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Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems (Interactive Technologies) Paperback – August 31, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-1558604117 ISBN-10: 1558604111 Edition: 1st

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Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems (Interactive Technologies) + Rapid Contextual Design: A How-to Guide to Key Techniques for User-Centered Design (Interactive Technologies)
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Product Details

  • Series: Interactive Technologies
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann; 1 edition (August 31, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558604111
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558604117
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There's certainly no shortage of software design methods: most demand total allegiance, and many claim to be the only true way to delivering useful and maintainable software systems in a timely manner. Contextual Design describes another worthwhile software engineering method, one that places the user (or customer) at the forefront of the software design process from beginning to end. This method seems to be a particularly worthwhile addition to the literature.

Contextual Design begins with contextual inquiry, where software developers interview users and attempt to understand the way they work. Such "customer empathy" is central to the Contextual Design process and a total understanding of "work" within organizations is the mantra here. The book describes how, later in the process, software developers step back from the user data and do an "affinity," which is an overall analysis of hundreds (or even thousands) of individual facts. Contextual Design then explains the additional steps required to build systems using this method, including building models for flow, sequence, and artifacts, and establishing the cultural and the physical environments for a system. After getting an overview, developers consolidate these initial models, get more user input, and then design user interfaces.

This book, written in a clear, informal style without excessive jargon, reads very much like a book on business motivation. Various practitioners of Contextual Design offer short testimonials on the software design method.

Review

"If necessity is the mother of invention, then if you don't know what the users need you can't invent. Karen and Hugh present a step-by-step way to uncover, understand, and use those needs. If developers are not already using techniques like those presented here, they should read this book carefully to see what they are missing."
--Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc

"Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt are widely recognized as the foremost experts on contextual inquiry, and they have packed what they know into a book of both substance and intelligence. It has been a long wait but worth it. The book lucidly shows how to capture the real requirements of customers and how to tailor designs to fit their needs. If you care about your customers and want to create products they as well as want, then you need to understand contextual inquiry and contextual design. You need this book."
--Larry Constantine, Principal Consultant, Constantine & Locwood, Ltd.; Professor of Computing Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney (Australia); Author of Constantine on Peopleware and Software for User

"For many years, Beyer and Holtzblatt have been pioneers in the field of human-computer interaction, showing how the context of computer use can be (and needs to be) the central focus of analysis and design. This book conveys the understanding and wisdom that they have gained from their experience in contextual design in a form that is accessible to students and design practitioners. It will serve as a guide and handbook for the next generation of interaction designers, and as a result we can expect the usability and appropriateness of computer systems to be greatly improved."
--Terry Winograd, Stanford University

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Don Norman (don_norman@hp.com) on March 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
I've been searching all over for good guides to the *process* of human-centered design as opposed to the techniques for good UI: This book is excellent on two counts
1. The principles and methods you advocate
2. The lack of competition, but this doesn't distract from the quality of the book.
There are lots of books on how to do UI, but they all concentrate upon the widgets. This is the only one I have seen that really tells you how to go out and collect customer data, and then, what to do about it. I also like the way it deals with UI design -- do it only after the analysis -- resist the temptation to start the design too soon.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Merryl Gross on December 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
I have to admit that it's taken me a long time to read this book. Every few pages, my brain filled with ideas as to how I could use the info in my organization!
Make sure you finish reading a section before you try to apply it. The authors do a good job of starting at a higher level, then going into more detail in following chapters. You need this detail before you go on to the next section. This is not a theoretical book; the authors have been using these techniques for years to design real, complex products. It resonates well with my experiences in software user interface design.
If you design products intended to be used by humans, you NEED this book. If everyone read this book and even *tried* to follow its principles, the products we buy and use would be vastly improved. Save the world; buy it today!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
The book offers a fantastic guide to project teams for creating excellent software. If any group follows the design practices prescribed by Contextual Design, their users are likely to find the resulting software actually enhances their work practice, rather than gets in their way.
The book works on the level of processes that project teams should follow to understand their users work and then to build the software to enhance that work practice. Someone wanting to focus on the level of GUI interface guidelines should look elsewhere.
What is amazing to me so far as I read and use the book is how often these authors are saying something that is not only novel but also simply right.
Great job by Holtzblatt and Beyer!
-- Joe Grant
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have used this book both academecially and professionally. The authors cover every facet of this important phase of the design process: they tell you why CI is important, explain every detail of doing it, and thoroughly detail ways to communicate findings to other people. Much better than most of the Neilsen books on usability engineering (although much more narrow in scope) -- it's written in a nonacademic style and is fairly easy to peruse.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Pacovich on February 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
Beyer & Holtzblatt have done an excellent job describing the process of contextual design. I'm currently implementing a new company-wide business process, in conjunction with co-workers, and thought it would simply be a good idea to both refresh my memory, gather ideas, and form concepts that would be helpful in the organizational design process. This book has undoubtedly served the purposes I've wanted it to. Again, excellent book - worth the buy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jim Grey on June 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
With all the talk about user-centered design, it's a relief to find a book that describes a well-defined and flexible approach to it. The authors have really done their homework. I especially appreciated the explanation of approaching site visits as if you were an apprentice.
However, I really wish this book had been more concise. I kept wanting the authors to get to the point. Perhaps I'll appreciate this book's detail later, when I'm one day deep in the throes of a project that uses some or all of this approach. But today I merely wanted to become familiar with this approach and understand its benefits.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Steve Johnson on July 7, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Contextual Design explains the customer's role in product design to high-tech product teams. It gives techniques and procedures on how to integrate customers (and potential customers) into the development cycle. The most important section for product managers is the chapter on techniques for interviewing (called "Contextual Inquiry" in the book's lexicon) details how to conduct an onsite interview, what to watch for, and which follow-up questions to ask. While geared to the systems analyst, the book is valuable to anyone responsible for gathering prospect problems at an onsite meeting.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Chris O'Leary on August 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have read a lot of glowing reviews about this book but I have found that, while it is good, I think it is too dense to be great. It is a very difficult read. The writing style is very heavy. I would love a one-pager of the ideas in this book. My sense is that it would read "Watch Users." There are better books on the subject. I like "The Inmates are Running the Asylum."
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