Books to Get Your Usability Testing Practice Up and Running

The answer to “How do I get better at usability testing?” is always going to be “Do more usability tests”. However, I often get asked after a workshop which books I recommend to help people get started. So if you’ve not done usability testing before I suggest reading these books in this order.

1) Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug

Rocket Surgery Made Easy is written for people who haven’t done usability testing before. It’s fun, short, and jargon free with just enough of the basics to get you up and running quickly. The approach to usability testing it promotes is particularly relevant to those working on agile teams.

2) Handbook of Usability Testing by Jeffrey Rubin & Dana Chisnell

After Rocket Surgery Made Easy read this to fill in any gaps. Handbook of Usability Testing is a detailed practitioner’s guide for people doing usability testing full time. It gives you a great framework for doing more formal usability testing in larger organisations.

3) The Moderator’s Survival Guide by Donna Tedesco & Fiona Tranquada

This does what it says on the tin. The Moderator’s Survival Guide has a bunch of advice and war stories on dealing with common, and not so common, problems. Read once you’re past the basics to save yourself some painful on-the-job learning.

(Bias warning: contains one of my war stories!)

But I don’t want to read three books!

If you’re doing self directed learning without any in-house expertise then get Rocket Surgery Made Easy. It’s the one that will get you up and running quickly, and will help you sell the value of usability testing inside a sceptical organisation.

If you have internal support for usability testing get Handbook of Usability Testing. It’s a much deeper dive into the topic than Rocket Surgery Made Easy, but isn’t as focused on helping you sell the utility and ease of doing simple usability testing for the first time.

Are there any other books you’ve found useful in getting your usability testing practice up and running? Let me know — I’d welcome any suggestions!

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