Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

After reading Susan Weinschenk’s 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, I found it a great reference for solving design problems. Susan breaks the book out into 10 self-contained sections that discuss the psychology of how people see, read, remember, think, and feel.

Susan does a great job of keeping each topic very digestible, with simple language, while still going deeper with a more scientific approach to things.

This book promises to answer questions every designer has had over the course of his or her career. I know I’ve asked a few of these questions myself:

  • What line length for text is the best?
  • Are some fonts better than others?
  • How can you predict the types of errors people will make?
  • What grabs and holds attention on a page or screen?

Each section is packed full of valuable information about how and why we humans think the way we do. One of my favorite sections was about how people see. A lot of the things in this section were basic reminders, like how red and blue colors are hard on the eyes when used together. Others were more in depth, like the various meanings of colors throughout different cultures, and how people see cues that tell them what to do with objects. The latter is especially important in user interface design, because if you want your user to click a button, it should look like a tactile button.

For web and user interface designers, I would recommend the sections about how people see, read, focus their attention, and decide. The takeaways from these sections were especially helpful in designing interfaces.

Overall I found this book a staple during my work day, I often refer to it when trying to solve an issue when I have to ask “what would the user do?” I would recommend this book to all of my fellow designer friends or to friends who are just interested in learning about how people interact with things in general.

You can purchase Susan’s book online at Peachpit in paperback and ebook format. Use our Peachpit User Group coupon code (UE-23AA-PEUF) to get 35% off your purchase.

XML Visual Quickstart Guide, 2nd Edition (Book Review)

Every once in awhile I enjoy just picking up a book on a topic I’m not so familiar with and discovering something new. The XML Visual QuickStart Guide series (second edition) is one I recently chose to work through. If you’re familiar with the Visual Quickstart Series then you probably know that the layout of the book is very straightforward, easy to read, and has great examples on nearly every page of the book. This title is no exception.

I was the most hands on with the first few chapters, creating XML and XSLT files and also working through the XQUERY examples. This gave me a great overview of XML, but it also left me with the awareness that there is so much more to explore.

The book continues to touch upon XSL-FO, DTDs, Schemas and Namespaces. I wasn’t quite ready to dive into these topics yet, but I noted that the overviews of these chapters were a nice quick reference if I needed it in the future.

The last few chapters go into more depth with XSLT 2.0, XPATH 2.0 and XQUERY 1.0. These are the newest W3C recommendations for these languages, but it’s noted at the beginning of the book that XSLT 1.0 and XPATH 1.0 are still in use, so the beginning examples are in the older versions.

The last chapter gives a flavor of XML in practice with very brief examples of Ajax, RSS, SOAP, and others. It’s just an overview of how powerful XML is and just how much it is used in conjunction with these other technologies. Of course several more volumes can be filled with these topics, so in my case, when I get the desire to learn something new again, at least I have a good list and jumping off point in the last chapter.

This book is recommended if you’re new to XML, or if you just want a basic reference to guide you along.

  • Title: XML: Visual QuickStart Guide (2nd Edition)
  • Author: Kevin Howard Goldberg
  • Publisher: Peachpit Press
  • ISBN: 0321559673
  • Date: 2008
  • Format: Softcover
  • Pages: 288
  • Cover: Price USD: $34.99

Book Review: The Principles of Beautiful Web Design

What I appreciate about Jason Beaird’s book The Principles of Beautiful Web Design is the simplicity with which he tackles each topic. He begins with the client interview, advising to focus on client needs and making them feel at ease.

It’s good advice to use a pad of paper instead of a laptop to record notes in a meeting, but the more important thing to derive is that body language is an important part of the trust-building process of a customer relationship.

Personally, I’m a big proponent of the Golden Ratio, so seeing a good basic explanation of it early in the work was a big plus. He then proceeded through all the basics of design in a very common-sense way.

The typography section appears the most information-packed, and seems obsessively-detailed compared to the rest of the sections. In fact, I could almost imagine the author talking about fonts like Bubba in Forrest Gump talked about shrimp!

Altogether, this book is a very good basic primer on design for the screen. It covers all the topics — though not comprehensively in any case — and presents them in a very understandable way.

The examples serve the text very well, and as you’d expect from a design book, everything looks good to fit its function. If I didn’t know all of this already, I’d be happy to have learned it from this guide.

I will recommend this book to any friends interested in the topic, as well as to patrons at the library I work at (which incidentally already has a copy!) who may happen to ask about the subject.