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Foreword

Foreword

This is an exciting book written by a pioneer in the field of human-computer interaction, or HCI as we often call it. It is exciting because the author applies the knowledge and practices that have evolved within the HCI field ever since our discipline started in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This book represents the application of about 40 years' worth of expertise to the human-computer interface to which millions and millions of eyeballs are glued each and every day: the World Wide Web.

This book is about an everlasting truth, a truth that many people, many companies, many organizations have learned the hard way. That is, when designing technological systems for people to use, one must take into account the characteristics of the users, the nature of the task, and the knowledge, experience, biases, strengths, and weaknesses that the users bring to the task. In the case at hand, the task is using the World Wide Web.

Badre nicely captures and explains this notion via his concept of context. Chapter 1 begins with an attention-getting story that dramatically captures the essence of context and why users matter. (Wait, please stay with me a bit longer before turning to page 1.)

A few years ago I taught a course on navigating and visualizing the Web. As was then in vogue, I made heavy use of the way-finding literature—drawing on maps, building and road signage, and 2-D spatial orientation as a way to design navigational aids—and now believe that approach not to have been particularly useful. After all, the Web, or more precisely, the network of inter-related Web sites and pages, does not have a real 2-D spatial organization.

I wish this book had been available at the time, as I find its concept of context to be a more useful way of considering Web navigation than the concept of way-finding. Context need not have a spatial organization, although it may, as Badre very nicely illustrates with several compelling series of grocery store shopping pictures. But it always has a conceptual or logical organization, and that is what matters.

The job of the Web designer is to take into account the users' many contexts while creating a Web-browsing experience that leverages the many contexts of use including the Web environment, user, genre, site, and page. Badre nicely shows how this can be done in a wide variety of ways that draw on his diversity of experiences and interests—many consulting assignments, teaching Web design to working professionals and students, understanding both computers and people, and doing research to back up his teachings.

I commend his book to you. Read on.

Jim Foley
October 2001
College of Computing
Georgia Tech
Atlanta, Georgia

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