Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing UsabilUy Problems

By Sharkey, Ultan | Irish Journal of Management, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing UsabilUy Problems


Sharkey, Ultan, Irish Journal of Management


Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing UsabilUy Problems

Steve Krug

Berkeley, California: New Riders, 2009

INTRODUCTION

Rocket Surgery Made Easy is Steve Krug's follow-up companion to his 2000 book Don't Make Me Think, and it details how to find and fix usability issues with your website, application or software. Rocket Surgery Made Easy does an excellent job of positioning itself as a handbook for quick and dirty usability testing, building on the commonsense approach espoused in Krug's earlier offering.

The book is structured in three sections over a series of very short chapters; this review follows a similar path. The initial nine chapters discuss the basic elements of conducting usability tests, the next four detail specific strategies for fixing what is found and the last three chapters are dedicated to emerging technologies, additional recommendations for reading and some useful materials with which to get your team started. The book is aimed both at professional usability people and those managing software teams. However, managers involved in any user-facing application, from mobile applications to the simplest of websites, would find this book a very accessible and practical guide to usability testing. Additionally, if you are planning on engaging a professional usability firm, this is a quick study in the process, practice and terminology of usability testing.

PRAEMONITUS, PRAEMUNITUS

Krug offers a few caveats before truly beginning the handbook. He admits it is not to be taken as a comprehensive addition to the multitude of usability tomes already in existence, though he offers his thoughts on many popular ones in the penultimate chapter. The book is purposefully succinct, undertaking to be readable on a long plane ride. The author carefully addresses a number of arguments that amateurs should not be delving into such important work. However, he does caution that if you can afford professional usability testing you should proceed with it. Finally, he bounds the book's purpose firmly within the realm of simple, informal and small sample usability testing, not to be used for fool-proofing systems but to make them a little easier to use without much fuss. Usability testing is an area of distinct interest to managers that is often ignored. When testing does occur it is often relegated to the finished product, when both the resources and appetite for alterations are sparse. A central theme of this book is to test early and often. The key points for software or product development managers to take home from this book are that its lessons provide the impetus to start testing early and often, and that it can be done with as little resources as you can wrangle. Later in the book, Krug even suggests that you show the 'napkin sketch' to a few people to ensure its veracity. This is the essence of the guerrilla approach.

A GUERRILLA GUIDE

Krug proceeds fairly directly to a straightforward, honest explanation of what is the proffered flavour of usability in the book - expedient, low numbers, qualitative testing. He contrasts his method with the depth of quantitative approaches but does fail to truly expose the value of true breadth in less expedient qualitative testing. That said, as the first chapter introduces the reader to the idea of guerrilla testing there is no surprise in the contrast presented. As a general rule throughout the book, Krug presents short anecdotes of his teaching methods that illustrate the value of the simplified method he presents. This chapter proves no exception, illustrating the method's basic workings by offering a typical story of a live demo usability test from one of his usability training workshops: an attendee is chosen to complete an abbreviated usability task on another attendee's own website, lasting for fifteen minutes or so. The results are reported in the text as four bullet points that quickly illustrate that the tester has enjoyed the process, the site owner has been busy scribbling what he has learned in his observances, the audience understands it's easy to do this, and Krug gets to present the rhetorical 'Does that seem like a worthwhile way to spend 15 minutes? …

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