What makes contemporary computers and the Web different from previous media? Interactivity. Why does so much of today’s computing and web experience stink? Lousy interactivity. And what can you do about it, as a software developer, designer, or web professional? For starters, read Chris Crawford’s provocative book The Art of Interactive Design.
Crawford’s been thinking about these issues for decades, first as a game designer (his classic The Art of Computer Game Design was first published in 1982). This book integrates his best thinking into a unified set of rules and guidelines for effective interactive design.
Effective interactive design, Crawford says, begins by defining the “verbs”: the actions you want users to be able to perform. (Should a word processor allow users to stain their printouts with virtual tears?) Amongst Crawford’s several other guidelines: Don’t let technology drive your design; create systems that “listen” as well as they “talk,” ruthlessly controlling response time; don’t set up unrealistic expectations your software can’t meet; and don’t describe problems -- offer solutions.
Crawford illuminates each principle with examples of how to do it right -- and wrong. He skewers bad interactive design wherever he finds it, which is almost everywhere. (His multiple-page attack on Adobe Acrobat would be right at home in a comedy club.) Some of the examples are a bit old, but it always helps to be reminded -- especially since the Web gives us all new opportunities to make old mistakes over again. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.