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Institutionalization of Usability: A Step-by-Step Guide Paperback – February 21, 2004

ISBN-13: 078-5342179347 ISBN-10: 032117934X
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"Some argue the big advances in our impact on design and usability will come from better methods. Some argue they will come from earlier involvement in the development process. The biggest impact, however, will come as more and more companies realize the benefits of user-centered design and embrace it. Eric offers a practical road map to get there."—Arnie Lund, Director of Design and Usability, Microsoft Corporation

"This book is a great how-to manual for people who want to bring the benefits of improved usability to their companies. It's thorough yet still accessible for the smart businessperson. I've been working with user-centered design for almost 20 years and I found myself circling tips and tricks."—Harley Manning, Research Director, Forrester Research

"This book should be required reading for all executive champions of change. It does an excellent job in laying the foundation for incorporating usability engineering concepts and best practices into corporations. Business success in the new economy will greatly depend on instituting the changes in design methods and thinking that are so clearly and simply put forth in this very practical and useful book."—Ed Israelski, Program Manager—Human Factors, Abbott Laboratories

"For those of us who have evangelized usability for so many years, we finally have a book that offers meaningful insights that can only come from years of practical experience in the real world. Here is a wonderful guide for all who wish to make usability a 'way of life' for their companies."—Felica Selenko, Principal Technical Staff Member, AT&T

"Dr. Schaffer's mantra is that the main differentiator for companies of the future will be the ability to build practical, useful, usable, and satisfying applications and sites. This is a book that provides the road map necessary to allow your organization to achieve these goals." —Colin Hynes, Director of Site Usability, Staples, Inc.

"Eric's methodology helped RBC Royal Bank's online banking complete a new user interface, and provided a blueprint for making usable designs a routine part of our development process. The site became successful in making money, saving money, and increasing customer satisfaction—evidencing the effectiveness of his approach."—Carolyn Burke, Senior Manager, e-Commerce and Payments Strategy, RBC Royal Bank of Canada

"If you're tasked with bringing usability to a large organization, this book is for you (and your boss). Informed by years of case studies and consulting experience, Eric provides the long view, clearly describing what to expect, what to avoid, and how to succeed in establishing user-centered principles at your company."—Pat Malecek, User Experience Manager, AVP, CUA, A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc.

"Usability issues are a key challenge for user-interface development of increasingly complex products and services. This book provides much-needed insights to help managers achieve their key objectives and to develop more successful solutions."—Aaron Marcus, President, Aaron Marcus and Associates

At one time, computer hardware was the key differentiator in information technology—what gave an organization its competitive edge. Then, as hardware prices fell, software took center stage. Today, software has become a broadly shared commodity, and a new differentiator has emerged—usability. Applications, including Web sites, are usable if they are practical, useful, easy to work with, and satisfying. Usability is now the factor likeliest to give an organization a distinct advantage.

Institutionalization of Usability shows how to make user-centered design and development a routine practice within an enterprise. Other excellent books explain precisely how to make software usable; this book builds on that foundation, and focuses instead on how to get usability recognized and incorporated into an organization's values and culture. Based on author Eric Schaffer's extensive experience, the book provides a solid methodology for institutionalizing usability, guiding readers step by step with practical advice on topics like organizational change, milestones, toolsets, infrastructure, and staffing requirements needed to achieve fully mature usability engineering.

Learn how to:

  • Educate your organization about the importance of usability
  • Hire and coordinate usability staff and consultants
  • Plan the standards, design, and implementation phases
  • Retrofit a method that has added user-centered activities
  • Recruit participants for usability interviews and testing
  • Select the right staff and project to showcase—by timeline, user impact, and visibility
  • Evangelize, train and mentor staff, and support the community

Whether you are an executive leading the institutionalization process, a manager supporting the transition, or an engineer working on usability issues, Institutionalization of Usability will help you to build usability into your software practices.

About the Author

Eric Schaffer, Ph.d., is the founder and CEO of Human Factors International, Inc., the world's largest company specializing in usability engineering. For more than twenty-five years, Eric has helped Fortune 500 companies apply user-centered design in such industries as telecommunications, financial services, manufacturing, software development, and medical equipment. Previously, he worked on usability issues at AT&T and Bell Labs.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional (February 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 032117934X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321179340
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,251,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The usability of computer interfaces is like art, essential, but difficult to quantify. However, with the proper approach, both can be taught and the best principles of usability can be formalized into a process. Creating such a process is not easy, requiring an ongoing commitment. Schaffer identifies four phases in the process of making usability issues a fundamental component of software design. They are the startup, setup, organization and long-term operations phases.
Like all startup phases when creating a process, institutionalizing usability begins with a change in mindset. This is often a response to a disaster, but the best people are proactive and realize that good usability is good business. As is the case in nearly all areas of software development, implementation of a process requires an executive champion, someone who understands the value and continues to insist that the proper quality be maintained. There is no question that this is the most important precondition to making usability an institutional requirement.
Schaffer steps through each of the phases, breaking them down into specific components. Issues such as standards, staffing, staff training, implementation strategies, planning and tools used in testing are covered in detail. In all cases, he gives detailed explanations of what to do and repeatedly emphasizes that a proactive strategy is generally the best one. I found his charts of boring to cool versus confusing to usable to be amusing and quite accurate.
As the population using computers has shifted from those with a great deal of computer expertise to the population in general, the height of the usability bar has been dramatically raised.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read and highlighted this book with the promise of my manager to read it after me (or at least the highlighting!). I am hoping the book will move up the management structure and make a difference. I believe the book is somewhat remedial if you have been in the usability world for very long, but if you are trying to influence an organization and educate them as to the value, methodology and how-to of usability, this book will help.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By W Boudville HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
A nice management level explanation of the importance of usability design and how to incorporate it organically into the entire iterative design process. Schaffer emphasises finding the right people, starting at senior management, as much as the tasks that the people then do. The 'institutionalisation' in the title refers to this emphasis. He contrasts this with standard usability texts that focus on the methodology instead of the people who have to perform it.
Speaking of methodology, he devotes an entire chapter to it. He shows a figure of the old way, where the design of a technical solution was done first, followed by a design of the interface that would overlay it. He suggests reversing this order. Not bad, and probably valid in most cases. But there is one important case where the old way is still viable. Research. Where it is not certain that a solution exists. By necessity, investigation and implementation of a solution should come first. Because if it cannot be done, interface design is moot. Granted, most of his book refers to a commercial product, so the rejoinder could be that a research situation is outside the book's scope. But just keep this in mind when reading it.
He also includes a very topical section on the challenges of offshore staffings. (Indians, anyone?) It is certainly possible, though not trivial, to integrate such staff into the entire design cycle, in his experience. Of course, some American readers will find this unsettling. But it should not be a surprise. As offshore staff gain in experience, inevitably they will be able to do this.
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