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Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better

ISBN: 978-1-118-18547-6
256 pages
July 2012
Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better (1118185471) cover image


The A-to-Z guide to spotting and fixing usability problems

Frustrated by pop-ups? Forms that make you start over if you miss a field? Nonsensical error messages? You're not alone! This book helps you simply get it right the first time (or fix what's broken). Boasting a full-color interior packed with design and layout examples, this book teaches you how to understand a user's needs, divulges techniques for exceeding a user's expectations, and provides a host of hard won advice for improving the overall quality of a user's experience. World-renowned UX guru Eric Reiss shares his knowledge from decades of experience making products useable for everyone...all in an engaging, easy-to-apply manner.

  • Reveals proven tools that simply make products better, from the users' perspective
  • Provides simple guidelines and checklists to help you evaluate and improve your own products
  • Zeroes in on essential elements to consider when planning a product, such as its functionality and responsiveness, whether or not it is ergonomic, making it foolproof, and more
  • Addresses considerations for product clarity, including its visibility, understandability, logicalness, consistency, and predictability

Usable Usability walks you through numerous techniques that will help ensure happy customers and successful products!

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Table of Contents

Introduction xvii

Part One 1

Chapter One Functional 3

The three keys to functionality 5

From click to conversion: making sure the buttons work 6

Browser wars, hardware headaches 7

Don’t sweat the home page. Fine-tune your forms 8

Four keys to creating functional forms 9

Required fields 9

Forms and business rules 10

Interdependent forms 11

Instructions and functionality 12

Navigation: Getting folks where they want to go 14

My crappy new TV 14

Understand your goals and keep them in focus 15

A true story about a fairy tale 15

Functionality can change over time 17

A complaint is a gift 18

The Donation That Couldn’t Be Made: A Tale from the Trenches 19

Chapter Two Responsive 25

The myth of two-way communication 26

Three traditional keys to responsiveness 26

A fourth view: “Responsive design” 27

“Wake up, you stupid machine!” 30

A closer look at transitional techniques 33

Transitional techniques and physical objects 35

Response mechanisms in the online environment 35

Response mechanisms in physical objects 37


Chapter Three Ergonomic 43

Henry Dreyfuss: Introducing ergonomics to industrial design 44

Buttons: Why bigger sometimes is better 46

Milliseconds count 48

Bring on the scientists 49

“First word after the bullet” 50

Tabs and other keyboard shortcuts 53

Provide clearance 54

“Go to the back of the line” 55

Improve work organization 56

Eric and the IRS 56

The “silent usher” 58


Chapter Four Convenient 63

Giving inconvenience a positive spin 64

Eric’s advice for the lovelorn 66

Multimodal experiences 66

Switching routines 67

Why I hate calling my bank 68

Switching interfaces 69

Switching from on- to offline 70

Unfamiliar situations highlight convenience 71

Personas and other useful tools 73

Context is the kingdom 73

Make everything people need available 76

“Three clicks and you’re dead” 77

Buying Vacuum-Cleaner Bags Sucks: A Tale From the Trenches 79

Chapter Five Foolproof 85

How the RAF can help win your battle 86

People forget to do stuff. So help remind them 86

Alerts and other warnings 87

The “boy who cried wolf” syndrome 89

Forcing the issue 90

The dangers of personalization 91

The magic of redundancy 92

Write helpful error messages 93

Helping people make better decisions 94

Not everyone can spll 95

People don’t read instructions 96

Don’t make people memorize your messages 98

Sometimes you do have to state the obvious 100

People don’t remember things from one time to the next 100

Physical deterrents 101

Exploding Chicken Alfredo: A Tale From The Trenches 104

Part Two 109

Chapter Six Visible 111

Four ways things become invisible 114

The mysterious “fold” 115

People do scroll! 116

Why we can’t pinpoint the fold 116

When the fold is important 120

When the fold isn’t important 122

Creating scroll-friendly pages 123

Unfriendly scroll-friendly pages 123

Scrolling, menu length, and mobile phones 124

Don’t make important stuff look like an ad 124

USA TODAY .com and banner blindness 125

Blocking out the sum 127

Eric’s Enlightening Elevator Examination 129

Sherlock, Edward, Don, and Ch’i 130

The “Perks” of Business Travel: A Tale From The Trenches 132

Chapter Seven Understandable 137

What is “shared reference”? 138

A word about words 138

Eric’s “light bulb” test 139

Five keys to creating effective “shared references” 141

Creating a comfort zone 143

Don’t be afraid to tell your story 144

Photos and other visual aids 146

Icons and other troublemakers 148

“As big as a breadbox” 149

The sun never sets on the World Wide Web 150

Audio and video 152

For Whom The Ringtone Tolls: A Tale From the Trenches 153

Chapter Eight Logical. 157

Three basic types of logical reasoning 157

The magic word—“why” 158

Functionality and logic 158

Responsiveness and logic 159

Ergonomics and logic 159

Convenience and logic 160

Foolproofing and logic 161

Design dissonance 162

Use cases 164

Linear processes 166

Six Detours on the Road To Usable Navigation: A Tale from the Trenches 167

Chapter Nine Consistent 171

A caveat 172

Seduced by synonyms 172

Keeping things homogeneous 172

Retroductive inference revisited 175

Standardization promotes consistency 177

Don’t take consistency for granted 178

One button, one function 180

One icon, one function 182

One object, one behavior 182

Speed Limit Signs in Denmark—Putting Brains into Top Gear: A Tale from the Trenches 184

Chapter Ten Predictable 189

Six ways to enhance predictability 190

Knowing what to expect 191

Branding, customer satisfaction, and expectations 192

Helping set expectations 193

Instructions revisited—but never visited 194

Telling folks what you expect 195

Let folks know how many steps are involved 195

Let people know which process they are actually in 197

Put things where folks expect to find them 199

Warn of invisible conditions 200

A Short Introduction to McDonaldization: A Tale From The Trenches 202

Chapter Eleven Next steps 207

Guerilla-style usability 208

Formalized think-aloud tests 208

Making usability part of the business case 209

Invention or innovation? 211

Accidents can never be attributed to a single cause 212

Don’t draw a conclusion based on an isolated incident 213

Bibliography 217

Index 223

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Author Information

Eric Reiss has been meddling with service- and product-design projects for longer than he cares to remember. Today, he is CEO of The FatDUX Group, an international user-experience design company headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. Eric has also lectured on design principles at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, is a former Professor of Usability and Design at the IE Business School in Madrid, and serves on the advisory boards of several universities and institutes in both Europe and the United States. His Web Dogma, a design philosophy that transcends both fashion and technology, has been adopted by thousands of developers and companies around the world. You can follow Eric Reiss on Twitter: @elreiss
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