Book Review: Defensive Design for the Web

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A book about building websites published in 2004 may seem so dated due to the blistering pace web technologies emerge right now. But Defensive Design for the Web by 37Signals is an exception.

I first got to know this book from a good friend, Greg Moreno, and he has mentioned the book numerous times during his talks for the World Usability Day events here in Manila. So when I had the chance to get a copy of the book, I didn’t have second thoughts.

The book is about improving your craft– it’s really not a “how to” book for beginners. The authors present the techniques similar to how a golf coach would tell you improve your stroke rather than telling you how to swing a golf club. Best practices are outlined as guidelines that cover topics like error handling, searches and online help.

The guidelines are pretty solid and are grounded on usability principles. For example, one usability tenet is making sure your system adapts to multiple levels of user skill. The book presents a guideline for searches: “Too many results? Offer features that let searchers refine and filter results.”

For designers who take web usability seriously, Defensive Design for the Web is a must have.