1-1-1 Book Review: Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug

September 13th, 2012 Karine Joly 1 Comment

You might have heard the news that we are embarking on a comprehensive (responsive) web redesign project of all our digital presence components (this blog, Higher Ed Experts, the job board, Higher Ed Analytics, the Wednesday email newsletter – yep everything).

I’m really excited by this project as one of my favorite higher ed designers, Stewart Foss (the founder of eduStyle and the eduStyle Awards as well as the instructor of our responsive web design course) has agreed to work on the redesign even before the official launch of his new web design agency: Demand Creativity.
Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug
While Web Analytics and feedback from users have provided a lot of information on what should be done, I’ve decided to run some usability testing sessions to spot things we might have missed. I asked for volunteers in my email newsletter last week and got 5 volunteers (isn’t it nice to work with such a great and helpful community? :0) to participate in the first round of testing this week.

But, back to the book, I bought “Rocket Surgery Made Easy” by Steve Krug a couple of years ago. I had read the bible he had previously written: Don’t Make Me Think (I also worked on a suprise video for Steve Krug, met the guy at the High Ed Web Conference and even got his autograph 8-)).

While I scanned his second book, I never got a chance to read it cover to cover until this weekend. Last Friday after booking all my web usability sessions, I thought it was time to finally dive into it.

So, here’s is my 1-1-1 Express Book Review of Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems by Steve Krug.

  • 1 thing I liked
    This book is the ultimate guide on how to run your web usability testing. It provides insights on the general process including how to make it an organizational habit at your institution as well as the nitty-gritty details, check-lists and good tips. While I had read a lot about usability testing and attended a few presentations and webinars on the topic, I had never run a session myself before Monday. I read the book over the weekend (a couple of hours in total) and came up with the list of tasks I wanted to test. Monday morning I wrote 2 basic scenarios, edited/printed/rehearsed the script provided by the author in half an hour and was ready for my first remote usability testing session.

  • 1 thing I didn’t like too much
    I’m sorry but there is nothing I didn’t like in this book. It’s short, to the point, useful, multi-media (video, checklists and scripts) and a fun read with some really good writing and nice illustrations.

  • 1 big take-away from the book
    Beyond the fact that this book can get you rolling on your first usability testing session in 3 to 5 hours, it also provides an interesting take on what should be fixed first and how. Steve Krug emphasizes the fact that you should fix the worst problems your participants encounter in these testing sessions instead of going for the proverbial low hanging fruit. Well, not totally drifting away from the approach though as he advises “to try do the least you can do” when fixing big problems. In other words, you should pick big problems and fix them by implementing fast small changes. Rinse and repeat until the problem is fixed for good.

    BONUS: Favorite quote from the book
    I just loved this one on page 124 as it applies so well to higher education:
    When I look at most home pages – overcrowded, no focus, in my face – I feel a little bit like the boy in The Sixth Sense, except that instead of “I see dead people,” the thought going through my head is “I see stakeholders”

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