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Paperback Usability Testing and Research (Part of the Allyn & Bacon Series in Technical Communication) Book

ISBN: 0205315194

ISBN13: 9780205315192

Usability Testing and Research (Part of the Allyn & Bacon Series in Technical Communication)

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.

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Customer Reviews

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A solid textbook on usability testing that includes web

It's been a long time since we've had a new textbook on usability testing. Dumas and Redish came out in 1993, Rubin in 1994 and although I still use both of them constantly, I've been looking out for a solid textbook that has more awareness of the web in it. Carol Barnum's new book meets that need.The book opens with chapters on `What is Usability and What is Usability Testing', `Other Methods for Getting Feedback About Product Usability', `User and Task Analysis', and `Iterative Testing for User-Centred Design'. I can see that Carol wants to set user testing in context, but I was concerned that if you're really new to usability testing then you might be put off by Chapter 2 `Other methods', as it is a very densely written chapter that describes many techniques very briefly. The meat of the book starts at Chapter 5 with `Planning for Usability Testing' and continues through `Preparing for Usability Testing', `Conducting the Usability Test', and `Analysing and Reporting Results'. The book then changes course slightly with a chapter on 'Web Usability', giving some design principles as well as details of applying the methods to the web.Our Open University students love the plentiful examples in our course on User Interface Design and Evaluation. Carol Barnum's book should also appeal because of its extensive use of examples. She gives lots of detail from a student team's test of Hotmail (Microsoft's web-based e-mail service) so you can see the process as they tackled it. I found it a little frustrating that there weren't any screen shots of Hotmail as it stood at the time of the test. As well as the Hotmail example she uses excerpts from a test of a University web site, and has lots of anecdotes and smaller examples as well, many of them aimed at testing documentation - a neglected area. Perhaps the amount of space taken up the examples means that there is less meat in the core of the book, but if I were a beginner I'd find it very reassuring. Conversely, though, experienced practitioners might find Chapter 5 onwards a bit basic. Academics and practitioners who like to follow up interesting ideas will be glad to know that there is extensive referencing. The appendices placed in context with the chapters broke the flow for me somewhat when I was reading the book at a sitting, but I think they would be more convenient placed where they are when using the book to actually plan and conduct a test. Each chapter closes with questions/topics for discussion and exercises which looked helpful to me if you were planning to use this as a textbook, or if you are a new practitioner who is using the book as a guide through your first usability tests. Carol Barnum's style is clear and easy to read as you would expect from a Professor in Technical Communication. She often uses comments from Chauncey Wilson, a very experienced practitioner to give some practical tips and insights, but I sometimes found myself wishing that she had put more a more personal touch, mor

STC Usability SIG review

I am the Usability SIG Manager for the Washington, DC chapter of the STC (Society for Technical Communication). I wrote this review which was published in the October 2002 edition of the Usability Interface, the quarterly newsletter of the Usability SIG of the STC.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 holist

Complete guide to usability research

As a Usability professional, I have the opportunity and obligation to keep current on the literature surrounding usability research. Usability Testing and Research not only meets those criteria, but also gives readers the opportunity to delve into and understand the usability testing process.Carol Barnum's book is at first a typical academic textbook that explains not only the principles of usability, but also the argument for usability and user-centered design. However, it is the presence of appendices at the end of most chapters that will help readers perform usability testing.The appendices are detailed copies of documents and protocols used in previous usability tests. The aforementioned principles and arguments would stand on their own merits, but the added appendices give context to the principles and arguments, thus giving the reader the opportunity to see the principles and prototypes in action.From my standpoint as a professional in the field, valid usability testing starts with careful, in-depth preparation. Usability Testing and Research handholds readers through this process, starting with objectives and ending with participant recruitment. This is a very important aspect of testing, as poor planning always equals poor results.Barnum devotes several pages of the book to a very overlooked aspect of usability testing: reporting the results. Besides the detailed attention given to writing the results in a formal report or a quick report (or roadrunner as the book explains), the book also explains how to present and prepare for an oral report. No matter how valid the test may be, without an accurate, to-the-point report that gives the audience what it needs, the test results and associated costs are wasted. Barnum even discusses visual aids and the importance of the highlight tape. This, of course, is paramount to the report's success, since seeing is believing.The book even contains a chapter devoted solely to Web usability that details common Web problems as well as insight into the Web's goal-driven users. Although research on the Web is constantly changing due to the experience level of the user base and innovative technology, the Web chapter offers an easy to understand benchmark for all usability professionals who evaluate the Web. All in all, Usability Testing and Research covers everything that an individual new to the field needs to know. It also contains practical advice and how-to that even seasoned usability professionals need to review from time to time.Ken KelloggManager - Usability Research

First new book on the topic in a while.

It's been a while since there's been a new book published on usability testing. It isn't a topic that gets dated, so the books that have been out there a while are still great ones. But it's good to have a new one too. This one by Carol Barnum is a thorough, practical, highly usable book on Usability Testing. Carol starts the book with chapters on user centered design. These chapters are pretty good, but the real value, I think is the detailed chapters on how to plan, carry out, analyze and report on usability tests that are really excellent.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.

Usability Testing Made Accessible

Usability Testing and Research (UTAR), by Carol M. Barnum,is a book that every technical communicator should have on his or her bookshelf. Although written primarily as a textbook for college courses, UTAR is an excellent introduction to user-centered design and usability testing for those in industry who have had no formal training in the area, or for those who would like a refresher. The book is designed so you can read straight through, skip around and read topics of interest, or dip into for specific information. An excellent table of contents and thorough index make topics immediately accessible and make it easy to follow them through the book. It shouldn't be surprising, however, that a book about usability that is this good would provide excellent access.The very brief summary of the highlights of UTAR are:* A structure that moves from theory to practice in every step of user-centered design and usability testing* Well-written text with lots of heads for easy navigation* Anecdotal and humorous information in sidebars to make the theory real* Great descriptions of low-fidelity usability testing with examples of how to do it* Samples of the artifacts of usability testing such as plans, forms, reports, questionnaires, testing questions, and checklists* Real case studies with their artifacts that are threaded throughout the book in the appropriate chapters and appendixes* Discussion questions and exercises for those who want to teach from the book* A chapter on Web usability testing* An appendix on creating teams to do usability testing Then, as if the book weren't good enough by itself, Barnum has included the URL of a Web site that provides resources, templates, forms, and other support. The PDF templates and forms are useful as models for developing your own or to print and use as is. They fit nicely into the structure and content of UTAR. A support link on the Web page provides PowerPoint presentations and charts a teacher could use in the classroom or a technical communicator or manager could use to educate decision makers about the benefits of usability testing. One of the buttons on the home page is "About the Author," so I clicked it to see what Barnum's credentials are. She a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), and a recipient of STC's Jay R. Gould Award for Excellence in Teaching Technical Communication. That explains the excellence of Usability Testing and Research.I manage a group of technical communicators in a large telecommunications company, and I'm getting a copy of Usability Testing and Research for our library. We'll use it to help with our usability testing and to mentor those who have little or no experience in that activity. My suggestion is to buy it, read it, refer back to it often.Art Elser, PhDManager, Information Development
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