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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Thinking in C++, Volume 1: Introduction to Standard C++ (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Authors: Bruce Eckel
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5

i) Talks about the inside stuff. It tells you why a particular feature is there, where and why it must be used, how the language feature is processed by compiler and of course where and why it must NOT be used (or abused). Inline functions is one of the many examples.
ii) Well organized especially in terms of the grouping of topics into chapters e.g. Polymorphism and Virtual functions go in one chapter, References and Copy constructor go in another. This helps in finding the difficult and related items in one place.
iii)Provides an easy reading for language features I found most difficult to understand.
iv) Includes an annotated list of references for further reading.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Steve Krug
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Great book!!

If you are looking for an accessible introduction to the topic of web usability, Steve Krug’s straightforward, humorous approach will fit the bill. Don’t Make Me Think! is a lively overview of usability principles for the WWW, filled with clear illustrations and real-world examples from familiar e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Gap.com and Quicken.com. At less than 200 pages, this book is a quick read written in a direct, approachable conversational style rather than in dry academic terms or complicated technical jargon. Despite its brevity and breezy style, Krug manages to cram it full of critical insights into the psychology of Web users. However, in my opinion he does his readers a disservice by downplaying the importance of user characteristics, especially with regard to usability testing.
While I agree with Krug’s assertion that users of mass market e-commerce sites will vary widely in their likes, dislikes, motivations and preferred navigation styles, this does not negate the need for careful selection of usability test participants. Krug suggests "grabbing some people" at random for testing, but this approach may backfire if the participants do not share the navigation style or goals of the critical user bases for the site under development. While his suggested approach to testing and recruitment may be cost effective for testing navigation structure or familiar transactions such as a shopping cart application and is certainly better than performing no testing at all, it may have expensive consequences for the design of complex, high risk web applications – especially within the environment of a corporate intranet.
Here’s an example: let’s say you were designing a web based application for a high-use call center that required users to look up complex information while speaking to your customers on the phone. Your call center is located in the Midwest, but your developers work in your corporate headquarters in Northern California. Since the developers have no call center experience, and little understanding of the relative importance of various parts of the application, and since they consider the Midwest call center personnel to be relatively unskilled computer users, they decide to create an easy to learn mouse-driven interface requiring several clicks to move between screens. Using Krug’s approach to usability testing, the developers go down the hall and recruit a few web-savvy colleagues to “test” the interface. Sure enough, the designers and developers participating in the test are able to complete particular tasks, and the usability test is declared successful. But when the application is launched, the call center experiences a slowdown in workflow because critical screens are difficult to reach, and the increased reliance on using a mouse for navigation results in an increase in repetitive stress injuries. Both issues result in increased costs to your company, and furthermore, your customer satisfaction ratings plummet as a result of the slowdowns in the phone queue!
When participants in a usability test are not representative of the end users of a web driven application, important aspects of its usability, such as the context and frequency of use, are likely to be overlooked. Additionally, the view of the users held by the developers of a system may be flawed, and those misperceptions can have disastrous results for the usability of your web site. Despite Krug’s assertion that “it doesn’t matter who you test”, our experience has shown that including representative users in the testing of high impact, high cost web applications provides an important reality check in the development process.
Despite these shortcomings, the readability of Don’t Make Me Think! makes it a valuable book, especially for those new to the idea of designing usable web sites or who need convincing that usability testing is an important part of the design process. If you are having difficulty getting the decision makers or developers in your organization to understand why usability is important, I recommend giving them a copy of this book and suggesting they read it on their next plane trip....

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: CSS Cookbook
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Christopher Schmitt
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Great for the designer's shelf!

I am becoming a serious fan of the Cookbooks from O'Reilly. They are well-organized, have lots of great tips and recipes, and don't get bogged down in detail, but still give enough insight to be useful when expanding the ideas.

The CSS Cookbook from Christopher Schmitt is no exception. It is aimed at developers who know a bit about CSS, but need some reference to solve specific problems, and who wish to view alternate methods to common situations. While this book will not teach you CSS, it is a great desk reference to jog your memory, or reveal some new trick.

Overall, the CSS Cookbook starts with some basic ideas about typography on the web, something that every designer should be aware of, if not devoted to. It then hits all the usual suspects, including page elements, links and navigation, tables, etc (all listed on the back cover). They way this book is broken down may take a little getting used to, since the focus is more on individual approaches to design ideas, rather than a master list of common complete page layouts. However, the last 3rd of the book gives some great overall information about complete designs, compatibility considerations, and some bit of theory about using CSS effectively.

Language in this book is neutral, but conversational. It may not have you curled up by a fire on a chilly evening, but it gets the points across very well. Schmitt seems to hit a nice stride with giving you useful information without making it dry or giving in to bad jokes and punch-in-the-arm commentary. Not that these last things are necessarily bad, they just aren't in Schmitt's book. That helps make it a great tool to keep close by.

Something that's near and dear to my heart is replacing tables with appropriate CSS-Positioning elements. Schmitt does a good job balancing the argument about when to use tables versus divs. While I prefer to use tables for banging my shin against, they are still quite widely used, and merit consideration in certain circumstances. One highlight is his elegant use of styled tables to build a nice-looking calendar. This is something many people will find very useful.

Other highlights include a great section on column layouts. Not only are the recipes given, but time is also allowed for consideration of challenges with each style, and why some workarounds may be necessary. Another favourite is making print-friendly pages, including forms. Resumes, help files, and reference material could all benefit from such a treatment when presented online.

I think a pretty good middle range of designers would greatly benefit from the CSS Cookbook, and some advanced people who just need a new idea or refresher now and then. Certainly, one could find more technical or theoretical books on CSS, such as in the Definitive Guide series from O'Reilly, or the W3C-endorsed 'Cascading Style Sheets: Designing for the Web' by Lie and Bos. But for practicality, quick solutions, and some great ideas, the CSS Cookbook is a great tool for any designer's collection.

I'd say run down to your local bookstore, or check out some of the sample text on O'Reilly's site and consider putting this one on your shelf.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Search Engine Advertising : Buying Your Way to the Top to Increase Sales (Voices That Matter)
Publisher: Pearson Education
Authors: Catherine Seda
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Best Intro To SE Advertising

If you want more traffic read this book. I read it over once, started up some SEA campaigns, and now will re-read it again carefully to see how I can get the most out of those campaigns.
I am a full time SEO, an employee with a multi-national company. I teach SEO at the local college and am the author of a small SEO workbook (seoworkbook.com). I also sell books, eBooks and my own music CD's via the internet, do consulting for small businesses like Bed & Breakfasts and am a broadcaster on an Internet radio station. As you can imagine I spend a lot of time in the search engine world. Until now I have focused on organic search which simply means creating web pages and sites the way search engines are going to find most attractive i.e. keyword rich content, SE friendly design, and optimized tags for engines that use them. Shari Thurow's book, "Search Engine Visibility", also published by New Riders, is the best resource regarding this approach that I have seen.
I read Catherine's book first of all because she has credentials, she has worked in a variety of positions in the SE advertising industry. Then flipping through the table of contents I knew from my own experience that she was covering the basics (and I a big believer in basics) and that she knew who the important players were. I liked what I read because she wrote in an easily understandable, conversational style which I appreciated and enjoyed.
She covered everything thoroughly, beginning with background chapters when necessary. There were a few times when the detail level got a little deep for me but that is because I, like Catherine, am essentially a marketing guy, I appreciate strategy, tactics and logistics but feel more comfortable in the strategy end of the pool.
Like Shari's book, this is definitely another winner from New Riders. I see that New Riders is a division of Peach Pit Press who do the Visual Quick Start books. I have long told my students that the VQS books are the best computer books for beginners on the market - bar none. The quality of all these books is no surprise as I see Pearson Education is the corporation behind them all. I work for an eLearning company so I am familiar with Pearson; they are one of the worlds largest and most respected publishers of text books.
Catherine helps make the industry jargon like "trusted feed", "fixed placement", etc. understandable, and explains how to monitor and track your campaigns and how to manage your conversion rate and return on investment. Her sections regarding landing pages, page design, and site architecture are easy to understand and immediately useful. Very importantly to us entrepreneurs, she also discusses how to deal with potential "click-fraud" and other business issues.
For a person who is venturing forth into the SE advertising world for the first time I can highly recommend this book. I would suggest that you read and do everything in Shari's book first however. Then do the same with Catherine's. Here is a key point: Even if you are ranking well with organic search the advertising option gives you the added benefit of your site being passed on to many other search engines of all kinds because of the business relationships large advertising companies like Overture and Google have with partners and affiliates.
I would say Shari's book represents step one of your search engine marketing plan, and Catherine's represents step two. Hopefully New Riders will soon come out with some form of step three - "How To Convert Visitors To Buyers". As I mentioned above, I currently teach SEO at the local college: because of Catherine's book, and the impressive results I have immediately achieved using her methods, I intend on adding another course on SE advertising later this year. There will also be a proposal on my bosses desk next week recommending SEA campaigns for all our primary products. For large or small companies, even my little B&B clients, advertising on the web is clearly an effective and affordable option. For serious entrepreneurs, the web has matured as a sales and marketing channel to the point where it is a required one.