- Series: Technical Communication
- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Longman (October 12, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0205315194
- ISBN-13: 978-0205315192
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,152,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Usability Testing and Research (Part of the Allyn & Bacon Series in Technical Communication)
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From the Back Cover
Built on a solid foundation of current research in the field, Usability Testing and Research provides a comprehensive, up-to-date perspective in this increasingly important area of technical communication. Based on the most current research in the field, this book reflects the most recent developments and studies on this topic available. Sidebars throughout the book catch the attention of the readers and highlight key concepts in the text. A chapter on web testing provides coverage of what is now the hottest area in usability testing. End of chapter discussions and exercises reinforce learning. Frequent examples of planning, conducting, and reporting usability tests present current samples of projects. An appendix on teamwork gives pertinent advice in an area neglected by other texts: building and coordinating cross-functional teams for usability testing. For those interested in usability testing and research.
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Top Customer Reviews
Besides a lot of detail on usability testing protocol (well written and highly readable) there are lots of examples of facilitator scripts, recruiting and screener forms, Think Aloud instructions, etc.
I wish the book itself were of a higher quality. The binding, paper, and printing seem low budget, yet the price is not low! No matter, buy it anyway. Whether you are new to usability testing or an experienced tester, it's a useful book.
I'm going to limit specific comments to just the first 10 pages of this book. Critiquing the remainder would warrant a full dissertation, not an Amazon review.
1) Subpar fact-checking.
For example, on page 3: "Alan Cooper, a usability specialist who did pioneering work at Apple..." Alan Cooper never worked for Apple, let alone perform pioneering work there. Alan *Kay* worked for Apple. And Alan Kay's most significant work was by far at Xerox PARC; his Apple work with the Vivarium is rarely cited in comparison.
2) Too many overstated claims lacking conclusion validity
Given the author's own academic background, I'm startled by the poorly grounded research-based claims littered throughout the book. For example, on page 5: "a belief confirmed by a study that shows that '27% of all Web transactions are abandoned at the payment screen." ''This claim, as presented, is indefensible: no study author would have access to every single web transaction to perform such an categorical assessment. Were it even true at the time of the study, who's to say it's true now? Presumably she meant "27% of Web transactions *sampled*..."?
Especially given the author's added responsibility in writing for students who are likely concurrently learning basic research methods skills -- including assessing conclusion validity -- this book's own research claims should be responsibly situated. This aspect of the textbook disturbed me the most, because it presents the moral hazard of students tacitly learning to make similar such overreaching and false claims from their own work as usability researchers.
3) Author pushes usability testing as it may have been 10-15 years ago, not as it works today.
For example, on page 10, she quotes usability testing salesman Jakob Nielsen: "If no [usability test] information is available, you might as well choose by tossing a coin, and you will have a 50% probability of choosing the best interface".
Go tell this to Apple: there was not any formal usability testing on the iPhone, and yet reviewers hailed it as the most usable (and best interface) ever shipped on a phone. Instead, Apple iterated designs rapidly, and relies upon extensive use of peer cognitive walkthroughs and an emphasis in employee recruiting for good usability sense. By blindly dismissing the value of other methods of getting to good design, the author presents a skewed and misleading image of usability practice in reality.
Beyond countless such "yowser" moments in reading this book, it's just a mediocre book attempting to straddle the line between a practitioner book and a student textbook - while ultimately failing to meet the needs of either audience.
For practitioners, it's far too verbose and lacking in visual design affordances to use in practice; you can't scan a section for a few seconds before a study, because the book largely consists of paragraph after paragraph of text with the occasional bulleted list and header.
For students, it's just a low-value textbook: the printing is cheap (on-demand), and the price is high. The book's content suggests that author received no significant editorial or professional design assistance. The most important messages key to designing one's first usability study are buried in paragraph after paragraph of academic tangents. The author's widespread use of overreaching research-based knowledge claims makes it hard to know which assertions to trust, and which not to trust. Publishers should be investing a lot more resources into a book if they're charging such a high price (contrast with Baxter & Courage's beautiful user research book, which sadly omits usability testing).
Students - and practitioners - deserve a better usability testing book than this one.
Don�t be fooled by the somewhat unmemorable cover of Usability Testing and Research. Carol Barnum combines research findings with practitioner experience to produce probably the most comprehensive but concise resources on usability testing now available.
This book is part of the Allyn & Bacon series in technical communication. Designed in part to fulfill the needs of students in a graduate-level class in usability, it is also a great resource for usability practitioners as a tool to update and upgrade their skills. The structure of this book should suit both neophytes and the experienced. Each chapter and its subsections are well structured with a logical progression from one section to the next. The table of contents is well organized and very readable so that a knowledgeable individual can scan to find those sections that are of most immediate interest. The index is likely to be a great reference tool as it was created by a professional usability tester, someone who should know what a reader is likely to need.
Dr. Barnum, a usability consultant and professor to graduate usability students, draws upon nearly every prominent usability authority to build a comprehensive bible of usability testing. The author�s academic background is evident in the careful footnoting of every page and the detailed listing of scores of references at the end of each chapter. If there is an issue the reader wishes to further explore, the source is cited for ready access. The findings from top usability professionals are distilled to their essence and woven into comprehensive work on usability. The reader gains the primary benefit of hundreds of books, papers, and articles without having to filter though this sea of information. There is little if anything of importance that is left out of this 448-page book of concentrated wisdom and knowledge.
The reader, whether a student or an experienced practitioner, gets the benefit of both analytic research and its practical application. Many examples of actual real-world, usability test plans, data, analysis, or summary reports are reprinted. These examples are great models for the practice of usability. This book has not just general how you might do something but also how it was actually done � not just theory but actual practice.
Anyone interested in the usability of hardware, software, computer games, Web sites � any product that has a user interface � will find a great wealth of information. The first chapter starts off defining usability and explaining usability testing models and theory. It also provides a methodology for cost justification and the basis to proselytiz for usability.
In Chapter 2, the author should be commended for taking a holistic view of usability and discussing how heuristics, surveys, and focus groups play a role in the design of a usable product. Chapters 3 through 7 explain user and task analysis as a precursor to designing, planning, preparing, and conducting the test. Chapter 8 details not just the analyses of the collected data but also different methods of reporting the findings to obtain the best result. The final chapter builds on everything before and discusses those issues specific to Web usability. Nearly every chapter has an appendix with real-world examples specific to that chapter. The end-of-the-book appendix discusses how to make usability testers work as a well-functioning team.
Some books are chock full of scholarly research and empirical data and great for academia. This book has a solid base in research but was written for the real-world practitioners of usability. It�s this steady focus on practical real-world application that most impresses me about this book.
Still not convinced this book is for you? Check out the companion Web site, ..... Download material from the book�s appendices and sidebars. Peruse the many usability tools and link to other usability resources on the Web.
Usability Testing and Research is not only of great value as a resource of practical information to usability professionals but also as a tool to explain the benefits of usability design and testing to skeptical management. Carol Barnum should be congratulated for a great job in bringing together in one book such a complete, well-organized compilation of usability theory and practicality.