Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Designing Interactions

An informative book review ...

"A few weeks ago Bill Moggridge’s new book Designing Interactions arrived at my house. It’s an enormous (more than 700 pages) and nicely designed book. It feels fresh and broad; there are interesting sections on mobile devices, patterns of technology adoption, play, service design, and critical design. Moggridge’s basic premise that good interaction design is the result of learning about people and prototyping solutions is very solid, and his examples illustrate it well. I think if you do this kind of work, you’ll especially enjoy the chapters on the mouse, the menu, or the Palm Pilot, and seeing lots of sketches and diagrams and screenshots. It’s fascinating to see things like Bill Atkinson’s sketches for the Apple Lisa’s menu system. Those glimpses into the field’s past make Designing Interactions an important book, the first attempt at a real cultural history of the field of interaction design, from its beginnings with Douglas Englebart and Xerox PARC, through current work designing for ubiquitous computing. Unfortunately, Designing Interactions suffers from some very serious flaws, and I hope that all readers will bring an especially critical eye to it.

In this review, I’ll focus on a few things in particular that bother me about the book and Moggridge’s approach to the material. First, he overuses (and misuses) the interview format, without providing authenticating evidence for the stories told by his subjects. Long stretches of the book feel like little more than mindless design-star fan journalism about the authors pals and their companies. Finally, Moggridge never misses an opportunity to use his own company, IDEO, in a case study, or one of its employees in an interview. But by failing to make that vested interest clear, Moggridge turns the book into a marketing project. Bruce Sterling’s jacket blurb describes Designing Interactions as “a labor of love.” In this case, love is, if not blind, than pretty nearsighted. The book really should at the very least have the word “IDEO” in its title.

His story or history?
Designing Interactions reminds me of The Art of Unix Programming (a surprisingly fascinating and readable book, by the way). Like that book, Designing Interactions is a really both a cultural and technological history, made up of case studies, interviews, and technical material. There’s a variety of content, including some hand-drawn diagrams and a photo essay or two. But it’s those interviews that really make up a big part of the text. Moggridge excerpts his interviews at length, sometimes running more than a page of small text. (The complete video interviews come on a DVD with the book and are at the book’s website.)"    (Continued via heyblog)    [Usability Resources]

Designing Interactions

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