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Book Review: Web Application Design Patterns
2009, Q2 (July 21, 2009)
By David Dick, STC Associate Fellow and member of the Washington, DC, chapter

''Web Application Design Patterns'' by Pawan Vora
''Web Application Design Patterns'' by Pawan Vora
From the Yahoo Home page I can see the weather for my area and the five day forecast, I can check email, send messages to friends, check the stock market, shop, and a whole lot more. Google maps allow me to search addresses and display maps that I can "zoom in" on to view details. It's all possible because of web applications. I have noticed, however, that some web applications are better designed than others. If Web 2.0 has any importance to you, you will appreciate the need for guidelines to create a satisfying user experience. Unfortunately, there are no guidelines to design web applications--until now.

Web Application Design Patterns by Pawan Vora provides practical user interface design guidance for developing web applications by offering a "working" starting point that designers can adapt and refine to develop creative solutions. He condenses best practice methods, along with research and solid experience to create a useful reference about designing web applications.

Web Application Design Patterns covers design patterns as they are used in forms, user authentication, main page, navigation, searching and filtering, and lists. The rest of the book covers Rich Internet Applications, social applications, internationalization, accessibility, visual design, and how to create pattern libraries with just the right amount of detail and examples.
If Web 2.0 has any importance to you, you will appreciate the need for guidelines to create a satisfying user experience.

Each of the one hundred and twenty-two design patterns covered in this book are presented by name, the design problem(s) the pattern solves, the solution to the problem, the rationale for the design solution's effectiveness, a list of best practices describing the application of the solution and possible variations, and related design patterns.

Unlike most books of this genre, he does not cover the history of the Internet and Web 2.0 as so many authors do. Instead, he describes the benefits and challenges of web applications, which prepared me to understand the rest of the book.

I am impressed that Pawan Vora addressed the importance of including Help at all levels of interaction, internalization, and accessibility in sufficient detail, yet leaves me the opportunity to research them in greater detail. As a member of a society of technical communicators, I know that my colleagues will appreciate that somebody recognizes what they have been advocating for years.

I am not disappointed that he does not compare and contrast the tools to create web applications. To do so would ignite a debate of why one tool is better than another, and there are just too many tools on the market.

Not finding a chapter dedicated to usability, I assumed that he did not consider usability important. Then I took a harder look and what I found was even better — he explains characteristics that contribute to "good" design.

The book is rich with examples of web applications. Not only does he show examples of web applications of popular companies (i.e. Dell, Linkedin, Expedia, Adobe, and Netflix), he also shows web applications from lesser known companies (i.e. Kayak, Wufoo, and Basecamp) — how he found them is a mystery to me.

I was privileged to serve as a technical reviewer of this book. When reviewing the first iteration of the manuscript, I brought it to work to show developers who were working on the user interface of forms and user authentication--they liked what they read and made the modifications as suggested. I even learned how to customize my favorite web applications.

Web Application Design Patterns is a must read if you want to understand how web applications work and why they work the way they do.

Web Application Design Patterns. Pawan Vora. 2009. Morgan Kaufman. [ISBN: 978-0123742650. 448 pages, including index. (softcover)

David can be reached at davidjdick2000 at yahoo dot com. End of article.

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