Three good books on usability testing (long post)

Subject: Three good books on usability testing (long post)
From: James Hom <jhom -at- CISCO -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 16:40:46 -0700

Greg Keith asked:

>1) Do you know of any other good sources of documentation usability info?
>2) Can anyone familiar with the Dumas/Redish book tell me what they have to
>say about doc usability testing, if anything?
>3) Has anyone established such testing at their company and would be they be
>willing to share some of the details with me?

Greg, we're developing a usability lab here at Cisco in the Knowledge
Products organization (training and doc) and as luck may have it, I'm the
keeper of the "Recommended Reading List." Here's (a few of) the books I'm
recommending that folks new to usability read:

< Open aside to Techwrl-ers: If you know of other books, send them in or
to the list! I can always use more titles for my recommended reading


--> for a good layperson's insight into the subject of "usability," read:

The Design of Everyday Things

by Donald Norman, VP Applied Technology, Apple Computers

1988, Basic Books, New York, NY
ISBN 0-385-26774-6 (paper)
formerly published as The Psychology of Everyday Things (POET), ISBN

Entertaining, layman's introduction to usability and user interfaces.
Through the discussion of commonplace, everyday UIs such as auto
dashboards, door handles, and alarm clocks, Norman teaches the cognitive
psychology behind a user's interaction with an object. A must read. Read
Norman's other books, too, if you have the time.


---> for a good human factors engineer's overview of the subject of
"usability," read:

Usability Engineering

by Jakob Nielsen, Distinguished Engineer, SunSoft

1993, Academic Press/AP Professional, Cambridge, MA
ISBN 0-12-518406-9 (paper)

Basic introduction to the entire field of usability. The chapter on
usability testing basically condenses the "how to" books into a single
chapter. The book is intended as a textbook for computer user interface
designers, but has very little technical detail compared to more procedural
or advanced works.


---> for a good "how to" book on documentation usability testing, read:

Handbook of Usability Testing

by Jeffrey Rubin

1994, John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY
ISBN 0-471-59403-2 (paper)
Step-by-step guidelines for conducting usability tests. Probably the best
all-around resource for documentation usability testers.


I'm not connected with any of these authors, aside from having Don Norman
sign a book at the local bookstore. I just liked these books.

Other books that I recommend include Richard Saul Wurman's "Follow the
Yellow Brick Road," and Edward Tufte's "Envisioning Information" and "The
Visual Display of Quantitative Information."

The Norman, Wurman, and Tufte books are not about usability testing, but
about usability issues in general. If you have a chance to attend Tufte's
seminar, do it.

Also good are papers and classes by JoAnn Hackos, Judith Ramey, and William
Horton. See your STC magazines for their ads.

Happy testing,


James Hom Voice: 408-526-8956
cisco Systems Email: jhom -at- cisco -dot- com

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