Author: Steve Krug
Publisher: New Riders, 2009
Aimed at: Web owners who haven't really thought much about it
Pros: A catchy title and an amusing cover
Cons: Lack of content
Reviewed by:Ian Elliot
The title is quite clever "Rocket Surgery Made Easy" a cross between "Rocket Science" and "Brain Surgery" both icons of the difficult and complex. Does this book succeed in making its chosen subject "Finding and fixing usability problems" seem easy? Yes it does, but this is because the topic isn't anything like rocket science or brain surgery.
To summarize this book basically says - have a look at how people use your website, notice what they do wrong/find difficult and fix it. That's it. While it is true that if you fail to do any usability testing you are probably missing a trick - the trick isn't a difficult one.
In a slim 150 page book with a big font size and plenty of cartoon illustrations we are mostly presented with the obvious in a slick and sometimes smug style.
A couple of pages are devoted to organising an observation room to be used by volunteer website users and the following is included in the advice:
"snacks. One excellent way to make the observation room pleasant ... is to provide food. Don't scrimp on snacks!... If your team is partial to granola bars and Twizzlers, give then granola bars and Twizzlers..."
If you really are not up to organising a meeting then you might need some help with snacks and getting some handouts printed to keep the session under control and focused but if you do then I'm not sure what you are doing in this business and I predict you probably won't survive much longer.
You might think that the topic of fixing usability problems might be a bit tougher but this is only covered in a few pages at the end of the book and amounts to another collection of homely sayings and good intentions. Nothing about referential transparency, nothing about using analytics to work out what might be causing problems, no psychology, no statistics, no programming, no design principle, no it certainly isn't rocket science.
If you want an easy read that tells you what should be obvious but you never bothered to think about then you might find this book a good investment but to any programmer, or anyone with enough of a brain to have surgery on, this is drivel.