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Undercover User Experience Design Paperback – Sep 17 2010
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From the Back Cover
Once you catch the user experience bug, the world changes. Doors open the wrong way, websites don't work, and companies don't seem to care. And while anyone can learn the UX remedies: usability testing, personas, prototyping and so on unless your organization 'gets it', putting them into practice is tricky. Undercover User Experience is a pragmatic guide from the front lines, giving frank advice on making UX work in real companies with real problems. Readers will learn how to fit research, ideation, prototyping and testing into their daily workflow, and how to design good user experiences under the all-too-common constraints of time, budget and culture.
About the Author
Cennydd Bowles leapt into the world of user experience eight years ago and hasn't shut up about it since. He now works for Clearleft in Brighton, England and moonlights as a UX blogger, mentor and community evangelist. Cennydd is a regular public speaker (SXSW, IA Summit), a widely published writer (A List Apart, Johnny Holland, .net magazine) and co-conspirator of the UX London conference.
A self-confessed ‘user experience professional’, James Box works for Clearleft in the seaside town of Brighton, England. Part information architect and part interaction designer, when he’s not building sandcastles on the beach, James crafts websites that are fun and easy to use. On those few occasions he's not actually designing, you'll probably find him writing or talking about the subject. Either that or reminiscing about how all these social networks used to be fields.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The authors maintain the position that some UX work in design is better than none, and show ways how research, design and production can be influenced by User Experience work (performed by you, the reader) without big budgets or a sense of perfectionism.
Having worked in various companies large and small for UX teams both successfully and unsuccessfully, I found that the relaxed approach by the authors resonated with me. It's a bit like books by Steve Krug, but less descriptive in what needs to be done. "Undercover User Experience Design" rather gives you a range of possibilities to tackle problems along the way, and it's up to the user which one to pick. The book quite masterfully describes the techniques with just the right amount of detail: if you're okay with a bit of uncertainty, you can probably do the exercises straight away, but if you're a bit anxious because you've never done it before, the book gives you plenty of leads to follow up on.
I rarely recommend a book for both beginners in UX and seasoned professionals, but I felt that it spoke very well to both parties: beginners get a 5-star introduction into what can be done, a bit of how-to as well, while professionals can use it as a quick-reference guide in case they hit a snag somewhere in their projects.
Oh, and it's under 200 pages, which makes it much more likely for you to actually read ;-)
It is a fantastic resource for anyone new to the field. It gives an excellent introduction to what is involved and what you can do to improve user experience while retaining your day job.
One highpoint for me is the chapter on generating ideas, which demonstrates many of the well-known methods (excellently illustrated) as well as some more esoteric activities. Even seasoned UXers will find something new here.
There's also a very good chapter on deliverables with one of my favourite lines in the book: "Deliverables are a step on the journey, not the end of the line". Perhaps it would be good if the authors warned here that in agencies (I refuse to perpetuate the authors' use of the appalling terms "outties' and innies"!) deliverables are often seen as the final and only outcome.
I also thought the section on responding to criticisms in review sessions well thought out. It ought to give confidence to anyone facing this daunting prospect, and probably has some handy tips for more experienced practitioners.
A few criticisms: the book only talks about web sites: user experience experts work in all sorts of product environments (like software) and it would be good if the book made the point that many of these skills and methods are transferable. I found some of the chapter on working with other disciplines a little patronising, particularly of visual designers, who can be highly experienced interactionists with whom we can and should work closely. I also thought the section on Agile was a little optimistic, skating over some of the difficulties.
But overall this is a great new book and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to work in user experience design.
- concise prose; comprehensive and appropriate examples
- well-designed expository structure, organization, visual appearance
- in context introduction of standard UX terminology
- very complete 'further reading' section at each chapter end
- web application design, as opposed to website design, is not covered explicitly, in particular, there is no treatment of the essential application UX design issue of workflow
- the 'undercover' conceit feels like an unnecessary distraction
If you need a practical and thorough overview of website user experience design read this book.
I rate it 4 stars for meeting its stated objectives 100%.
This book is essentially an extremely well-organized list of the skills, terms and issues one must understand to practice UX. Each topic is treated evenly, with enough sub topics and examples to clarify why the item matters, what are the relevant techniques needed to address it, and how it fits into the overall UX practice. The result is something simple to read and understand as a narrative the first time through that also serves as fine reference to return to time and again.
My primary quibble with the book, and it is a minor thing, is that the 'undercover' bit feels like something manufactured to give the book a unique angle. Certainly there is validity to the point that one encounters resistance when introducing a UX agenda to organizations that don't yet have one. But using this issue as a leitmotif throughout the book adds a slightly defensive tone that I feel distracts from the book's otherwise elegant exposition of the essential theory and skills that make up user experience design
However, if you're looking for something that clarifies the "why" of UX design, this might not be the book for you. The book largely assumes (although not stated) a website is a place such as a brick and mortar shop except that you can say change the walls, windows etc. I feel this is a pretty outdated idea of how people actually use websites so designing with this underlying framework will only lead to the same visual & functional pollution we see online.
The book tries too hard to be a roadmap for how to do UX design. It would have been more valuable to layout a point of view on design principles, for UX design is not necessarily different from good product design.
A standard website has several entry points and users rarely think through processes in a linear fashion. Any approach that assumes linearity seems to miss the mark even before it has started.
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