I am BARRY HESS > Blog

Notes on a Book - the Big Red Fez

I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the past few months. Technical reading for the most part. I’ve realized that a large chunk of what I’ve read has probably already escaped my cranium in a shower of cocktails and coffee. Maybe it’s time to dump my thoughts somewhere? Just like taking notes in college!

So I give you the first in what I hope to be a series of “notes on a book.” These are not book reviews, but rather a list of important points I took away from the book.

My first Seth Godin book, The Big Red Fez, amounts to a 30-minute read. It’s probably worth about $4, but he’s selling it for $8-10. More power to him! I used the local library to partake in the tome. The book is simply a series of quick critiques of numerous web page designs. On the left-hand page is a screenshot and a caption, on the right-hand page is Seth’s take.

The book was OK. It outlined many pretty obvious problems, but sometimes obvious things are not obvious until someone actually points them out. It was a good experience reading the book (remember, 30 minutes), but I wouldn’t recommend buying it.

On with the brain dump. When I said “like taking notes in college,” I meant “ugly.”

Design every page with one primary objective.

Don’t believe your own hype.

Make a different page for each important segment.

Limit user input in terms of field quantity and ease of keyboard data entry (drop-down lists, anyone?).

Present useful alternativs on failed searches.

Avoid digital metaphors.

Test the money paths frequently.

If the computer can do the work for the user, make the computer do the work.

Err on the side of simple.

Keep your promises.

Understand why people visit your site (what is used most often) and make it as easy as possible for others to find the same content/features/functionality.

Be clear about cost.

Avoid long forms. If necessary:

Say “Thank You.”

Avoid forcing people to leave your site in order to register.

Don’t let advertising be a hurdle to user experience.

Make it easy for users to share your site with others.

Don’t display links to areas of the site that are not functioning as promised.

When sending email, make it about the user, not the web site.

When you screw up, have a sense of humor about it.

Do you think this oversteps the bounds of fair use? If so, let me know.