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Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems (Interactive Technologies) [Paperback]

by Hugh Beyer, Karen Holtzblatt
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 15, 1997 1558604111 978-1558604117 1
This book introduces a customer-centered approach to business by showing how data gathered from people while they work can drive the definition of a product or process while supporting the needs of teams and their organizations. This is a practical, hands-on guide for anyone trying to design systems that reflect the way customers want to do their work. The authors developed Contextual Design, the method discussed here, through their work with teams struggling to design products and internal systems. In this book, you'll find the underlying principles of the method and how to apply them to different problems, constraints, and organizational situations.

Contextual Design enables you to
+ gather detailed data about how people work and use systems
+ develop a coherent picture of a whole customer population
+ generate systems designs from a knowledge of customer work
+ diagram a set of existing systems, showing their relationships, inconsistencies, redundancies, and omissions

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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)
Price for both: $120.09

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Editorial Reviews 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.


"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

Product Details

  • Series: Interactive Technologies
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann; 1 edition (September 15, 1997)
  • 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 (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
89 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent guide to human-centered design March 19, 1998
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Chock full o' ideas! December 11, 1999
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
4.0 out of 5 stars If only more software was designed this way! February 19, 1999
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars a great mix of theory and practice September 14, 2000
By A Customer
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, right price February 13, 2002
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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
5.0 out of 5 stars explains the customer's role in product design 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
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to Penetrate August 21, 2001
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Book was required
I got the book because it was required for a class that I am taking. It arrived on time and was in good condition.
Published 14 months ago by Perry Hartman
2.0 out of 5 stars Super Dry
I'll be honest that I've only read about 4 chapters of this book, but the formatting makes it really difficult to read. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Danielle Alexander
3.0 out of 5 stars Content good, editing bad
The Kindle edition is laden with typos and editing errors. Looks like they converted an early draft rather than something that'd been copy-edited. Read more
Published 21 months ago by M. J. Downey
3.0 out of 5 stars Contextual design
The book is as described by the seller, but there where shipping mishandling and shipping took to long.
Published on June 27, 2010 by Miguel M. Bencosme
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I will review this product from its material standpoint and not from an implementation standpoint. The book was part of a class I took in Carnegie Mellon. Read more
Published on June 23, 2009 by R. Parthasarathy
1.0 out of 5 stars In how many ways can you say it...
If you've got a memory like a gold fish this might be a great book. For others this book is likely to be repetative to the extreme. Half of the pages could easily be cut out. Read more
Published on April 26, 2007 by T. Martin
1.0 out of 5 stars Techniques requirement
This book provided a method to gather requirement efficiently but the rest of the method should be revised.
Published on May 13, 2004 by Incerdible
1.0 out of 5 stars Useless
This is quite a useless book about an otherwise interesting subject. The writers give redundancy and repetition new meaning as they repeat themselves by saying the same thing over... Read more
Published on November 26, 2001 by Michael D
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