⇐ Bookshelf

Rocket Surgery Made Easy:
The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems

By Steve Krug | In Progress


The book is guide to conducting your own usability testing:

  • simple, informal, small-sample, do-it-yourself usability testing (sometimes known as “discount usability testing”)

Definition of usability testing:

Watching people try to use what you’re creating/designing/building (or something you’ve already created/designed/built), with the intention of (a) making it easier for people to use or (b) proving that it is easy to use.

Qualitative user testing: less formal, can change between rounds

  • Test usually last one hour, but can be as short as 5 minutes and as longs as a day

Usability testing demo video (25 min)

Krug recommends one morning a month for usability testing:

  • three individual tests
  • a debrief over lunch

Build a short list of the highest priority items to fix.

Test early and often; resist the temptation to wait until you have a finished product before doing usability testing.

  • “Start earlier than you think makes sense”

Test competitors sites, and focus takeaways on what went well

Avoid asking for an opinion or feedback; focus on what it is or what it does

Don’t sweat about finding “real users” of the site: most of the usability issues can be identified by anyone using it.

  • Outsiders can identify issues that those with domain knowledge might overlook (the emperor’s new clothes effect)
  • You can always filter out the issues they hit if you think a real user wouldn’t experience it in the same way
  • As times goes on and the lower-hanging issues are fixed, then look for representative users to polish the experience

Three user tests per round is Krug’s magic number

  • Frees up time to focus on rounds of testing
  • Small enough to get done in a single morning
  • Large enough to see common issues

Participants #

When finding participants:

  • Craigslist is a good option (maybe Facebook Marketplace?)
  • There is a sample invitation on page 46
  • Screen people ahead of time

Some people are not allowed to accept compensation for participation; send them a sincere thank you note

  • For everyone else, give a gift card

Don’t reuse participants in multiple tests for the same product; they know too much

  • But do keep them on file and call them when testing another product

Creating the testing #

First come up with tasks that you want them to complete, then expand each task into a scenario

  • Make sure they reflect actual user goals

Scenarios should provide context for the task–“You are…”, and “You need to…”–without giving away any clues. Tell users to avoid using your site’s search feature (unless that is what you are testing), and to stay on your site (i.e. don’t go to Google).

  • Pilot test the scenarios with a friend or family member to ensure that they make sense

Checklists for usability testing (PDF)