A long time ago, I came across a story that my grandmother recommended. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I definitely hadn’t expected to read what wo...moreA long time ago, I came across a story that my grandmother recommended. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I definitely hadn’t expected to read what would become my favorite book. The story begins as many do, giving background on the area that will provide the setting for our tale, a history as reference, but quickly catches up with the main characters and the supporting cast. And we quickly learn of Johnny and Owen Meany, two friends who forge an eternal bond despite their obvious mismatches - physical, social, cultural and religious differences. And a tragic consequence of a baseball game.
GOD HAS TAKEN YOUR MOTHER. MY HANDS WERE THE INSTRUMENT. GOD HAS TAKEN MY HANDS. I AM GOD'S INSTRUMENT.
Big words for an eleven-year old who can almost sit in his friend's lap. But Owen is so self-assured that whether John believes him or not, he knows that there is something special about Owen. They all know that there is something different, but no one but Johnny knows how different - or special - Owen really is.
Through their years together, Owen grows closer to Johnny than a simple friend: He becomes a brother, an aide in the search for Johnny's unnamed father, an influence that will guide Johnny's throughout his life. From helping to search for the identity of Johnny's father to keeping him out of the Vietnam war, Owen has written the script for Johnny's life although Johnny never realizes it until the end of the story - only then does he know that Owen knew the script for his own life as well, but never revealed it.
Each action in his short life was a test to help him fulfill the one part of his destiny that he couldn't see - the final act. Johnny faithfully helps Owen in these tasks, things that he can't possibly know the reasons for. But to Owen, even Johnny's mother's death had a purpose. Everything had a purpose to Owen. Even if he was the only one to seem to know why things happened the way they did.
He had sunk the shot in under four seconds! "YOU SEE WHAT A LITTLE FAITH CAN DO?" said Owen Meany. The brain-damaged janitor was applauding. "SET THE CLOCK TO THREE SECONDS!" Owen told him. "Jesus Christ!" I said. "IF WE CAN DO IT IN UNDER FOUR SECONDS, WE CAN DO IT IN UNDER THREE," he said. "IT JUST TAKES A LITTLE MORE FAITH." "It takes more practice," I told him irritably. "FAITH TAKES PRACTICE," said Owen Meany
Irving uses Owen Meany to analyze faith, not only as in a single religion sense, spirituality as a whole. Despite everything that he endures, Owen Meany never loses his faith, his knowledge that he is an INSTRUMENT OF GOD, as he reminds Johnny on many occasions. It is this faith, through the threat of expulsion, through the lean & hard teen years, and into his enlistment into the army, that keeps Owen going, knowing that he has a mission that he has to fulfill, and not much time to do it. Along the way, he changes Johnny, filling him with confidence and self-reliance and even religion, infusing all of those characteristics that Owen has an abundance of and is loathe to leave behind.
Irving's narrative is uniquely captivating, as is the way that he chooses to depict characters, to breath life into them. Although Owen and Johnny are by far the main characters, they live among a expansive cast, who all have their own place in this tapestry. Owen touches everyone in some small way, leading up to his grand fulfillment.
A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my favorite books, and many other's that I have lent it to have found a fondness for the story as well. Owen grabs you the way he grabs the other characters in the novel. There is something so strong, so compelling about him that you have to find out what is going to happen.
"NOW I KNOW WHY YOU HAD TO BE HERE," Owen said to me. "DO YOU SEE WHY?" he asked me. "Yes," I said. "REMEMBER ALL OF OUR PRACTICING?" he asked me. "I remember," I said.
Good or bad, there aren't many books that I can use for my job that I go through quickly. There's just something about a limit to my absorption of inf...moreGood or bad, there aren't many books that I can use for my job that I go through quickly. There's just something about a limit to my absorption of information from these books that makes me take my time to get through them. However, that was not a problem with this book. Chock full of good information, Wroblewski manages to make it a quick, easy and yet informative read that only took me 2 days cover-to-cover.
For anyone that works on the web, forms are going to be something you deal with at one time or another. Usually, it's an experience in trying to get a form to do what YOU want it to do without regard to what the customer really wants or needs. However, I've been working on a bunch of projects recently where I really need to consider what the customer wants because one of our main goals is to get users to register, and I know how fickle they are when it comes to signing up for things. So, this book was not only interesting but very timely.
The best thing about the book is how well written it is. It's fairly simplistic in getting its point across, using a lot of illustrations to really drive home the points that the author is trying to get across. His tone and personality really mesh with how the book is presented, making it almost conversational as he explains some of the major concepts and then delves deeper into the best ways to develop and present forms.
In 14 chapters covering 226 pages, you get insights into: FORM STRUCTURE 1 - The Design of Forms 2 - Form Organization 3 - Path to Completion Form Elements 4 - Labels 5 - Input Fields 6 - Actions 7 - Help Text 8 - Errors and Success Form Interaction 9 - Inline Validation 10 - Unnecessary Inputs 11 - Additional Inputs 12 - Selection-Dependent Inputs 13 - Gradual Engagement 14 - What's Next?
Each chapter is relatively short (about 8 - 21 pages), but chock full of good advice. The succession will also help people trying to make their forms better work their way into more and more elaborate ways of creating 'bulletproof' forms. While you won't get as far in-depth as you might need on any given topic (I wanted to know more about error messaging, a personal anathema right now) or much about the coding of the pages, the principals and direction are dead on.
As I said, the language and personality Wroblewski - whose credentials include former Lead Usability Designer at eBay, founding member of Interaction Design Association (IxDA) and current "Senior Principal of Product Ideation and Design" at Yahoo! - create a more approachable presentation than you might think from someone who is one of the leaders in usable design. Less teacher and expert-on-high and more friendly "have a beer and chat" usability guru, I found it easy to get sucked into one chapter and not look back until 3 chapters later.
The examples he uses are also top-notch. Granted, he has a great body of work to pull from, but he does a great job of using examples from a breadth of industries and user types -- everything from Fortune 500 banks to e-commerce to new Web 2.0 social networks are represented, showing that good form design isn't for any single audience. The illustrations are also well-placed in showing principles and comparisons between different methods, adding to the ease with which someone can learn how to build the better form.
His information comes from more than just his own experiences, though. Several key studies provide relevant data that give credence to the ideas presented here. He's not afraid to say, 'It depends' when it does or to say that while something might be a bad idea for the most part (and here's way), that you couldn't make it work in some limited situation. He offers what seems to be the best way to accomplish certain things within a form, without putting his own personal feelings into it (well, for the most part - and when he does, it's always in a humorous manner).
And this is a book that anyone can use - not overlay-laden with technical terms, it's instead a thorough but amazingly understandable set of observations, suggestions and instructions on how to make the forms you are creating eminently more usable for all those involved - but most especially for the customers or visitors of the sites we're building. I needed it to answer a couple specific questions I had, but it quickly opened up other paths and solutions for me I wasn't yet considering.
At this point, I have to say that this is probably one of the best UX books I've read. It might not be as thorough and ground-breaking as Saffer's "Designing for Interaction" or Zeldman's "Designing with Web Standards", but for the specificity of the topic, it really does a great job a covering all of the bases and giving real-world, actionable examples and guidance. A great buy - and I think that if you order it direct from Rosenfield, you also get a PDF version (great because it's searchable -- but don't quote me on the fact that they are still giving it away).(less)