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Review Review: Designing Web Navigation

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by tripwire45, Oct 24, 2007.

  1. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

    Author: James Kalbach
    Format: Paperback, 456 pages
    Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Inc. (June 1, 2007)
    ISBN-10: 0596528108
    ISBN-13: 978-0596528102

    Review by James Pyles
    October 24, 2007

    The key to Kalbach's expertise in writing this book is his current role as a Human Factors Engineer at LexisNexis. For those of you who don't know, Human Factors or Usability is the study of how well web users with varying degrees of experience and skill are able to maneuver through your website. While you may think you've designed and launched a really cool website or the average home user, if my Mother can't figure out how to get from the home page to the product page she wants to look at or can't find her way from the product page to where she needs to go to either download a demo or get to the shopping cart, you're website turns out not looking so cool.

    You may not end up crying in your milk and cookies if this is just a site you built to mess around with, but if you're being paid to design a website, it's different. If you've been hired to design a site that's easy to use and with an intuitive navigation scheme and it doesn't end up that way when tested, you're going to be out of a job and your rep as a web designer is trashed.

    Don't worry. James Kalbach wrote "Designing Web Navigation" to save your "butt". Well, not really, but if you take website navigation for granted and you need to get your act together, it'll end up doing that for you. Yeah, I know...creating a site navigation scheme isn't cool or sexy, but it is important for the reasons I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago. If web design is your job (or you want it to be) and you take your job seriously (and you'd better because if you don't, you can be replaced), you want to read this book.

    Book design is another issue, though. I can't say I was crazy about the pale-blue headers and text against a white page. It makes the table of contents particularly hard to read and while major headers have a bolder font and thus are more readable, the minor headers and some text really made me have to squint to read. Some of the diagrams have the same color scheme which is also annoying. Note to O'Reilly editorial staff...change your color scheme for the second edition.

    Fortunately, everything else about this book more than makes up for a few bad color decisions. The actual screenshots of the various sample websites are in full color which gives you that "I'm there" feeling. There are question sections after each chapter that would make the book good for teaching (though too few questions in my opinion) plus a further readings section and references to a lot of really helpful sites.

    Kalbach's book is well written, organized, and complete. He really drills down into the subject for you and leaves nothing to chance or guesswork. Like I said, this may not the the most obvious subject for a book by O'Reilly, but if you are a serious designer and you take no aspect of the sites you develop as trivial or unimportant, you really want to study the material presented here.

    For the newbies out there, if web design is your dream or the casual hobby you want to turn into a career, make sure you have a sufficient background in HTML and CSS at the minimum before tackling this text. The book isn't going to hold your hand if you don't know the difference between a header tag and how to style font with CSS. Do your homework and succeed in mastering basic webpage design before moving on to this book. When you're ready to proceed though, you'll need it.
    Certifications: A+ and Network+

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