Applications, including Web sites, are usable if they are practical, useful, easy to work with, and satisfying. Usability is now the factor likeliest to give an organization a distinct advantage. Institutionalization of Usability shows how to make user-centered design and development a routine practice within an enterprise.
Other excellent books explain precisely how to make software usable; this book builds on that foundation, and focuses instead on how to get usability recognized and incorporated into an organization's values and culture. Based on author Eric Schaffer's extensive experience, the book provides a solid methodology for institutionalizing usability, guiding readers step-by-step with practical advice on topics like organizational change, milestones, toolsets, infrastructure, and staffing requirements needed to achieve fully mature usability engineering.
Learn how to:
Educate your organization about the importance of usability
Hire and coordinate usability staff and consultants
Plan the standards, design, and implementation phases
Retrofit a method that has added user-centered activities
Recruit participants for usability interviews and testing
Select the right staff and project to showcase-by timeline, user impact, and visibility
Evangelize, train and mentor staff, and support the community
Whether you are an executive leading the institutionalization process, a manager supporting the transition, or an engineer working on usability issues, Institutionalization of Usability will help you to build usability into your software practices.
Review By: J.D. Kennedy 07/09/2010
"Institutionalization of Usability" covers all the bases for implementing a usability program in a software development organization. The author's writing, conversational and easy to follow, shows an understanding of the challenges that a usability program is likely to encounter. The book is well organized and can be followed either sequentially or used as a reference for relevant topics.
The book is divided into four parts: Startup, Setup, Organization, and Long-term Operations. Throughout the book, the author emphasizes the most critical aspect of usability: it must be integral to the development efforts.
In the first part, Startup, the author outlines the requirements for usability.
The second part, Setup, has a lot of good information and outlines the training members of the development team need in order to clearly understand usability. Chapter 7 outlines the Schaffer Methodology. Chapter 8 is one of the weaker sections of the book; the illustrations appear to be outdated. Readers would do well to ignore the illustrations and pay attention to the text instead.
The third part, Organization, describes the organizational structure, how to staff the organization, and how to organize projects. The section on staffing describes some pitfalls to avoid and some key indicators to look for when recruiting usability specialists. Hiring the wrong people can derail a usability program and make it difficult to get back on track—even with the right people. Chapter 13 emphasizes the importance of choosing a few key projects rather than becoming involved in many early on.
The final part, Long Term Operations, contains only two chapters. Some of the key activities include maintaining momentum, metrics, and reporting to executives. The author presents a maturity scale that parallels the SEI Capability Maturity Model. Level 0 is called "Clueless," a fairly accurate term for organizations that have yet to embrace a methodology, usability, or otherwise.
This book is well written and shows a good understanding of the developer's mind-set. This book is useful for an organization that has a need to increase focus on usability. I didn't find a direct correlation to standard software testing since the focus is on testing usability before the product is developed, and most software testing focuses on testing software, not testing usability, per se.
The examples throughout the book are readable and enhance the content of the book. The companies who provide material for the sidebars are from diverse industries such as Staples, Forrester, Microsoft, and the National Cancer Institute. These companies' participation made it clear that usability has a wide range of applications.
While there are a lot of references to web sites that might distract readers whose products are not web-based, more and more web-based development seems inevitable. The principles and techniques outlined apply to other forms of product interfaces. There are also key references to voice recognition technology, which is also becoming increasingly sophisticated.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a better understanding of the issues in implementing a usability program or needs a guidebook for implementation. The book provides clear, detailed recommendations for each stage of the process. The author also offers a prescription for aligning resources for the overall good of the organization.