50 websites deconstructed
User level: Novice upwards
This practical book helps readers understand the theory of usability by deconstructing the homepages of 50 websites. The analysis includes eBay and Yahoo plus a smattering of well-run small companies and not-for-profit institutions (‘even the best sites are riddled with design elements that hurt users’).
Jakob Nielsen, principal of Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g), has been called ‘the world’s leading expert on web usability’ (US News & World Report), while Marie Tahir, Director of Strategy at NN/g, is an expert in user profiling.
The book focuses on homepages as being ‘the most valuable real estate in the world’, but many of the principles apply to other types of page too.
There are two parts. First is the theory needed to set the scene. This takes the form of 113 specific guidelines (e.g. ‘Avoid pop-up windows’, ‘Don’t offer a guestbook sign in for business sites’, ‘Align decimal points when showing columns of numbers’) and statistics about user expectations of a homepage. The thinking is based on Jakob’s Law of the Internet User Experience which states that ‘Users spend most of their time on other websites’. They have therefore accumulated a mental model of the way homepages are supposed to look. This section includes advice on page layout, placement of logos, navigation, underlining links, and so on, with a 1 to 3-star rating as to how important the recommendation is.
The second part deconstructs 50 individual homepages and highlights usability problems.
Each entry includes a screenshot of the homepage, with the page opposite giving a summary of the company’s purpose and whether the homepage reflects that. An annotated screenshot then highlights up to 30 points of detail.
Although it’s a dense read, this book will do more to sharpen your understanding of how to design your homepage than any other.