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Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems (Voices That Matter) Paperback – 8 Dec 2009
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From the Back Cover
It's been known for years that usability testing can dramatically improve products. But with a typical price tag of $5,000 to $10,000 for a usability consultant to conduct each round of tests, it rarely happens.
In this how-to companion to Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug spells out an approach to usability testing that anyone can easily apply to their own web site, application, or other product. (As he said in Don't Make Me Think, "It's not rocket surgery".)
In this new book, Steve explains how to:
- Test any design, from a sketch on a napkin to a fully-functioning web site or application
- Keep your focus on finding the most important problems (because no one has the time or resources to fix them all)
- Fix the problems that you find, using his "The least you can do" approach
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The good news is that usability testing, getting someone else to use your web site while you watch them, is very easy and extremely informative.
In this short, encouraging book, Steve Krug explains what you have to do in his wonderfully approachable style. In Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, he zeroed on in the really important points about web site usability. In this new book, he's done it again with usability testing. It's boiled down to the essence of an approach that anyone could use, in 'a morning a month'.
Steve does not claim that this is a comprehensive manual for how to do any type of usability test. For that, he includes recommendations for further reading, such as Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests.
Not does he claim that his method is full-on, professional testing. In fact, he says: "If you can afford to hire a usability professional to do your testing for you, do it".
This book is for anyone who wants to make sure that their web site is easy to use, but doesn't have the budget for a professional.
Having said that, I am a usability consultant and I still found it worthwhile to read this book. If you've struggled to get clients to make the changes that you know are necessary, then here's an opportunity to pick up some ideas.
(Disclosure: Steve wrote the foreword to my book Forms that Work: Designing Web Forms for Usability (Interactive Technologies))
This book explains what you can gain from regular usability testing and shows you step-by-step exactly how to facilitate usability testing and collate the results into an action plan. You don't need a load of fancy, expensive equipment or programming skills and Mr Krug usefully includes all the scripts (narrative not programming) you need to conduct your testing. He also covers how to: conduct debriefing meetings, manage the fixing of problems, get buy-in from stakeholders and potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Really all you need to start your own usability testing is this book and the skills to organise a meeting - the book tells you what to do at what time point so it really is a case of following the instructions. I particulalry like the short, to the point chapters and as with Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability the design layout makes it super-easy to use with decent sized type broken down into manageable chunks.
The book gives you little more than a general idea, scratching only the surface, but it gives you enough to conduct your own tests, conveys confidence in their usefulness and gives you a list of other sources to expand your knowledge.
The examples are all about web interfaces but the very same principles are easily applied to desktop or mobile applications.
1. You have some version of a website or web application that can be tested (even if only a wireframe or prototype).
2. You have limited time for testing.
3. It's better to do some testing that will find important problems fast than to plan a big test that could yield statistically significant results and find many problems but that won't actually get run.
It further assumes that you are not a usability professional and cannot afford to hire one but that you can do good enough testing yourself if given some practical instruction. This book, supported by the video on the companion website, provides that practical instruction.
Here you will find out what to do at every step, from recruiting test subjects through to debriefing, and how much time to spend on each activity. If you have never facilitated or observed a usability test, you will additionally get a sense of what it's like to do usability testing.
The book is well written, being concise and precise. Furthermore, the pages are attractively designed and illustrated, making this a book that's nice to hold as well as one that's useful to have. (This review relates to the paperback edition, obviously.)
This expands on the 3 chapters in the original edition of DMMT, and then some.
I've run usability testing sessions for 8 years and found it an easy read which I am now recommending to colleagues beginning to run their own tests.
If you're looking for an introduction to usability as a whole though, DMMT is the better option.
If you're into user testing of products (or just really, really curious) this book is a must read.
The best part? The book is read within a few hours but the contents will last for life. Buy it!
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