All Things Design Discover design books, websites and more! <![CDATA[ Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]>
However, like what the mighty Madpenguin has said in his review, Amazon isn't the ideal place to post reviews.  If you're a guy like me, who often thinks a little differently from the status quo (especially with anime), you're gonna be attacked for not liking something that everyone else does.  These fascist little twerps will slander you for being "contrarian" and a "troll," even if you articulate and analyze really well in your reviews.

Amazon is a great place to shop, but if you're interested in posting reviews, you're better off posting reviews on Epinions and Lunch instead.]]> Thu, 27 Dec 2012 05:19:24 +0000
<![CDATA[Fast Company Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Tue, 30 Mar 2010 15:34:19 +0000 <![CDATA[Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks Quick Tip by DavGarcia]]> Mon, 22 Mar 2010 18:15:45 +0000 <![CDATA[ Don't Make Me (er... My Thumbs) Think]]> As my headline suggests, Josh Clark brought the fundamental concepts of Steve Krug to bear on the mobile space. Not only did he show how to make intuitive interfaces for the mind, but given the mobile medium, how to make them fluid and unobtrusive for the fingers.

It was an inspiring talk. Definitely, one of my favorite from SXSW, and I feel sorry for all those suckers who went to the Twitter session.

I could outline all his points here, but see for yourself. Here's a link to his presentation:

]]> Thu, 18 Mar 2010 02:48:45 +0000
<![CDATA[Tapworthy: Designing iPhone Interfaces for Delight and Usability (presentation) Quick Tip by jhimwich]]> Headline: Don't Make Me (er... My Thumbs) Think]]> Thu, 18 Mar 2010 02:36:44 +0000 <![CDATA[ Common Sense Design for the Web]]> Who is this resource appropriate for?

This book is great for anyone who is just learning UX and basic design principles or even for the more seasoned designer.  If you are looking to get into interface design, this book is a great resource of examples and best practices.

What other resources are similar?

Any of the 37siganls books are centered around common sense design and business processes.

Overall thoughts? Worth a read or not?

This book is a really quick read and can actually be used more for reference than an actual "sit down read".  The best part about this book is that even though it's a few years old, it still has relevant writings on the subject of rock solid web design.  From screenshots to simple iconography, this books makes it easy to grasp the basic principles and apply them in your own work.


]]> Mon, 15 Mar 2010 01:35:09 +0000
<![CDATA[ Fast Company]]>

Fast Company is a solid magazine that leans nicely on the business of design rather than specific tactics.  The publication's website is fresh, up to date, and all over the place in a good way.  It's a solid read for UXA's looking to spread their mental wings and break from the minutia of day-to-day tactics.

]]> Wed, 10 Mar 2010 01:23:30 +0000
<![CDATA[ Amazon is OK but check woot everyday]]> every day. Most of the offerings are not for me but there are some amazing deals. I just wish they would do away with the goofy BS and go right to the product description.]]> Thu, 20 Aug 2009 02:23:08 +0000 <![CDATA[ A Fantastic Place to Shop But Aside From That...]]>  I really enjoy the place.  I showed up to Amazon in September of 2000.  My first review was of a strategy guide.  It's still there.  The horrible paragraph of a review... the type of review I'd later come to hate.  I didn't actually make my first transaction from Amazon until about 2006.  Plenty here have commented on how Amazon is a great place to shop.  And I won't fault them.  It is a marvelous place to shop.  You can find just about anything there.  The way the site has expanded, even since 2000 is amazing.  It used to be that there was a limit.  But now it is almost limitless.

Yet there's so much more to than simply shopping there.  Many who have been at Lunch were probably at Amazon first.  If that's the case you know Amazon was about reviewing as much as it was about shopping.  You also know that there were many discussions to get involved in as well.  This is a huge side of Amazon that I don't think should be ignored.  We'll talk about the shopping, but let's not forget that is also a community.  It's as a community where many of Amazon's problems come into account.

So let's talk about the shopping.  It's never been easier.  You can buy things, used and new.  This means you can also sell what you've got on Amazon if need be.  While some people have had problems with shipping and whatnot, you can usually bet that it's something you can get worked out.  Either with the individual seller or Amazon themselves.  And if you get a seller who has managed to scam your or something, you can easily work with Amazon to get your money back.  There's also a seller feedback system where you not only rate the transaction, but the seller as well.  And people take their seller feedback very seriously.  When you rate them they're looking.  Some even pride themselves on it.  You can see things in their seller profile such as "100% Approval Rating".  They're proud of that, and you can tell that some sellers really don't like doing a disservice.  Of course, not all fumbled transactions can be blamed on individual sellers or Amazon for that matters.  Sometimes stuff just gets lost in the mail.  Other times you might receive it late.  If you ever question what's happening with what you ordered, you can always contact the seller or Amazon.

Amazon is also in several other countries in case you're into importing.  I've commonly ordered things from and have even posted reviews there.  So there's nothing out of reach when you go shopping on Amazon.

However, even with shopping there is a bit of a problem with that.  The first is buying stuff used.  When it's at a good price, it's great.  But sometimes people are price-gouging.  I'm a self-proclaimed gamer.  A gamer who also happens to enjoy collecting strategy guides.  So I also review a lot of them.  Check out the Versus Books Final Fantasy VII: Ultimate Guide on Amazon.  It's a rare strategy guide.  When it was on the shelf it cost ten dollars.  As of writing this review... it cost $100 to buy a used one.  This is ridiculous.  But Amazon doesn't limit how much you can charge for such things.  And the rarer it is, the bigger price people tack on it.  Rare books, movies and whatnot are expected to cost a lot of money.... but a strategy guide?  You think that's bad, look at some of used prices for the Final Fantasy VII video game.  It quickly skyrockets... on the first page.  It's a little crazy sometimes.  Shortly after Michael Jackson passed away a used copy of the "Thriller" album went from costing $1.99 to costing you $32.00.  The price has since come down, but the point is that people are sometimes greedy and if you want to see greed at its best, find a rare item on Amazon used.  It'll cost you a load of money and often times the seller doesn't provide it in the best condition.  If I'm paying over $100 for a video game that was just recently twenty bucks... I don't want just "good" condition, it better be "Like New."  Unfortunately you can't see pictures of what it is your ordering from any particular seller.  And a term such as "Good" means something different.  For one person "Good" condition means a book looks like it's never been opened.  For another "Good" condition might simply mean, "It has all the pages."  That means the spine could be broken or coffee stains could be on the pages.  "Good" is such a subjective term when we're talking about the condition of items.  Especially items we can't see for ourselves.  We have to put our trust in the seller.  I once ordered a book where the person put down it was in "Good" condition.  When I got it... pages were falling out and the spine was badly damaged.  That's not "Good" condition, but to the seller it was (either that or I was scammed, and I'm guessing I was scammed).

Then there's Amazon's review system, which used to be a lot of fun until they implimented this new review system.  Every time you look at a product on Amazon, you have a chance to see reviews for it.  Amazon doesn't screen these reviews or even make sure they all correspond to their terms of use.  I do the best I can with each review, but sometimes it can be depressing to see that the review which is only two sentences long with five mispelled words, all lower case letters (OR ALL CAPS), with little grammar structure stole the spotlight from a well thought out review.  I've often looked at some spotlight reviews and thought to myself, "How did this get spotlight?"  Because sometimes you look at the review just quite literally says, "dis iz teh kewlest ting EVAR!" and it has spotlight with 2 of 2 votes.  I'm pretty sure I could find a better review while sitting in the stall of a public restroom (and it would begin by saying, "Here I sit broken hearted...")

Since Amazon has gone to a newer system, it's a lot harder for your review to get votes... at least positive votes.  Because now every reviewer has "fans" and Amazon hasn't been clear on whether or not fan votes get counted.  It's great to get rid of the campaign voting, but it sort of worked in reverse.  They got rid of positive review campaign voting... at the expense of doing nothing about the negative review campaigning.  It's great that they fixed how the rankings work, at least.  Before it used to be that you could hold a top spot by writing a large breath of reviews (even if they weren't that helpful like Harriest Klausner).  Now your helpful review percentage actually means something.  But now getting your review to get some attention is hard.  If you make it into the spotlight you can only pray that you don't get a non-helpful vote.  Otherwise you're out.  Amazon has said that this is to give new reviewers a chance to move up and establish themselves.  It was never one establishing himself in the first place that was the problem. 

Beyond that, Amazon hardly enforces their terms of service.  You're supposed to write about the product, yet you can always find dozens of reviews that do no such thing.  Almost any review you find under the latest Ann Coulter or Al Franken novel is usually not about their particular book, but about one's political position.  It's a review forum... not a message board.  This is against their terms of service, but they don't do anything about it.  Other times they have a tendency to just simply not post your review at all.  On many occassions I've had to contact Amazon to find out why my review wasn't posted.  Other times I've been checking my profile to find out that Amazon deleted a review or two without my knowledge.  When I contacted them on this they told me they didn't know what happened.  The review was reposted, sure, but it's the fact that it was taken down and they didn't know why in the first place.  In short, there are quite a few technical glitches that happen within Amazon's system.  If it were only a couple of times I might ignore it.  But it happens quite often.  

There are over 5 million people on  And when Amazon discovered they had a huge community, even of people who got addicted to just browsing reviews, they decided to expand.  There are now several forums, and every product has its own forum as well.  And, to top it all off, every single review now has a comment system.  What could be better, right?  Well, the fact that the internet is not always the best place for discussion.  And no place shows that better than some of the Amazon discussion boards.  Just about any discussion can devolve into a bunch of squawking birds.  As a guy who typically reviews video games, I often browse the video game forums.  Some of the discussions are enough to make you claw your eyes out.  Almost every discussion devolves into which system is better, or why one system sucks.  I've never seen a discussion under video games where they didn't devolve into six year olds.  And video games is just the tip of the iceberg.  Wait until you discuss politics!  Now talking politics online just sucks on general principle.  It's why I don't do it very much.  But on Amazon you get the feeling World War III could start any minute (and how bad would it be to see World War III start because of some stupid discussion on Amazon that got off topic anyway?).  You want one of the worst of the worst?  Go to the discussion boards on those Twilight books.  

The community on is a headache.  There are very few who can be civil human beings.  One is able to vote on discussions.  Each time someone posts you can vote whether or not it adds to the discussion.  Even this has it's setbacks, which is the same as the reviews.  People often vote based on whether or not they agree with you.  Get enough "NO" votes on adding to the discussion and your post gets hidden.  You can click to show, at least.  It's not so much that your post gets hidden, as it is that a lot of people have their post hidden because a lot of people didn't agree with it.  Most times, however, you might agree, perhaps that post shouldn't have been shown, but it can feel like you're being provoked to look at what was posted.  

The individual comments on reviews are just as bad.  While a review is often able to get some good feedback, there is still the fact that some people just can't go without insulting.  I've been insulted on amazon a lot... but criticized very little.  People are so nitpicky, but they take certain things to the extreme.  You can write one sentence criticizing someone's favorite video game, book or movie etc., and the rest of your review can be praise, but they'll focus on that one sentence and post death threats in your comments section.  I overexaggerate a little.  It's not that you'll get flooded with negative comments... but they'll be the ones you remember.  And, of course, online it's easy for people to hide behind an identity.  When they say, "In real life you'd never say that..." it's true... because in real life if you said some of the things you've seen in online message boards you'd probably get knocked out... shot... maimed... the list goes on and on.  In spite of these problems Amazon doesn't move.  Some of what's posted in comments does violate their terms of service.  Well, what good are terms of service if you don't... enforce them?

Even worse is that Amazon doesn't give any reviewer a way to regulate his or her comments.  I get a lot of nasty comments on Amazon.  I'd sure like to be able to disable them or something, but you can't.  You can "Ignore this customer," but that is about as useful as a parasol in a hurricane.  If people can't be respectful about commenting then I, as the author of a review, should be able to restrict comments if I so choose.  If Myspace and Facebook can let people have control over their own business... why can't Amazon? is a great place to shop.  It's still an okay place to review, but it has only become a worse online community.  Between all the people who have to throw around insults and can't discuss things like adults, it's a wonder why anyone really wants to participate in any discussion there.  It's a great place to shop but it is overall a terrible place to have discussion.  Many people just aren't friendly or respectful.  I love shopping there and I love reviewing, but not much of anything else.]]> Fri, 3 Jul 2009 16:55:28 +0000
<![CDATA[ My favorite online place to shop]]>
I realize now that I spent over $2,500 last year on, which doesn't sound like much but covers several hundred purchases. It's unusual for me to check the mail and not have an Amazon box waiting. I then resell books I've read on their Marketplace system (note: their selling fees are outrageous), and keep my mail man busy with a constant ebb and flow of boxes. The only time I ever had to return a defective product (a kitchen blender), the returns process couldn't have been easier - in about 5 clicks, I had a return mail voucher in my hand and scheduled a pickup from their carrier. I'd always worried about returns, but it's actually easier than going back to a store.

For full disclosure, they selected me for their Vine Program earlier this year, so I receive about 4 free products a month on the basis that I provide balanced and detailed reviews. This is, of course, the ultimate perk - but it's an effective way of getting a body of reviews prior to a product's release, and none of the Vine members I've seen are swayed by the free factor (actually, in many cases, they're harder on the products). Maybe could have a similar program one day. :-)

Outside of their retail business, even their elastic computing platform, Amazon EC2, works amazingly well. It's fascinating that they chose to open their infrastructure, thereby essentially creating the "cloud computing" model long before everyone else appeared. I've used EC2 in several projects, together with their payments platform and been very impressed (and so have my clients, hurray). One of these days, I'm going to buy a Kindle, but for everything else Amazon is a joy to use. I couldn't be happier.
]]> Tue, 23 Jun 2009 22:24:12 +0000
<![CDATA[ Addicted to Amazon]]>  If I'm on my computer, 95% of the time, I'm looking at Amazon, or if I'm not looking at Amazon, I just finished.  I started with books.  I've purchased dozens of books through Amazon.  They have a mind-boggling selection & you can get them for much, much less than at a regular book store (even with shipping costs included). 

Another great aspect is the customer reviews.  While not every item has been reviewed on Amazon, most of them have.  You can get an idea of how good the item is from other customers & after you receive the item, write your own review.  That's how I started writing reviews. 

It has a program that recommends items to you based on things you've purchased & rated.  You can also set up any number of wish lists to keep track of items you're interested in.  I have wish lists for books, movies, music, clothes, plants, & several other categories (& even subcategories).  

They have community forums available for every item, so that you can discuss them with other members.  There are the fun features Listmania & So You'd Like To Guide.  Listmania lets you compile a list of items that are related to each other (or not) & write a brief commentary on the items in the list.  It helps people find items they might be interested in.  The So You'd Like To Guide is also a list of items but requires a more detailed commentary. 

This is always the first place I look when I'm interested in something & more often than not I end up buying it through Amazon.  It sure beats getting in the car & driving 20-30 miles to the nearest Borders or Best Buy. 

]]> Mon, 18 May 2009 00:36:42 +0000
<![CDATA[ The original online retailer is still the best!]]>  since I got my very first computer back in 1997.   I have always found the product selection to be second to none, the prices to be reasonable and the service first-rate.  What's not to like?   While I still do enjoy shopping at brick and mortar stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble I find that more often than not I purchase my books and CD's from Amazon.  Even with the added cost of shipping the prices at Amazon are often better than those at the retail stores.  And let's face it.  Amazon carries just about every book, CD or DVD you would ever want.  Being a music collector I also appreciate the feature that allows you to take a look at upcoming CD releases.  This feature allows me to discover discs that I just might miss otherwise.

In addition, I find that when I am looking for some offbeat product I often ask myself  "I wonder if Amazon would have that?"  Recently, I was looking for an inexpensive knife sharpener.  Sure enough, Amazon had just the thing I was looking for at a price I was happy to pay.  This happens all the time.   Likewise, I have found that the service at is truly outstanding.  My purchases have always arrived on time and returns are quick and easy.  Jeff Bezos sure knew what he was doing when he founded back in 1994.  I can't imagine life without it.     Very highly recommended!]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2009 11:35:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2009 23:41:21 +0000 <![CDATA[ Why hit the malls when you can do all your shopping online at!]]> arichards

Why shop at you ask?
It makes shopping for gifts, so easy and fast.
Based in New York with cheap shipping that's short
No tax you will pay, free shipping:  2-days.
As a man who hates lines, the mall makes me whine.
I'd rather rest easy and have UPS bring me
the gifts I buy gladly for my friends and family.

Lots of reviews to help you figure what's good
You'll find the right price for the budget that's tight.
If your package gets jacked, don't worry so fast
Call Amazon quick and they'll refund with one-click.
Best deals in town, cheap deals all around.
No wonder their numbers have the frowns of stock holders
Turned from a frown to upside down.

]]> Mon, 29 Dec 2008 05:56:31 +0000
<![CDATA[ Its like an online Mall without the crowd and hard to find parking]]> Like the title says, Amazon is like an online mall. I've ordered everything from vitamins to japanese mangas from them before. In fact, I don't buy anything I don't need immediately from retail stores anymore. I've avoided all the best buys, targets, walmarts, etc. I love the convenience of just searching for it and have the item with descriptions and reviews pop up right in front of me. If I decide to purchase the item, I just click on the checkout button and pay with my credit card. Just wait a few days and voila, right in front of my doorsteps. But the best part about amazon is that the shipping's usually free(if you spend over 25 dollars) and there's no tax. I'm tired of paying taxes to the damn California government. As if they haven't taxed my income enough, they feel they need to milk me for another 8.25% (And I hear they're jacking that up again!!!). So glad there's online shops like amazon out there that I can use to avoid this stupid sales tax. Makes me feel like I'm giving the government the finger. But anyways, I love amazon just cause of convenience and free shipping/no tax. The only problem I have with amazon is that not all their items have free shipping and you have to spend up to 25.00 when there is. But thats still better than 99% of the other sites and 100% of any stores in CA.

So as long as Amazon doesn't build a distribution center in CA, I highly recommend everyone to buy from them. SCREW TAXES!!!

]]> Sun, 7 Dec 2008 09:16:05 +0000
<![CDATA[ Essential Reading]]> Mon, 5 Feb 2007 12:00:00 +0000 <![CDATA[ A usability classic that *needs* to be read by web designers...]]>
Guiding Principles: Don't make me think!; How we really use the Web; Billboard Design 101; Animal, vegetable, or mineral?; Omit needless words
Things You Need To Get Right: Street signs and Breadcrumbs; The first step in recovery is admitting that the Home page is beyond your control
Making Sure You Got Them Right: "The Farmer and the Cowman Should Be Friends"; Usability testing on 10 cents a day
Larger Concerns And Outside Influences: Usability as common courtesy; Accessibility, Cascading Style Sheets; and you; Help! My boss wants me to ______.
Recommended Reading; Acknowledgments; Index

First off, Steve Krug does this web design stuff for a living. So rather than live in the world of theory and stopwatches, he's actually seen and built things that both work and fail. Because of that, his common sense experience shines through in his writing. Couple that with some unique page design and entertaining graphics, and it's hard to not sit through and read the book from end to end in one sitting. In fact, that's *exactly* what he designed the book for! For those of us who have been working on the web for a very long time, it's amazing how much we take for granted and just "assume". But the audience of our site(s) may be far less sophisticated, and the only way to understand usable web design is to see things through fresh eyes. His pragmatic approach to usability testing is refreshing, and is something that you can easily do on any project without having to spend thousands for a full-blown lab. Those findings will drive much of your design and help you to realize what works and what doesn't. And it will probably surprise you what falls into which areas...

This is one of those classic titles on a subject that needs to be read by everyone who makes their living doing web site design. There's absolutely no reason *not* to spend the three or so hours it will take to cover the material. I'm willing to bet it will make a positive impact on your design skills, and your audience will thank you profusely...]]> Sun, 30 Apr 2006 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Sequel (2nd ed) lives up to the original]]>
Steer back on track with the new edition of Krug's highly referenced book. Novice, intermediate, expert. No matter where you are on the scale, the book provides value to everyone - even managers, testers and project managers. Management likes to get their hands a little dirty when it comes to Web design projects and sharing this book may make the team's life easier.

Anyone involved with Web design or usability will recognize most, if not all, of the concepts covered in the book. What makes Don't Make Me Think usable is that it's a great checklist to ensure you've covered all the basics.

Krug provides many before and after examples to show how a few changes can enhance a Web site's usability. The illustrations reinforce the concepts covered as well as how visitors use and read a Web site.

As for the differences between the first and second editions, the second addition has three new chapters while usability testing shrinks from two chapters to one and with good reason.

The testing chapter breaks down the testing process into digestible steps; complete with a script between the tester (user) and the person watching the tester. Too often, we've seen testing get mangled or ignored. With this chapter, teams might find themselves empowered and eager to do testing.

The chapter on "Usability as common courtesy" explores how a site can make or break the "reservoir of goodwill" as Krug puts it. We arrive at a Web site with some goodwill and depending on how well the site meets or misses our needs; the goodwill level goes up or down. It may only take one mistake to propel visitors to flee.

Another new and short chapter is "Accessibility, Cascading Style Sheets and you." Krug captures what developers and designers hear when it comes to accessibility and addresses what they fear. He lists five things designers and developers can do make a site accessible without a lot of effort.

Finally, the book closes with "Help! My boss wants me to..." Krug has received plenty emails and questions on the topic to identify two questions that repeatedly come up. He provides email examples for free re-use, so no one has to explain it to the boss.

It only takes about two hours or a plane trip to read. The writing is conversational, clear and packs a punch with a dash of humor thrown in. Reading the book is not much different than reading fiction because it flows well and the information sinks in without much effort.

If you get this book and have the 1st edition, I recommend keeping both. You might find helpful stuff in the original material not found in the new edition.]]> Sat, 19 Nov 2005 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Excellent Introduction to Web Usability]]>
First of all, Krug deconstructs some of the sites we all know and use often, and he does so to help us see what we should be doing, as well as what we should not. I remember being especially impressed with his in-depth analysis of's navigation scheme (Chapter 6 - "Street Signs and Breadcrumbs"), from the use of tabs to the structure of the sub-navigation to color changes, he covers it all with a sense of humor, clear pictorial examples, a sharp eye for detail, and a clear concise explanation of what works and why. The reader is left with a greater understanding of not only why Amazon has been so successful, but also what choices they made that helped them find this solution.

The chapter on usability testing (Chapter 9 - "Usability Testing on 10 cents a day") was another fine example of clear communication and great ideas. Krug's breakdown of how the usability process should be conducted, and why it's needed in the first place, is concise and not preachy, as some usability authors are, and it really gives the reader an excellent idea of how they can fit usability into their process. This is probably the best way to "sell" usability to someone, and he does a great job of it.

The whole book is like that, really, but those chapters were highlights in the book for me. His ideas on simplicity of presentation and home page design were also well-taken, both as a designer and as someone who uses the web. Perhaps that is what makes his book so excellent, is that really, anyone could get something out of it. Whether it's the person who surfs the web now and again or the one who designs the pages for it or the one who's paying for the person to design pages for it, anyone could read this book and benefit from it, without having to wade through piles of needless verbage or proselytizing.

In the end, "Don't Make Me Think" seems to be an example of what it advises... it keeps things simple and accessible for a wide variety of people, and thereby makes itself useful as an excellent resource. The next time someone asks me what Web usability is all about, this is the first book I'll be recommending to them.]]> Wed, 23 Jun 2004 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Simple design principles that work]]> His other point about the necessity for usability testing is one that we all understand. However, the points about getting effective feedback using only a few people is so correct that it will foster disbelief in those who believe that you must spend big to get the best results. Such people ignore the simple rules of statistical sampling. In a population with a great deal of overlapping variation, the random choice of three or four will almost always provide a group covering much of the spectrum. The key to getting effective feedback about a site is not to sample large but to sample well and pay attention to what the subjects say.
All feedback must also be passed through a reality analysis filter as well. There as many shades of like and dislike concerning the style of a web page as there are opinions about economic policy. As the author so effectively points out, a user saying "I like it" can range from, "I like this feature and will not use the site without it" to "I like this feature but will happily use the site if it is not there." The first is of course the most serious, but it also must be exposed to a critical examination before being taken seriously to the point of inclusion.
In summarizing the content of this book, it may appear that I am killing it with faint praise when I say that the best way to describe it is that the advice is practical. However, in the emerging art form known as web design, that is as good as it can get.]]> Mon, 23 Oct 2000 12:00:00 +0000