Simple and Usable: web, mobile, and interaction design by Giles Colborne

I received this book after attending a workshop with Whitney Quesenbery and Steve Krug. It was a great seminar with lots of hands-on training in a two-day format.

With only 91 pages of content Simple and Usable is more of a pamphlet than a book and did not include much that I found to be original, but I have read a lot of books on the subject of usability over the years.

I like the presentation of the material and each even numbered page covers a single subject with a smattering of references and quotes while the odd numbered pages are relegated to photos that may or may not be relevant to the facing page.

If you want a quick read to get your head around the idea of "Simple and Usable" and how it applies to design, this book is a good choice. If you are looking for a book about usability and web design there are other books that are more thorough and practical.

From the book’s website http://www.simpleandusable.com/:

Have you ever set out to simplify a user experience and found that everyone around you was trying to add more complexity and detail? Have you ever found yourself caught between customers who demand simplicity and competitors who out gun you with exciting features? Designing simplicity can be complex.

Simple and usable offers examples and stories that break the subject down into tips, strategies and guidelines you can follow to create websites, software or mobile apps which have a compelling simplicity.

I rate this book a 6 out of 10, if you are looking for a quickie this may be your book.

Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent by Fred Burton

I read this book as an Audible audio book.

I enjoyed listening to this book, Tom Weiner does a great job narrating it and bringing a lot of emotion and depth. Depth that I am not sure exists in the book’s written form.

This is not a spy novel nor is it the memoirs of a spy; it is more of a collection of events as seen from the author’s perspective arranged in a chronological order. There are plenty of passages that let us see deeper into the person that is "Fred Burton" and we get to learn some of what makes him tick, but I do not feel like I got the whole picture at any point. Part of that is the fact that most of the events the book covers have many elements that cannot be shared and part of it is the format of narration chosen by the author.

What the book does make clear is that terrorism is here to stay. We would all be a lot better off with more people like Fred Burton in the world.

From the publisher:

For decades, Fred Burton was a key figure in international counterterrorism and domestic spy craft. As a member of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service in the mid 1980s, he was on the front lines of America’s first campaign against terror. Now, in this hard-hitting memoir, Burton emerges from the shadows to reveal who he is, what he has accomplished, and the threats that lurk unseen except by an experienced, world-wise few. Told in a no-holds-barred, gripping, nuanced style, this behind-the scenes account of one counterterrorism agent’s life and career is a riveting listen.

©2008 Fred Burton; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

I rate this book a 7 out of 10, if you are fan of spy novels I think this is a good read.

Head First PHP & MySQL by Lynn Beighley and Michael Morrison

I read this book on Safari Books Online using Firefox on a MacBook.

I am updating the Football Pool app that I built last year and want to make the database side of it more sophisticated and optimized so I searched Safari Books for some insight. After reading the overview of a handful of books I decided on Head First PHP & MySQL because it appeared to cover everything I was looking for.

The Head First series from O’Reilly tend to be a good blend of beginner level and intermediate level information. It is presented in a style that I think many will find helpful to the learning process with quizzes, crossword puzzles, and connect the phrases that go together to help reinforce what you have read. The series is much more than a "Dummies" or "24 hours" but less dry than book you may use to study for certification.

This book gave me almost all of the information I needed without too much trouble. I think there are many security issues that are not addressed that should be and the information about separating the zip code in a database schema did not make a lot of sense to me.

Overall I got what I expected from this book and will now read a book that is more focused on MySQL.

From the publisher:

If you’re ready to create web pages more complex than those you can build with HTML and CSS, Head First PHP & MySQL is the ultimate learning guide to building dynamic, database-driven websites using PHP and MySQL. Packed with real-world examples, this book teaches you all the essentials of server-side programming, from the fundamentals of PHP and MySQL coding to advanced topics such as form validation, session IDs, cookies, database queries and joins, file I/O operations, content management, and more.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10, I would have like more information about designing databases.

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.

I received this book while attending a workshop with Whitney Quesenbery and Steve Krug. It was a great seminar with lots of hands-on training in a two-day format.

If you read a lot of books on design and usability there may not be much in this book you have not read before, even so it can be a great resource for sharing with others and as a meta-reference for looking up more information on studies, experiments, and papers.

I also think this is a great book to thumb through while working on a design, maybe picking a random number from 1 to 100, reading that chapter, and then thinking about how it may apply to your design.

From the Susan Weinschenk’s web site:

You design to elicit a response. You want your target audience to buy, read, register — to take action of some kind. Designing without understanding about people is like exploring a new city without a map: results will be haphazard, confusing, and inefficient. 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People covers the psychology research that you need to know in order to design intuitive and engaging websites, software and products that match the way people think, work, and relate.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 as a reference and as a source of inspiration.