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Steve Krug is the author of the bestselling book Don't Make Me Think!, which has racked up worldwide sales of 250,000 since its publication in 2000.
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.
BOUGHT THIS BOOK THE MINUTE I REALIZED IT WAS OUT: 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.
BASIC IDEA: 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.
QUICK SUMMARY: 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...
….and after having read “Dont make me think” go on to the sequel “Rocket Surgery made easy”. Steven Krug takes you by the hand this time to lead you through your own usability testing. First he convinces you that usability testing is helpful and indispensable, then after having examined the reasons why there are so many resistances to doing it (among which the high cost!), he teaches you a simple way to do it, a methodology and how to reap the results. One reads through this delightful book, very well illustrated by Mark Matcho, and says “this is common sense”, but as Horace Greeley famously stated “Common sense is very uncommon” and so must be highly treasured. The basic philosophy is: would you ever buy something that you do not know how to handle? Probably no, but if you have built something you feel is great do you assume that others think it is great as well? Probably yes, but you have to check first. So the process of testing is an essential part of building something useful or at least usable. Testing has to be made easy and repeatable, so suggestions are do it once a month, preferably on Thursday, recruit your users loosely (anyone can do from your neighbor to your officemate) and then grade them according to relative value, find the errors or bottlenecks, fix them as you can and start again, do it from afar if necessary. Remember always to document, document, document, if you can have a public (the impact of the testing raises) get it also by giving them something good to eat! After the three hours (approximately) it will take you to read the book, you will not only have an idea of what to do in case you have built a website or an app, but also what you should do with whatever your field of work or play is. Common sense I said, and a sense of humor, well : “A sense of humor is just common sense dancing” (William James). Read this book and enjoy it, just like its big brother!
I dig the heck out of Steve Krug. This is the second book of his that I have, and I frequently refer to it - often to cite his words of wisdom, leverage his advice when working with project teams, and to and levelset my thinking.
His writing style is fun and light, and gets the point across without all the technicality that can exist with web design/redesign/usability. His common-sense (with tested experience) approach resonates and transfers easily.
The book isn't for the UI/UX expert - it's not meant to be, but it hits the mark for folks who have projects dumped on their desks - in addition to all their other duties.
Don't let the fact that it's a quick, easy read fool you - it's spot on and very...shall I say...usable.
Steve Krug’s writing on this book is even more accessible and clear than that we have seen in “Don’t make me think”. It clarifies and guides us through the general principles surrounding Usability testing in a useful way to both UX professionals and laymen’s, demystifying the whole process. A must read.
First, know that this book is actually fun to read. Steve Krug has a great sense of humor and recognizes that most of us would prefer to have fun doing this work. But there's a lot more under the quippy hood. If you build websites or need to test anyone's ability to test anything, this book will give you a solid, step-by-step method to do so. There's also good common sense advice about what to do with what you learn.
Having watched Jakob Nielsen run a usability test on stage at a conference over a decade ago, I had some familiarity with the basics of providing a task and trying to stay out of the way of the test participant. This book is the perfect how-to guide when you're ready to try it yourself. All you need is in the book including scripts for getting participants into the tasks and a great 20-minute example test recording video available at the related website.
To the author's point, there's plenty of work for usability experts who tackle enterprise-level projects and try to move the science forward. The method shared in this book is really helpful for smaller companies and budgets. It gets you the answers you need to make meaningful improvements that benefit users.