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About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design

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The three editions of "About Face" have shaped and evolved the landscape of interaction design, bringing it from the research labs into every day lexicon and development. The fourth edition of this groundbreaking book will be no less game changing.

The 4th edition of "About Face "is the most significant revision yet, with a new unique design and 4-color interior, dedicated web site, and classroom ancillaries. The revision takes into account the worldwide shift to smartphones and tablets on the consumer and enterprise level and how designing for these devices is not as easy as just downsizing a website.

The new edition includes: Dynamic 4-color interiorUpdates to reflect new thinking in interface, interaction and product design methodsNew content relevant to the popularization of mobile platforms and differing screen sizesEvolving design in platforms such as consumer electronics and other ubiquitous devicesUpdated examples to reflect current state-of-the-art interfaces and up to date case studiesUpdates to Cooper's immensely popular Goal-Directed Design methodologyFull training and classroom materials for corporate trainings or university textsDedicated website created by Cooper to complement the examples and instruction in the book

720 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1995

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About the author

Alan Cooper

84 books97 followers

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5 stars
1,387 (39%)
4 stars
1,260 (36%)
3 stars
593 (17%)
2 stars
158 (4%)
1 star
79 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 103 reviews
Profile Image for Ryan.
130 reviews28 followers
May 2, 2012
About Face is widely considered one of the most important books ever written about Interaction Design: the design of software, websites, mobile apps, or any other digitally-mediated experience.

Alan Cooper pioneered key concepts like designing for intermediates, goal-directed design, and personas which have become cornerstones of this burgeoning profession. In these moments of the book, Cooper is nothing short of genius. He literally helped invent a new field, consequently changing how we all use computers. Along with Steve Jobs, the people at Xerox PARC, and a few others, Alan Cooper has had a profound effect on making computers more human and delightful.

So why did I give this book a measly three stars? For a few reasons:

1) It was painfully self-redundant. Easily 200 of its 600 pages were almost word-for-word repeats of content found earlier in the book. With very strict editing, this book could have been spectacular. Instead, it felt sprawling and obnoxiously repetitive, especially in picture captions which were often re-written versions of the text preceding the picture.

2) Cooper dwells on a few topics for way too long, specifically the downside of error messages. After reading this book, you would think that error messages are Adolf Hitler reincarnated. A handful of pages about this topic would have sufficed, but instead there were easily a hundred.

3) The book focused too much on inventing wacky buzzwords. There are easily 200 Cooper-invented terms in About Face describing minor interface elements, some of which were downright ridiculous. After he rambled on about so called "butcons" there was a section about "radio combutcons." The excessive naming was distracting and totally unnecessary.

About Face has the makings of a truly great book, it just needs a strong editor to rip it from Alan Cooper's clutches and whittle it down by a few hundred pages.
Profile Image for Nathanael Coyne.
157 reviews49 followers
February 25, 2010
This book is pretty much the bible of interaction design. Covers project process, Goal-Directed Design, persona development and everything about windows, dialogs, controls, user feedback. Very comprehensive and well-presented. You can probably get away with reading the first third of it and then using the rest for references as needed for when implementing drag-and-drop interactions etc.
53 reviews1 follower
February 7, 2012
I know the content is supposed to be amazing, but I was so bored with page after page of text and theory so I couldn't finish the book.
Profile Image for Emanuel Serbanoiu.
23 reviews7 followers
February 13, 2020
It took me a while to read this book but felt that it propelled me to the next level (even after 6 years of being a designer). The most important lessons for me were about personas, pliancy, idioms, and excise. Throughout the book, I found lots of great explanations and many great points of view that will come in handy for me in the future.

I would recommend this to any designer with more than 2 years in the field.

Definitely a book that is worth reviewing once in a while.
Profile Image for Alex.
28 reviews9 followers
August 3, 2008
Alan Cooper’s About Face is one of those pillars of UI/UX design, the reading of which is a rite of passage. I figured few books would be more appropriate as a capstone to my long list of design-oriented reads. It is nearly an institution in and of itself. Last night I turned the final page and ticked a pretty big 560-page book off of my reading list.

Full review at http://livollmers.net/index.php/2008/...
Profile Image for Adam Wiggins.
251 reviews97 followers
March 20, 2016
Unbelievably thorough examination of all aspects of how to design digital products, mainly software.

It's a bit of a slog, reading like a textbook. But well-worth it if you do IxD for a living. I've not found any other text that manages to work through all the core skills of this field.
Profile Image for Maggie.
48 reviews5 followers
December 17, 2020
A foundational read for learning what exactly makes digital products/software "user-friendly" -- not only for designers. Can be dense, but the information is worthwhile; it's interesting to see how this edition has aged, but many of its principles (e.g. direct manipulation, goal-directed design, the power of idioms over metaphors & implementation-based design, etc.) continue to hold true for intuitive software UI design.
Profile Image for Tom Panning.
44 reviews8 followers
February 23, 2012
This is an opinionated "bible" or "end-all be-all" style of book. It covers everything from the methods that you use in research and design to chapters on the specifics of dialogs and menus vs. toolbars. Full disclosure: I tend to prefer books that focus on a particular topic and are shorter.

Alan Cooper professes his opinions unapologetically, but that's to be expected. If you're not familiar with his opinions, start with The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity. He makes plenty of valid points and I think he's more right than wrong, but if you're looking for a book that weighs pros and cons, look elsewhere. Cooper tells you what he thinks and you can take it or leave it.

First, there's a lot of good information in this book and if you were only allowed to read one book on interaction design, this would be a reasonable choice. But the writing is pretty dense which combines with the length to make a book that's hard to read straight through. It's broken into three distinct parts so it might be better to consider it three books bound together.

And ultimately, that's my real complaint with this book: there's two or three books in here that could have been best-in-class on their own with more editing and refining. All told, this book deserves a place on your bookshelf because it's hard to find a better book on some of its topics. But unfortunately, it left me wishing someone would write those better books.
Profile Image for Chiel.
26 reviews5 followers
September 28, 2009
Very comprehensive book about the world of interaction design. Wether your new or an veteran this talks about do's, donts and why of interaction design.

Furthermore Cooper also talks about how to approach and describe your user (i.e. Personas) and how to define your user's need and wants in order to translate that to your designs.

Last but certainly not least: the design principles. Throughout the book Cooper notes design principles which are very usefull.
3 reviews
January 29, 2008
One of the few books I know that explains how to do a UI right instead of spending all its time whining about what is wrong with UIs. Worked with Coopers on a UI and they do excellent work. On page 446/574.
Profile Image for Autumn Kotsiuba.
609 reviews12 followers
October 5, 2020
“Significant change must be significantly better.”

Full disclosure, I skimmed. Some good ideas in here, and I've heard that Cooper's work really laid the foundation for tech design. There are shorter, more consumable books out now, but it was neat to interact with an "original."
13 reviews11 followers
May 27, 2008
Cooper certainly is one of the quintessential authors on Interaction Design and this is must-read for designers of all walks. It's an interesting read, but just a tad long-winded at times.
Profile Image for Nicole Califano.
8 reviews8 followers
June 7, 2008
Huge, weighty, and quite philisophical book on UX practices. Tough to sink teeth into, but great for keeping on desk for reference.
Profile Image for Kris.
26 reviews2 followers
December 22, 2008
Essential. I use this every single day of my working life.
Profile Image for Michel Kuik.
3 reviews
August 8, 2010
Must-have for interaction designers. Don't read it from a-z, but use it as guide you pick up once in a while.
Profile Image for Kars.
363 reviews42 followers
February 14, 2016
Not an easy read but I can't think of any books that go this deep into the details of interface design. Cooper's concept of 'excise' (superfluous interaction) has always stuck with me.
January 18, 2016
I think of it as the bible of Interaction Design - good information abstracted to set of rules, but missing the scientific evidence of reasons.
Profile Image for min.
18 reviews33 followers
June 28, 2016
Definitely need this book when I'm designing some GUI thingys down the road .. Great primer on ideal workflow and frame of mind when it comes to good design though :)
Profile Image for Blake Williford.
20 reviews3 followers
April 26, 2020
A staple but very dated in my opinion. Read "Elements of UX" by Jesse James Garrett for a more timeless approach to designing user experiences.
Profile Image for Summa Smiff.
19 reviews
August 13, 2018
The main thesis of the book, which is that the ultimate success of interaction design is how well it helps users accomplish their goals, is both obviously true but also lacking in many other design books. About Face 3 has several chapters on how to research and identify user goals, explaining the persona model better than most. The rest of the book covers how to create interfaces for those personas, avoiding long lectures on typography in favor of thinking of the design holistically from the perspective of a new, intermediate, or expert user.
The book does a good job approaching design from a broad perspective as well as giving helpful advice for small granular details such as the usefulness of a toolbar versus a menu.
Profile Image for Mandy.
76 reviews
June 11, 2019
This book needs to take its own advice and design a better interaction with the book itself. Heading levels weren't distinct enough for me, there was a reference to a previous cover, and the tone/writing was somewhat uneven but mostly ... curmudgeonly. I can't tell you how many people asked me what "Abo UTF Ace" even was just from glancing at the cover. However, the authors do make up for it with lots of valuable information - this is a pretty great introduction to Interaction Design; aside from the problems noted above, I only with it gave more evidence for the advice & choices within its pages beyond the experiential - show me some studies, tell my why this works cognitively better than that, etc.
Profile Image for Oliver.
6 reviews
January 8, 2021
I totally agree that this book is too long. The same information would have fitted on far less pages. And it is no easy read also. It took me quite some time to get through it (originally the 2nd edition to be precise). But nevertheless it is an extremely valuable source of information and inspiration concerning user experience design. First of all this is the goal directed design process that is explained in detail. But on top of that are many other interesting topics that are discussed, like implementation model vs. mental model, mapping or excise (what Cooper calls everything that does not help the user reach her goal).
For me it’s the most comprehensive book on the topic that I know and I often find myself returning to it.
Profile Image for Jay.
26 reviews64 followers
September 4, 2021
I wish I had read this sooner in my career. For the design beginner, it spells everything out and gives you everything you need to know. I feel like reading this book first might have prevented me from wasting iterations on correcting design errors.

For those who have already read a design book or two, be prepared to skim.

As far as content, it's very rich.

The presentation could have gone so much further than long paragraphs and included more diagrams and examples, especially later in the book.
Profile Image for Mythreyi.
106 reviews4 followers
August 6, 2020
It's one of those good index books. You pick up for reference and it's has a thought starter on any topic that might cross your mind.

I wish it had more examples of application but it's a good book to read early on. Especially as a non designer peeking into the subject matter.

It's not too creative like some design books get. As someone who like th HCI Way of looking at interaction, this is a nice in between.
28 reviews9 followers
February 22, 2017
didn't even finish it completely. I read like 70% of it. It has a few nuggest but LOTS of kak. It's really not what I expected. Starting to think that non-fiction non-biography books that are over 200 pages long are often poorly written. Eish.. Ai. I expected more after reading The Inmates Are Running The Asylum
16 reviews3 followers
February 19, 2018
This has some useful high level points in it, but for me it would be better if it was about half the size. A lot of the pages are taken up describing well known idioms, and less with proposing examples of how to do things well.

It is primarily aimed at big budget software, with a large design team (as opposed to the small team that I work in, that has no designers).
15 reviews
October 12, 2019
Welcome update to the edition 2 with much fresher views and of course revised topics with more insights however the second half of the book does not maintain the same quality and substance. I personally felt that it's lacking references to some of the rules discussed in the book, I will however recommend to any UX practitioner as it's a must read to be honest.
14 reviews1 follower
February 1, 2020
1)Модель реализации -как работает программа под капотом.
Ментальная модель -как пользователь воспринимает свои задачи и как программа помогает ему в этом.
Модель представления - как преподносят работу программы пользователю.
Основная задача проектировщика- максимально приблизить модель представления к ментальной модели пользователя.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 103 reviews

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