Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: The Windows Vista Book

I admit it, I’m one of the many XP users who didn’t jump to Vista when it was first announced. Stories of the interface, problems with printer compatibility, etc. made me not want to even think about changing operating systems. As a longtime PC user, having made the transition from DOS to the first Windows release years ago; I wasn’t looking forward to yet another big change in how I do my work.

Reading The Windows Vista Book gave me reason to finally make the switch to Vista. The book has 10 short chapters, easy-to-understand explanations of individual features, and a full-color screen shot highlighting the feature on each page.

It’s obvious the editor/author/publisher took care to make it simple to scan the book chapters. Each chapter has a different colored 1/2 inch border at the top of the page with the chapter title which makes it a breeze to distinguish chapters.

Want that tip on Security? Go the chapter with the purple bordered pages. How do I split clips for a movie? Go to the light green bordered pages.

I liked The Windows Vista Book since it provided a quick overview of the most helpful and exciting features in Vista, without taking up a lot of my time. The book begins with a summary of the 10 coolest features in Vista, which will get anyone moving away from XP.

The Vista photo managing features explained in Chapter 7, Getting the Most out of Your Photos, were a lifesaver for our family at a recent reunion. With a couple hundred photos shot the night before, I quickly organized, edited, and displayed a slideshow to the family the next morning.

A nice touch - tips are included throughout the chapters, at the bottom of pages, set off by a blue background box.

My only negative comment on The Windows Vista Book - the content on each page was one big paragraph, some paragraphs with more than 15 lines. It would have been an easier read to break some of the longer paragraphs into shorter paragraphs.

  • Title: The Windows Vista Book, first edition
  • Author: Matt Kloskowski and Kleber Stephenson
  • Publisher: Peachpit Press
  • ISBN: 0321509749
  • Date: 2008
  • Format: Softcover
  • Pages: 240
  • Cover Price: USD: $19.99

Book Review: Designing the Moment

Robert Hoekman Jr. second book, Designing the Moment, focuses on improving the online user experience. His approach is a practical one: design interfaces that respect users and allow them to feel in control.

Robert’s goal is to inspire the web professional to “improve the moment” for users. His storytelling method of explaining strategies makes the 220 page book a quick and fun read. The book contains 30 stories, based on his own experiences, of real-world applications and the step-by-step approach taken toward resolving design interaction issues.

The stories are concise, and offer a critique of each phase as changes are made to interfaces. Robert has a “think out loud” method which allows the reader to better understand the decision making process. Question steps along the way and don’t hesitate to make decisions you might change in the future. Designing interfaces is an iterative process.

Designing the Moment assumes the reader has knowledge of web design and development; it does not provide the specific code to implement the recommendations. As Robert mentions in the book,

This book is meant as a conversation starter. It’s meant to get you thinking.

The book is divided into seven parts:

  • Part 1: Getting Oriented - give a good first impression to the user
  • Part 2: Learning - make it easier for users to find their way around
  • Part 3: Searching - improve the search interface
  • Part 4: Diving In - great tips on improving forms and video controls
  • Part 5: Participating - focus on social media
  • Part 6: Managing Information - how to manage lots of information
  • Part 7: Moving On - the sign out process

My favorite story in the book is in Chapter 7, where Robert discusses the simplicity of clear labels. Make it simple for users to to use our applications, provide users with simple, easy to understand labels and instructions. On forms or applications, rather than displaying an error message that the user didn’t enter information in a valid format, add informative text that explain what is acceptable.

Designing the Moment is a wonderful resource for information architects, usability experts, interaction designers and developers. I highly recommend it!

Book Review: Web Accessiblity: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance

After reading the excellent review in Roger Johansson’s article about this new book, it took me a couple weeks, but I finally decided to buy it. I ordered the book from my local bookstore and two days later had the book in hand.

The book covers lots of material, and specifically details steps web developers can take in making their sites more accessible. I haven’t read the whole book yet, it’s over 500 pages! However, individual chapters can easily be read out of order. The chapter on Acrobat PDF was extensive and very detailed; I was able to follow it only because of the detailed research I did last December on the accessibility of Adobe Acrobat 7.0.

My only concerns about the book is the timeliness of the material. Much of the material is current for this year, but will quickly become outdated as new methods and technologies are introduced. For example, a reference is made to Kiko and Google Calendar. Kiko is no longer in business. The code for Kiko, a Web 2.0 online calendar application, was auctioned on eBay recently. It’s likely to remain on Google search for a while, but I wonder how many web developers are familiar with it.