Book Review: Designing the Obvious

I recently came a across a mention online of Designing the Obvious by Robert Hoekman Jr. Being a cheapskate as usual, I checked the local library’s catalog for the book, and checked it out the next time I went there.

Designing the Obvious is a guide to designing highly usable web applications, featuring the idea that simplicity is the key to usability. It covers plenty of bases, and is very thorough with its advice and explanations. The book is easy to understand, and is a good read for anyone who develops web applications, or is involved in the design of any sort of website.

There are plenty of examples, in the form of diagrams screen shots from websites, to illustrate the points, and overall the book strikes me as being very blog-like. The writing style, the assortment of interesting pictures, and the way the type is set all remind me of a blog.

Being an advocate of simplicity in interface design, the author has included several examples from Apple and Google, of course, as well as 37Signals’ Backpack. I found his theory that instead of using a modal prompt when deleting data, you should instead delete it immediately and offer to undo it after (as seen in GMail), particularly enlightening.

Mr. Hoekman strikes me as being very knowledgeable in the area of web app design, and I found myself agreeing with a good portion of his points, and I think I learned a few things as I read the book. If you do a bit of web design, whether it’s related to web apps or not, I would recommend giving the book a try.