Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems Paperback – Dec 8 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 toDon'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 inDon'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
About the Author
Steve Krug is a usability consultant who has more than 15 years of experience as a user advocate for companies like Apple, Netscape, AOL, Lexus, and others. Based in part on the success of the first edition of "Don't Make Me Think," he has become a highly sought-after speaker on usability design.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book applies the same engaging style, entertaining illustrations, and clear approach to describing techniques for usability testing that almost anybody can undertake for their projects. It's particularly helpful if you make your living designing web sites, but are never given time or budget to 'properly' user-test them.
Krug provides straightforward strategies for testing all stages of a design project, from the back of a napkin to wireframe to finished project. Each of the sections provides just enough guidance to get started but not so much that you get bogged down in details. Once you're started, you can go on to get serious with books like Handbook of Usability Testing: Howto Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests
Excellent book to read if you're someone who needs to brush up on usability requirements for your projects. Has many great points and presented in a manner that won't cause you to fall asleep.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Having been a "Usability Professional" for a number of years, I purchased this Steve Krug book, the minute I knew he had another book out, without even paying attention to what it was about. This guy is just that good. This enthusiasm was due to his previous book "Don't Make Me Think" which was a great book on how to make more usable web sites. First I was surprised, as initially I had not realized it was a book for User testing for non-Usability professionals... Next, I thought, Wow, this is a great book too.
The whole idea is to do quick usability tests with a few users, that are reasonably representative of your end users. This test would be viewed by your stake holders and be done in one morning each month during various stages of development of your site. This way, it gets to the right people when it's needed. Anyone who does usability work, knows how laborious and costly tests can be. However that's nothing compared to the sales pitch that has to be done, to get even the high impact issues fixed. There are always excuses.
This Books Suggestion for Testing:
* Lessens the cost of the text
* Allows the testing to be more immediate
* Gets the decision makers in front of it and hopefully behind the necessary changes with funding.
This book has clearly defined steps on how to do this:
* Software recommendations
* Some scripts
* How to recruit
* How to run single morning tests.
Also recommendations for approaching changes:
* Get to the basic issues
* Get them fixed
* Let the trivia wait.
* Tweaking is better than a redesign, and it is more likely to happen.
However read the book on this, I'm only quickly paraphrasing.
As before his style of writing is conversational and sparse, giving you what you need to know when. It is laid out in a way that is brief but complete and very easy to read. Hmmm, sounds like he took his own teachings to heart. There are 16 chapters (and you can see inside the book here; so go look) He covers the why and how you can do a usability test on any site and get buy-in from your team when changes need to be made. Usability professionals can benefit from this book as well, as it has a somewhat interesting take on how to get Users in front of the Teams that make decisions on what gets changed. Since time is at a premium and Usability tests speak for themselves, this is one way, to get the money where it needs to go.
All in all another winner of a book...now I'm waiting for the next one...
That book based its approach to assessing and improving the usability of websites on the injunction in the title. If visitors to websites have to figure out what to do on a website, then the website is operating at a disadvantage.
Krug offered some very pertinent, uncomplicated advice on web usability, how to judge it and how to implement solutions to problems that are identified.
When updating that first book in 2005, Krug decided that Rocket Surgery Made Easy had become necessary: a handbook for putting usability principles into practice, focusing in particular on user testing.
The title refers to the phrase Krug coined (and trademarked) to summarise his view that all of this is just common sense: it's not rocket science and it's not brain surgery.
It also gives a clue that Krug, while determinedly practical and grounded in the day-to-day business of designing and building websites for paying clients, approaches the subject with considerable humour and playfulness. It's apparent that this is partly out of a concern that usability might be a dry subject for some, but also because Krug is a very funny guy. I think we'd enjoy his workshops, if he ever brings them to Australia.
Rocket Surgery Made Easy is itself easy reading. Less than 160 pages, it is well laid out, charmingly illustrated by Mark Matcho and very, very well edited - big hat-tip to the people at New Riders.
The basis of the book is that it offers how-to advice on actually running user testing sessions. Krug is well aware that many designers and developers cannot afford the expansive, expensive and time-consuming approach to user testing that requires hiring rooms with two way mirrors and video equipment to observe and record user actions as they test a website under controlled conditions, so he has devised a budget approach based around the catchphrase of "A morning a month, that's all we ask". Catchy phrases are an identifiable part of the Krug approach.
Because it's well-written, because Krug is witty, and because the subject material is based so much on common sense, it's easy to whizz through the book. But how much will it change the way a web designer or developer works?
Frankly, while I agree with the need for it, and understand the benefits to be gained, user testing is unlikely to form a significant part of my day-to-day work scenario, at least while I remain a one man design band juggling a roster of new websites and long term clients. The logistical practicalities of even "a morning a month", using three testers without a lot of complicated equipment, are prohibitive. I accept that this may give me and my clients headaches into the future.
However, Krug's books - the first explaining why usability matters, the second explaining how to do it - do give me a platform for addressing usability issues. The way Krug explains stuff allows and encourages me to engage with usability issues. Walking through his approach to user testing tells me a great deal about how I think about usability and how I can improve it. This alone gives me a competitive edge over designers who don't "get" usability
Perhaps both these books should be bundled under the collective title Make Web Designers Think! It's what Krug does extremely well. He raises simple but devastatingly critical usability issues, explores his own way of thinking about them and then offers ways to deal with them.
Krug points out - and emphasises - that anyone can do this. But the fact is that many web designers do not give themselves over to critical thinking, and even when encouraged to do so, may not be sure how to analyse, document and translate their thoughts into design changes.
It is these people that will likely get the most out of Rocket Surgery Made Easy, but they may also be the last designers to actually buy it.
Still if it does anything to get even highly experienced web designers thinking about what they are doing in a critical, insightful and constructive way, it will help to shape a better web.
The main point of this book was very good. To do usability tests, have people (people who have not used the software before) run use cases with your software, and watch them.
The problem with this book is, I basically summed up the entire useful content of the book in the above sentence. The author spends around 50% of his book discussing things such as, how do you compensate the users who come in? What day of the week should you run the tests? What room should you run the tests in? Stuff that I'm pretty sure that people running the tests could figure out on their own! Found myself skimming over major sections of the book. I feel like this guy wanted to write a book on usability testing but didn't have enough to talk about, so he filled it out with fluff.
I believe Krug has other usability testing books which are supposed to have better content. I did like his writing style and he sold me on the value of usability testing. But I felt a bit cheated... I feel like this entire book could have been summarized in one chapter of a larger testing book.
This book only takes a few hours to read but contains everything you need to know to test web pages, applications, forms, and anything else you might have designed that could benefit from a good review, which is pretty much everything. He covers the nuts-and-bolts of testing in a very clear, sequential way; he also manages to inspire you to actually do the testing.
This book is well designed, the author's tone is warm and friendly, and he throws in a few great footnotes to entertain you as well. Highly recommended.