Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday Book Review: Rocket Surgery Made Easy

This book actually came from a recommendation from our upcoming TWiST interview. In it our interviewee was describing usability testing and suggested the book Rocket Surgery Made Easy. This book, written by Steve Krug, is a sequel of sorts to his book Don't Make Me Think, which is dedicated to the topic of Web Usability testing and optimizing sites to better to user experience.

While Don’t Make Me Think is the “what to do” book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy is the “how to do it” book. The key here is that this is not a long drawn out usability study example. This is doing quick and dirty usability testing in a fairly frequent manner. Several maxims appear in the book and are built into the prose and presentation. The steps he suggests are straightforward and quick to understand (the entire book is about 160 pages, easy to read in a day or less, and easy to implement tie ideas suggested in each chapter. Krug has a breezy and fun style to his writing, and plenty of self-deprecating humor to keep it entertaining, yet still focused on the main topic.

Rocket Surgery Made Easy is not meant to be comprehensive. Instead, it focuses on the ability to look at a design for a site, whether that is on a live set of pages or a design on the pack of an envelope or a napkin. The book guides testers to focus on the most important problems first. It also encourages developers to fix issues based on doing the “least you can do” approach by doing the least amount of modification possible (tweak rather than rewrite). By setting these tests to be a regular occurrence (“A morning a month, that’s all we ask” is the book’s first maxim), test teams can make usability and user experience a target for testing early and often, and keep looking at the product as its developing and ask “does it do what we really want it to do”? More importantly, it allows the customer to ask ”does this do what I really want it to do?”

At the end of the book, there is a sample script and forms that can be used for hosting a usability study and gathering feedback. Again, this is more of a workbook than it is a reference, though you can certainly learn a lot about usability testing from reading it. It’s not meant to be the definitive guide to all things Usability and UX. Rather it’s a method to get your feet wet doing actual usability testing and developing your own usability protocols.

No comments: