Rocket Surgery Made Easy

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems

Steve Krug / New Riders / 2010 / 168 pages


Anyone who’s ever watched a usability test knows that they work remarkably well.

Facilitator and participantSitting someone down and having them use what you’re building while you watch is the best way to ensure that it will actually be usable.

And yet very few organizations do usability tests. And the ones that do don’t do them very often.

Why? It’s simple: most people think usability tests are expensive, time consuming, and hard to do.

Facilitator watching participantBut they don’t have to be any of those things. In fact, I wrote Rocket Surgery because I know from years of experience that valuable, effective usability tests can be done quickly and easily, with little or no cost. And I believe strongly that everyone who’s building a Web site (or a Web or mobile application, or desktop software) can—and should—be doing their own testing.

Rocket Surgery explains everything you need to Six maxims for testingknow to start testing, in the same non-technical-but-informative style as Don’t Make Me Think.

Like Think, though, it assumes that testing isn't your full-time job, so it tells you only what you absolutely need to know. I’ve even boiled down the most crucial points into six “maxims” so they’re easy to keep in mind.

It’s not just about finding the problems

Finding usability problems isn't worth much unless you actually end up fixing them.

Unlike other books about usability testing, Rocket Surgery also explains how to fix the problems you find: How to decide which problems to fix, the kinds of changes you should make to fix them (hint: the smallest changes are the best ones), and how to make sure the changes actually get made.

Still not sure it’s for you?

Check out the sample chapter, the table of contents, and the Amazon reader reviews.

Or watch the demo test video that I created to go with the book.

It shows an actual test, so you can see just how simple and powerful do-it-yourself usability tests can–and should–be.

Steve Krug is my hero. By making usability testing so effortless, he teaches us how to eliminate the frustration from our own products, without the wizards with the lab coats and the clipboards. Get this book.

Joel Spolsky
Joel on Software

FAQ

I read Don’t Make Me Think. Do I need to read this one, too? What’s the difference?

They’re very different books for different purposes. Think is an introduction to usability principles. Rocket Surgery is a how-to book that shows you how to do your own simple, fast, effective usability tests.

If you already do testing or you’re thinking of starting, this book is for you. (If you’re not planning on doing testing, see the next question.)

I’m probably not going to be doing any usability testing myself. Is there any point in my reading this?

If you have other people who do testing for you, I’d definitely recommend reading it. (You may even end up buying copies for them to read.)

But even if you’re not going to be testing, I think you’ll find it worthwhile—particularly the chapters about fixing usability problems.

Of course, the important question is why aren’t you planning on doing any testing? If it's because of the usual reasons (time and money), I'd recommend that you at least read the sample chapter which explains why you really should be.

Does this only work for Web sites?

The book focuses on testing Web sites because that’s what most people are working on, and to keep it simple and short.

But the same method can be used to improve almost anything that people use. Web, mobile, and desktop applications are obvious candidates, but it's just as effective for things like PowerPoint presentations and election ballots.