If you follow me here or on Twitter, you know that I read a lot of books and I like to share my thoughts so that you can get the facts and decide if it’s worth your time and money to get your own copy. Have a suggestion or your own opinion? Leave a comment and let me know about it!
Neuro Web Design, by Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.
I’m not sure where to start with this one. The book started off strong with a high-level overview of how the human mind works, both consciously and subconsciously. Towards the end though, the brain train jumps the tracks and the book loses focus.
The brain, as you probably don’t remember from high school biology, is divided into three parts. The “old brain” is the primitive home of the “fight or flight” response and survival instincts. The “middle brain” is the emotional center and the “new brain” (cortex) is responsible for thinking, speaking, and seeing.
The concept of “Neuro Web Design” is that designers can create websites and interactions that leverage visitors’ subconscious thought processes to evoke seemingly conscious decisions about whether or not to take a desired action on a website.
Lots of screenshots and “Bottom Line” tips make it easy to grasp the main concepts in each section.
It’s a fast read, clocking in at under 150 pages with largish text and wide margins. I finished it in a couple hours.
The descriptions of the brain’s parts and functions are simple and straightforward, but without all of the detail of a textbook.
Many of the examples early in the book are useful and related to everyday web design and conversion optimization.
Many of the anecdotes are common sense and leave you with a “I already knew that” aftertaste. I was not surprised to read a testimonial by Steve Krug (author of a favorite book of mine called “Don’t Make Me Think”) that said the exact same thing although it was spun in a positive light.
The first few chapters include a lot of practical, “actionable” advice alongside the theories presented. The last few chapters (especially the last one) seem to leave out the tips in favor of larger screenshots and longer theories.
The last chapter just stuffed in a lot of mentions of various social sites with no useful info about how to incorporate social behaviors into a website or product. It almost seems like an afterthought or “I don’t know what to say about these so I’ll include them and just punt.” There are no payoffs or advice, just a vague “these ideas work on social sites as well”. Perhaps a cliffhanger for the next book?
Given that this book is relatively brief, it is worth skimming the first few chapters if you stumble across it in a bookstore or can borrow a copy from a friend (as I did). But honestly, you can get enough information to paint a pretty clear picture simply by reading the table of contents which are available on the book’s website.