Books 2008 #4 Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design

Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design Another excellent book. The ideas outlined here would be of benefit to any web application. Small or large, the idea of paring down features to only those “necessary for the users to complete the activity the site is meant to support” is a noble one. I’ve, more often than I’m comfortable admitting, worked on projects where feature bloat ruled the day and I can tell you from bitter experience, giving in to “nice to have” features can be the absolute death of a project. The biggest disaster I’ve ever worked on was mostly sunk by feature bloat and lack of focus*.

There’s plenty to take away from this well written examination of what’s right and wrong with modern web application design. I read this on vacation and while I wouldn’t have traded the hammock I was on or the excellent wine I was drinking for anything, some small part of me thought “wow, I’d love to be able to put some of this stuff to work immediately.”

One thing I don’t fully agree with is Hoekman’s admonition, later on in the book, to throw away specifications and requirement documents. While that might work for the less complication applications he outlines in his book (excellent applications all), there’s no way to do, for example, a detailed financial services application without relying on solid documentation. When there are complicated business rules in place throwing a developer and a designer in a room with a white board and having them “work it out” just isn’t going to cut it.

Still, with a smaller scale, less structured application, the techniques and approaches in Designing the Obvious will be of benefit to anyone working in field of web application design and development. This is a recommended read.

*there was also a painful stab in the chest by a web application framework from hell to help that project into its grave.

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