Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New Steve Krug book - Rocket Surgery Made Easy

I've just read the free chapter of Steve Krug's new book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy, on his website. I want a copy. Now.

It's a few years since I read his first book, and I'd forgotten just how witty and engaging Steve is when he writes.

I'm also a bit peeved that I forgot to put it on my Christmas list. Never mind, that's what the January sales are for...'s a how-to book that explains exactly how to do your own usability testing.

I wrote it because I really do believe that everyone can—and should—be doing their own testing.

If you're remotely interested in having a website that is easy for your visitors to use, I defy you to read this, and not want the rest of the book.

Sample chapter (PDF download) - "Call me Ishmael - How this book came to be, some disclaimers,and a bit of housekeeping"

How to buy the book at - Steve Krug's website

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Axure resources - free downloads

Axure is a great prototyping tool used by a large community of usability professionals. Some have created stencils and widgets that can be downloaded and used for free.

Free Axure design patterns - Roslyn Zolandor (

Axure Design Pattern Library - Loren Baxter (

Axure widget libraries (

Three rules for creating great wireframes

A few hints and tips when you're prototyping a website or interface. And I like this succinct explanation of why prototyping is so important:

Explained properly to a client prototypes and wireframes can be a great way to lock down, demonstrate and flesh-out a site's functionality. It also has the added advantages of keeping a project on specification and budget.
Three rules for creating great wireframes - article by Roslyn Zolandor

Search landing page user experiences

An interesting article by Jared Spool on some of the ways in which search engines get it wrong with their results pages. Lots of useful examples and anecdotes from user testing sessions to back up his comments.

The best [website management] teams regularly inspect the top queries, determine what those users are seeking, then check their landing pages to ensure they're delivering it.

Three perils with search landing pages - article by Jared Spool

Free online seminar - improving the search experience

A free online presentation from Jared Spool of I've not watched this one yet, but others from uie have been worthwhile.

Search, Scent and the Happiness of Pursuit - free online presentation with Jared M. Spool

Presentation outline for "Search, Scent and the Happiness of Pursuit"

Gerry McGovern - Get to the point

Gerry McGovern emphasises the need to cut the waffle and get to the point quickly when writing for the web. Ironically in quite a rambling fashion. Still worth a quick read though.

The importance of getting to the point - article by Gerry McGovern

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Prototyping with Visio - Whitney Quesenbery

A presentation that covers all the basic whys and hows of prototyping, as well as getting into the detail of Visio techniques, ending with a further reading list I need to investigate further. All within 30 slides.

Prototyping and usability testing with Visio (PDF) - presentation by Karen Bachman and Whitney Quesenbery

The right trigger words - Jared Spool on labelling and links

A good article on the power of well labelled links. Jared summarises:
The purpose of every link is to move users forward. Each link needs to give off enough "scent" to clue the user into the content to follow. That scent comes from the trigger words. When creating new content, the designers' most important task is to ensure that the links to that content contains the right trigger words.

The bottom line, as ever is engage with your users if you want to understand them and use their language.
How do you find out what your users' trigger words are? Well, you start by asking them... This powerful trio -- field studies, personas, and usability testing -- are a great way to start identifying the trigger words that work for your users.

The right trigger words - article by Jared Spool

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

24 usability testing tools

This evening I went back to a link I blogged back in October on free and paid online usability testing tools. Very disappointed to find that the article now requires registration to read it.

So instead of registering, I just had a bit of a look about for someone else who's written much the same article. And here we are:

24 website usability testing tools - article from

Like I said last time, as and when I try these out I'll blog about them.

Anyone around the University experimenting with these, drop me a line or leave a comment.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Focus on self service - help visitors help themselves

A neat little article from Gerry McGovern, which again highlights how traditional marketing techniques employed in other media don't work so well on the web.

The majority of visitors come to your site with a task in mind. Instead of promotion, focus on helping them do what they want to do.

Understand your audiences, prioritise their requirements, be direct in your labelling.

Help those who want to help themselves - article by Gerry McGovern

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Loop 11 online usability testing tool

Another online tool I've been investigating - there seem to be so many available right now...

I've not set a test up just yet, but have tried out the participation demo and registered to get access to a set of dummy results and a free trial.

First impression is that it could well be a useful tool and I'm going to give some thought about what I'll use my free trial credit for. At $350 a test after the freebie though, I don't see this being something I use that often.

Loop 11 records and analyses the interactions users have with your website when undertaking a set of tasks set by you.

Advantages: There's no software for either you or your participants to install to access the service and the analysis of the data collected looks great. I almost always find summarising and communicating the results of tests to be a bit of bind.

Disadvantages: No video footage, no comments from the users. Instead you get details of routes through the site, time on page, screenshots, plus answers to any questions you pose.

So closer to a survey in some ways. I think this is reflected in the number of users they advocate you recuit. The maximum for any test is 1000.

The service is distinct from any other I've come across so far. It will be good for some investigations, and not so good for others. The trick will be working out how best to use it.

Certainly worth a look, if only for the free trial.

Loop 11 online user testing service

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Lou Rosenfeld IA presentations

Following the ad for Lou Rosenfeld's upcoming session in London, I spent a bit of time looking at his site. A couple of sections worth a look.

Information Architecture sounds a bit boring and techie, but in reality it's just the same as what everyone else is saying on usability but from a slightly different perspective. The librarian's approach, perhaps?

One presentation in particular caught my eye - "Enterprise Information Architecture: Because users don't care about your org chart"

Believe it or not, 'enterprise information architecture' covers the university approach to structuring web content...

Lots of interesting observations and advice. Possibly nothing particularly new, but well presented by an expert in the field.

Lou Rosenfeld's presentations - from

In addition to these presentations (delivered via slideshare) you can also download the powerpoint slides for the enterprise IA, bizarrely from his publications page.

Lou Rosenfeld's publications and downloads

Steve Krug & Lou Rosenfeld in the UK

Steve Krug and Lou Rosenfeld run two day workshops togther, and are coming to London early next year. Together they cover low cost usability testing and information architecture.

Steve Krug wrote the excellent book, Don't Make Me Think. If you only ever read one book on usability...

Lou Rosenfeld wrote the definitive book on information architecture, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (aka the Polar Bear Book). I've had a copy of this book on my shelf for 7 years now and still come back to it time and again. If you build websites, you probably should own a copy.

They're running their sessions through Etre, a usability company.

Etre Get Together - with Steve Krug and Lou Rosenfeld - March 2010

Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think
Lou Rosenfeld's Polar Bear Book

Etre usability email newsletter - personally I find them waffly, self indulgent and over familiar. But hey, that's just me. And I suppose if I hadn't subscribed I might not have found out about this...

Steve Krug presentation online

I blogged this free online presentation months ago. Worth highlighting again if you missed it...

Steve Krug on the least you can do about usability

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

McGoven on the value of user testing

Gerry McGovern advocates watching users visit your website to perform top tasks.

Do you really think those crude, meaningless statistics about page impressions, visitors and hits are anything other than crude and meaningless?

Behind these cold, lifeless statistics lie the experiences of real people.

"Crude and menaingless?" That's a bit harsh, but I agree - developing websites based on webstats alone is a dodgy business.

Nobody sets out to create a cruel and unusually punishing website... We... [make things difficult] ...because we don't see our customers using our websites. We lack empathy and feeling...

Observing our customers is intrinsic to web success, and it's so basic.

And that's just it. It's so easy, so basic, there's no excuse not to do user testing.

If your customer falls in the forest of your website - article by Gerry McGovern