Karen Donoghue, Michael Schrage, "Built for Use: Driving Profitability Through the User Experience"
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies | 2006 | ISBN 0071406271 | PDF | 978 pages | 7 MB
Built for Use, by user experience strategist Karen Donoghue, is a compendium of knowledge that anyone hoping to build a truly usable user interface should possess. Donoghue draws on her many years of experience as an industry consultant to present analyses of how websites and other human-machine interfaces succeed and fail. She also channels her extensive contacts in industry and academia to present sage advice and best practices for achieving usability. With a post-bubble eye sharply focused on the bottom line, Donoghue emphasizes that experiences users love don't necessarily coincide with the experiences they will pay for, and that revenue must be the ultimate driver of design choices.
Reading Built for Use, it's hard not to picture oneself as one of Donoghue's clients, and the book as the voice of Donoghue. The book has the pragmatic tone of a consultant who is aware of the fact that your time (and hers) is valuable. She emphasizes the points that need emphasizing, and doesn't spend a lot of time considering ultimately rejected alternatives. You hire Ms. Donoghue, or read her book, because you need to know how to create the best -- and most profitable -- user interfaces right now, and you can't afford to make costly mistakes. From her war stories and references, it's pretty clear that she knows how, and she won't beat around the bush very much before telling you.
One also gets the impression that Donoghue's clients span a broad range of knowledge and experience. In Part I, I counted, I believe, five different occurrences of a variant of "Don't put a tripwire at the checkout counter!" -- in other words, don't put an obstacle in front of a customer who's already been convinced to buy something, has taken out their credit card, and is trying to complete a transaction. "Don't make your first page impossible to get through!" is another oft-repeated dictum. Evidently more than a few of Donoghue's clients insisted on making those mistakes. On the other hand, her detailed accounts of best-practice project planning for usability will be of interest to seasoned veterans of successful projects. Along with her pragmatic tone, Donoghue endeavors to formulate general principles and practices that underlie the best, most-usable interfaces. It was revealing to me to read about the meticulous and principled planning behind one of my personal favorites, the Fidelity Brokerage website, that distinguishes it from similar, but less usable competitors.
Donoghue takes a more speculative point of view in Part III, which discusses future developments. There, she expresses confidence that we will soon be designing for systems that cross the "wet-dry interface" - in other words, parts of the system will be composed of traditional electronic circuits, and other parts will consist of biological components such as neurons in a human body.
Donoghue's clients, and the readers of this book, are a demanding audience. They need to know in practical terms what to do right now to compete in a confusing, rapidly developing arena. They also need an awareness of a future where user experiences that today sound like science fiction will be commonplace. Fortunately Donoghue, with her combination of down-to-earth advice and insight into the fundamental principles that will influence future trends, meets both requirements.
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