Observing the User Experience
This is a book I definitely enjoyed reading. More importantly, it provides a practical and pragmatic perspective on how to research user needs, in the context of a broader user-centred design process. I would certainly recommend it to anyone new to the field of usability techniques.
The book focuses on a number of key user research techniques:
- user profiles
- focus groups
- usability testing
- card sorting
- log file analysis
For each of these techniques, details are provided on how to setup and conduct the activities, as then analyse the results. Tips and examples are provided, drawn from the author’s real-world experiences. All of this is presented in a very easy to read, down-to-earth writing style.
The material in this book concentrates on providing sufficient detail and background for the reader to go away and actually use the techniques. For example, timetables are provided for many of the activities, as well as sample questions and reports.
My only complaint is that this book was somewhat thin on how to actually run effective usability testing and card sorting sessions. Which is a pity, because there is a great need for this information to be made available to the broader industry. This lack of detail is a key weakness in an otherwise exemplary book.
I skipped over quite a lot of the material in the book, due to my sole interest in intranets (and not external websites). I simply don’t need to know how to recruit suitable participants who are representative of a website’s audience (the audience of an intranet is easy to obtain: it’s the staff of the organisation itself). That being said, if you do need to know this sort of information, this book provides considerable detail, making the process both approachable and manageable.
As a result, I would recommend this book for both intranet and website folk who are interested in applying user research techniques. With the additional sections on topics such as how to implement a user-centred methodology in an organisation, this book would also be valuable for professionals looking to consolidate their knowledge in these areas.
Overall score: 9/10