI design.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tom Panning

    This is an opinionated "bible" or "end-all be-all" style of book. It covers everything from the methods that you use in research and design to chapters on the specifics of dialogs and menus vs. toolbars. Full disclosure: I tend to prefer books that focus on a particular topic and are shorter. Alan Cooper professes his opinions unapologetically, but that's to be expected. If you're not familiar with his opinions, start with The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy This is an opinionated "bible" or "end-all be-all" style of book. It covers everything from the methods that you use in research and design to chapters on the specifics of dialogs and menus vs. toolbars. Full disclosure: I tend to prefer books that focus on a particular topic and are shorter. Alan Cooper professes his opinions unapologetically, but that's to be expected. If you're not familiar with his opinions, start with The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity. He makes plenty of valid points and I think he's more right than wrong, but if you're looking for a book that weighs pros and cons, look elsewhere. Cooper tells you what he thinks and you can take it or leave it. First, there's a lot of good information in this book and if you were only allowed to read one book on interaction design, this would be a reasonable choice. But the writing is pretty dense which combines with the length to make a book that's hard to read straight through. It's broken into three distinct parts so it might be better to consider it three books bound together. And ultimately, that's my real complaint with this book: there's two or three books in here that could have been best-in-class on their own with more editing and refining. All told, this book deserves a place on your bookshelf because it's hard to find a better book on some of its topics. But unfortunately, it left me wishing someone would write those better books.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chiel

    Very comprehensive book about the world of interaction design. Wether your new or an veteran this talks about do's, donts and why of interaction design. Furthermore Cooper also talks about how to approach and describe your user (i.e. Personas) and how to define your user's need and wants in order to translate that to your designs. Last but certainly not least: the design principles. Throughout the book Cooper notes design principles which are very usefull. Very comprehensive book about the world of interaction design. Wether your new or an veteran this talks about do's, donts and why of interaction design. Furthermore Cooper also talks about how to approach and describe your user (i.e. Personas) and how to define your user's need and wants in order to translate that to your designs. Last but certainly not least: the design principles. Throughout the book Cooper notes design principles which are very usefull.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gerard

    One of the few books I know that explains how to do a UI right instead of spending all its time whining about what is wrong with UIs. Worked with Coopers on a UI and they do excellent work. On page 446/574.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Autumn Kotsiuba

    “Significant change must be significantly better.” Full disclosure, I skimmed. Some good ideas in here, and I've heard that Cooper's work really laid the foundation for tech design. There are shorter, more consumable books out now, but it was neat to interact with an "original." “Significant change must be significantly better.” Full disclosure, I skimmed. Some good ideas in here, and I've heard that Cooper's work really laid the foundation for tech design. There are shorter, more consumable books out now, but it was neat to interact with an "original."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Cooper certainly is one of the quintessential authors on Interaction Design and this is must-read for designers of all walks. It's an interesting read, but just a tad long-winded at times. Cooper certainly is one of the quintessential authors on Interaction Design and this is must-read for designers of all walks. It's an interesting read, but just a tad long-winded at times.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Califano

    Huge, weighty, and quite philisophical book on UX practices. Tough to sink teeth into, but great for keeping on desk for reference.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    Essential. I use this every single day of my working life.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michel Kuik

    Must-have for interaction designers. Don't read it from a-z, but use it as guide you pick up once in a while. Must-have for interaction designers. Don't read it from a-z, but use it as guide you pick up once in a while.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kars

    Not an easy read but I can't think of any books that go this deep into the details of interface design. Cooper's concept of 'excise' (superfluous interaction) has always stuck with me. Not an easy read but I can't think of any books that go this deep into the details of interface design. Cooper's concept of 'excise' (superfluous interaction) has always stuck with me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nicolae Racovita

    I think of it as the bible of Interaction Design - good information abstracted to set of rules, but missing the scientific evidence of reasons.

  19. 4 out of 5

    min

    Definitely need this book when I'm designing some GUI thingys down the road .. Great primer on ideal workflow and frame of mind when it comes to good design though :) Definitely need this book when I'm designing some GUI thingys down the road .. Great primer on ideal workflow and frame of mind when it comes to good design though :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Blake Williford

    A staple but very dated in my opinion. Read "Elements of UX" by Jesse James Garrett for a more timeless approach to designing user experiences. A staple but very dated in my opinion. Read "Elements of UX" by Jesse James Garrett for a more timeless approach to designing user experiences.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Summa Smiff

    The main thesis of the book, which is that the ultimate success of interaction design is how well it helps users accomplish their goals, is both obviously true but also lacking in many other design books. About Face 3 has several chapters on how to research and identify user goals, explaining the persona model better than most. The rest of the book covers how to create interfaces for those personas, avoiding long lectures on typography in favor of thinking of the design holistically from the per The main thesis of the book, which is that the ultimate success of interaction design is how well it helps users accomplish their goals, is both obviously true but also lacking in many other design books. About Face 3 has several chapters on how to research and identify user goals, explaining the persona model better than most. The rest of the book covers how to create interfaces for those personas, avoiding long lectures on typography in favor of thinking of the design holistically from the perspective of a new, intermediate, or expert user. The book does a good job approaching design from a broad perspective as well as giving helpful advice for small granular details such as the usefulness of a toolbar versus a menu.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    This book needs to take its own advice and design a better interaction with the book itself. Heading levels weren't distinct enough for me, there was a reference to a previous cover, and the tone/writing was somewhat uneven but mostly ... curmudgeonly. I can't tell you how many people asked me what "Abo UTF Ace" even was just from glancing at the cover. However, the authors do make up for it with lots of valuable information - this is a pretty great introduction to Interaction Design; aside from This book needs to take its own advice and design a better interaction with the book itself. Heading levels weren't distinct enough for me, there was a reference to a previous cover, and the tone/writing was somewhat uneven but mostly ... curmudgeonly. I can't tell you how many people asked me what "Abo UTF Ace" even was just from glancing at the cover. However, the authors do make up for it with lots of valuable information - this is a pretty great introduction to Interaction Design; aside from the problems noted above, I only with it gave more evidence for the advice & choices within its pages beyond the experiential - show me some studies, tell my why this works cognitively better than that, etc.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Oliver

    I totally agree that this book is too long. The same information would have fitted on far less pages. And it is no easy read also. It took me quite some time to get through it (originally the 2nd edition to be precise). But nevertheless it is an extremely valuable source of information and inspiration concerning user experience design. First of all this is the goal directed design process that is explained in detail. But on top of that are many other interesting topics that are discussed, like i I totally agree that this book is too long. The same information would have fitted on far less pages. And it is no easy read also. It took me quite some time to get through it (originally the 2nd edition to be precise). But nevertheless it is an extremely valuable source of information and inspiration concerning user experience design. First of all this is the goal directed design process that is explained in detail. But on top of that are many other interesting topics that are discussed, like implementation model vs. mental model, mapping or excise (what Cooper calls everything that does not help the user reach her goal). For me it’s the most comprehensive book on the topic that I know and I often find myself returning to it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    I wish I had read this sooner in my career. For the design beginner, it spells everything out and gives you everything you need to know. I feel like reading this book first might have prevented me from wasting iterations on correcting design errors. For those who have already read a design book or two, be prepared to skim. As far as content, it's very rich. The presentation could have gone so much further than long paragraphs and included more diagrams and examples, especially later in the book. I wish I had read this sooner in my career. For the design beginner, it spells everything out and gives you everything you need to know. I feel like reading this book first might have prevented me from wasting iterations on correcting design errors. For those who have already read a design book or two, be prepared to skim. As far as content, it's very rich. The presentation could have gone so much further than long paragraphs and included more diagrams and examples, especially later in the book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mythreyi

    It's one of those good index books. You pick up for reference and it's has a thought starter on any topic that might cross your mind. I wish it had more examples of application but it's a good book to read early on. Especially as a non designer peeking into the subject matter. It's not too creative like some design books get. As someone who like th HCI Way of looking at interaction, this is a nice in between. It's one of those good index books. You pick up for reference and it's has a thought starter on any topic that might cross your mind. I wish it had more examples of application but it's a good book to read early on. Especially as a non designer peeking into the subject matter. It's not too creative like some design books get. As someone who like th HCI Way of looking at interaction, this is a nice in between.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mr

    didn't even finish it completely. I read like 70% of it. It has a few nuggest but LOTS of kak. It's really not what I expected. Starting to think that non-fiction non-biography books that are over 200 pages long are often poorly written. Eish.. Ai. I expected more after reading The Inmates Are Running The Asylum didn't even finish it completely. I read like 70% of it. It has a few nuggest but LOTS of kak. It's really not what I expected. Starting to think that non-fiction non-biography books that are over 200 pages long are often poorly written. Eish.. Ai. I expected more after reading The Inmates Are Running The Asylum

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cedd

    This has some useful high level points in it, but for me it would be better if it was about half the size. A lot of the pages are taken up describing well known idioms, and less with proposing examples of how to do things well. It is primarily aimed at big budget software, with a large design team (as opposed to the small team that I work in, that has no designers).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Arnold Petersen

    Welcome update to the edition 2 with much fresher views and of course revised topics with more insights however the second half of the book does not maintain the same quality and substance. I personally felt that it's lacking references to some of the rules discussed in the book, I will however recommend to any UX practitioner as it's a must read to be honest. Welcome update to the edition 2 with much fresher views and of course revised topics with more insights however the second half of the book does not maintain the same quality and substance. I personally felt that it's lacking references to some of the rules discussed in the book, I will however recommend to any UX practitioner as it's a must read to be honest.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    My first book that I decided to buy to learn more about UX and interaction design. Thought it may make you want to sleep when you read it, but I got a lot of knowledge and overview as well as detailed explanation. It’s very helpful for a beginner in the field like me! I just hope there will be more examples or case studies.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Iván Frantar

    A bible you should keep handy if you are a product designer/manager/owner or developer building digital products. Never read this book cover to cover, but I had it for years and always come to it for some nuggets of expertise.

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