Book Review of Steve Krug's Rocket Surgery Made Easy

I’ve been a fan of Steve Krug’s since his original book, Don’t Make Me Think, came out about a decade ago. (And Steve was kind enough to write an endorsement for my book, Neuro Web Design: What makes them click? when it came out last year).

Steve’s new book is all about user testing of web sites (or software or products or anything really). The premise of the book is that ANYONE can conduct a simple user test and that EVERYONE who has a website, software, or a product, should conduct user testing.

So the book is a DIY guide to simple, but effective, user testing.

Here’s my review via video, and below that I’ll summarize the take-aways:

What I like most about the book:

It’s very thorough — This really is everything you need to know to conduct an informal usability test.

Useful checklists — Chapter 7 is called “Some boring checklists” and it has great (not boring) checklists of what to do and when to do it.

All the wording and scripts you need — Chapter 8 gives you all the details you need, for example what to say as the facilitator, and what your consent form should contain. You get the actual forms and scripts.

How to interpret the data you get — Chapters 11 and 12 tell you what to do now that you’ve run the user tests and you have information.

How to think about the results — One of my favorite chapters is #10, where he walks you through how to have a meeting with your team and decide what actions to take based on the feedback you got during the test.

Link to an example video — In the book Steve gives you a URL to watch a video. The video is Steve conducting a user test with a real user. He annotates the video with some call outs so you can learn what he is doing as he goes along.

It’s a great book and I recommend it for anyone who has anything to do with designing or improving a website, or software, or technology product that people use. Whether you are new to user testing, or a pro with many years under your belt, you will find this book to be of immense value.

If you’d like to read more about it on Amazon, here’s a link (affiliate):


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7 Steps to Successful Web Site Redesign

Jacek Utko
Jacek Utko

Jacek Utko is a newspaper designer. He has designed/redesigned many newspapers in Central and Eastern Europe and won world awards. He believes strongly in “giving power to the designers” and that designers should embed their personal vision into the work they do, even at the expense of being a team player.

Utko’s words and work are compelling, and I especially like his 7 Steps to Success. He is talking about 7 steps to success if you are redesigning a newspaper, but when I first read the 7 steps I thought they were a good jumping off point on 7 Steps to Successful Web Site Design. So I’ve taken his 7 steps and modified them to fit the design of websites:

7 Steps To Successful Web Site Design or Redesign (concepts borrowed from Jacek Utko and modified)

1. Web Site Strategy: What is the goal? Where and how can you reach new visitors to your website? Pick one measure of success (sales, conversions registrations), pick your most important measure and ask: “How can we increase that one measure of success?”

2. Content: What content do you have that will attract new visitors and advertisers. What content should you change or add to reach and serve them better? Continue reading “7 Steps to Successful Web Site Redesign”

Web Site User Experience Anatomy

Guest Blogger Craig Tomlin
Guest Blogger Craig Tomlin

GUEST POST: This is a guest post by Craig Tomlin

Just like human anatomy, the anatomy of a web site is composed of different user experience parts that must all work together seamlessly.  Optimizing the user experience of each part however is problematic: Where do you start?  How much user experience testing and adjusting should you do on each of your page types?  What’s critical, important or just a nice to have in terms of spending your limited user experience testing resources?

Over the past 13 or so years I’ve conduct user experience testing and optimization on hundreds of large and small web sites.  During this time, I’ve noted a pattern to the user experience of typical web site pages.  There seems to me to be what I call a “user experience page weight” and a resulting “user experience testing weight” that are fairly consistent across web sites.

In my opinion, these user experience anatomy points of a web site can be weighted, and that weighting used to help a web site owner determine what user experience importance to place on each page type.  This weighting can also help determine how much user experience testing resources should be applied to each page.

Following is my overview of an average web site user experience page weight, and user experience testing needs.

Of course, no two web sites are exactly the same, thus your web site may or may not have the same weightings as I’m indicating here.  But you can use my criteria and weights as a starting point, and adjust your web site user experience weighting to fit your site.  This provides you the benefit of having a better comprehension of the user experience needs by page type, and how much resources to spend testing and optimizing each page type.

A Few Definitions first:

User Experience Page Weight – I define this as a percentage of your total web site experience cognitive load.  Total web site experience is the average amount of cognitive load your web site visitor will typically expend on your web site during typical critical tasks.

Some pages, for example the home page and products pages, may typically experience a higher cognitive load than other pages, as your web site visitors try to determine if your site should be trusted, and if you provide the products or services the visitor is trying to find.

Many years of usability testing on large and small sites have enabled me to average a “typical” UX Page Weight, which I’ll define specifically for each page type below.  However, your web site may not have the same UX Page Weight as I am providing here – your own usability testing on your own site should be your guide.

User Experience Testing – I define this as a percentage of the resources you should expend in conducting usability testing and related user experience research (clicktrack analysis, eye-tracking, etc.) when evaluating optimizations of the user experience for that page.

It’s a rare firm that has enough UX resources to continually test and optimize all web site pages at the same time, most of us have to spread limited resources around.  This metric is my average for each page gained from years of usability testing observations of multiple kinds of web sites.  Your web site might have different UX testing weights.

User experience anatomy of a typical web site, with UX page and testing weights.
User experience anatomy of a typical web site, with UX page and testing weights.

Continue reading “Web Site User Experience Anatomy”

Recovery.Gov Website — For The Average Citizen?…Not

Have you been wondering where all the “stimulus” money is going that the US government is giving away to get us out of the recession? The US government has a website where you can go to look up anything and everything you want to know about the stimulus money.

I’ve created a video podcast review of the site:

Have you been to the site Recovery.Gov? Do you agree with my review?


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The 11 Best Psychology, Persuasion, and Usability Books You Should Read

NOTE: This blog post was written in 2009. I have a new list of books at a newer blog post.

I love to read. I read fiction and history and psychology… I’m an avid reader. Which means when I give talks on psychology, usability, user experience, or my book, Neuro Web Design,  I often say, “Oh, there’s this great book…” and people then ask me for my “favorite books” list. I always tell them I’ll put one together, and then I never do. Well, here’s a start. Some of these are my favorites, and others I take issue with, but I still think you might want to read. I do have an Amazon affiliate account, so I’ve included a link to each book after the description if you are interested in purchasing or just getting more info.

How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer, 2009 – This is my favorite book on the topic of decision-making. It came out after I wrote my book (Neuro Web Design: What makes them click?) or I would have quoted him many times in my book. It’s a small book, and has lots of research in it, but it is quite readable. Highly recommended if you want to understand the how and why of human decision-making.

Strangers to Ourselves: The Adaptive Unconscious, by Timothy Wilson, 2004 – This is the book that actually got me started seriously on the topic of the unconscious. I had read Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) and although that was an interesting book, I wanted more depth and detail. Gladwell referenced Wilson’s book so I started reading it and light bulbs went off for me. This one is a bit more academic and psychological, especially the first few chapters, but all in all, a great book with lots of interesting insights and strong research.

Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert, 2007 – This is a fun read. I don’t think it’s really about Happiness, so I don’t totally understand the title. To me it’s mainly about memory of the past, and anticipation about the future, and the research on how accurate or inaccurate we are about both past and future. It’s full of fascinating research, but is written in a very readable way.

Neuro Marketing:  Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain, by Patrick Renvoise and Christophe Morin – This book is short and easy to read. It applies some of the latest neuro psychology work specifically to marketing and sales. A good book to give to someone who wants an overview without all the research details. A nice concise and quick read that will orient you to the neuro marketing mindset, and give you some quick tips about more effective marketing and selling.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini, 2006 – This is a newer version of the original book that came out several years ago. This book is the “granddaddy” of all the other books on the topic. A very worthwhile read. Interesting too, because at the time he originally wrote this book each chapter had a section on how to RESIST the persuasive techniques. He wasn’t a proponent of using them; he wanted you to know about them so you wouldn’t fall prey. He did a turn-around on that mindset for his subsequent book that I talk about next. Continue reading “The 11 Best Psychology, Persuasion, and Usability Books You Should Read”

What Makes a City Usable?

Last week I was in Portland Oregon for the Usability Professional’s Association Conference. It’s my second time in Portland, and I was struck again with how comfortable Portland feels. A common phrase I kept hearing on this trip while talking with people from the conference was, “Have you been to Portland before? It seems like such a nice city.” So I’ve been thinking in the last few days about the concept of a usable city. What makes Portland seem so nice? What makes it feel “usable”. Here are some ideas:

1) Manageable scale: Portland is a manageable city and has a “usable scale”. Meaning, it’s not too big and not too small. You can get a handle on it, but there’s still lots to see. There are some nice looking larger buildings to look at, but it’s not overwhelming.
2) Balance of urban and nature: Portland has a good mix of urban life (sidewalks, stores, cafes) and green spaces (parks, places to sit outdoors). I was especially struck with the idea of a small square in the middle of the downtown that had flowers and Adirondack type chairs where people sat reading.
3) Diversity of people: As you walked the streets there were people young, old, hip, square, all different colors.
4) Get to the airport in 30 minutes for $2.40: OK, I was REALLY impressed with the light rail system… I walk out of my downtown hotel. I walk one very short block with my backpack and roller luggage. I get to the corner and buy myself a ticket for the light rail (the machine for purchasing a ticket is NOT very usable, especially early in the morning by a first time user… that they can improve on). I don’t have to go down an escalator or a set of stairs… so it’s easy with luggage. I just get my ticket from a machine on the street. The light rail train arrives even before I’ve gotten my ticket. It says AIRPORT in big letters. I get on (no steps, just roll the luggage right on) and ride the train about 30 minutes to the airport. It’s quiet enough that I talk on my cell phone without any problem. Best of all, when I arrive at the airport and the door opens I’m IN the airport with the ticket counter in front of me. THAT was impressive. A cab to the airport costs $40… light rail $2.40…same amount of time…
5) Cacao liquid chocolate shoppe: I have to admit that Portland seemed most wonderful and usable after we found the Cacao shop across from our hotel. It’s a small place, with only room for 3 people to sit on stools looking out the window. You order a “shot” of liquid chocolate in one of 3 flavors and sip your warm thick chocolate while watching a soft mist fall outside and talk with friends. It changes your perspective on your day.
I’ll visit Portland again!So what do you think? What cities would you nominate as being usable?