The growth of personal computing in the past two decades of the 20th century put a new emphasis on user interface design. As part of user interface design, companies began to focus on the usability of a product. The term usability has its roots in the 14th century, but as computing technology became prevalent in the 1980s, the definition of usability changed toward not only making something functional and usable, but also maximizing the entire user experience with a product.
Despite the power of good user interface and usability design, you have to convince managers that usability testing is vital to the success of the company now and in the future. It's important for you to understand how managers, marketers, and users think so you can craft a proposal that will win enthusiastic support for implementing usability testing in the company for which you work.
Therefore, it's important for anyone involved in usability testing, regardless of title, to have the business acumen to create the short-term return on investment (ROI) goals while creating the framework for long-term returns.
You don't need a previous background in user interface design to read this book. If you're just getting into user interface design and you're thinking about developing your own user interface, this book is a good starting point for you. It's much more advantageous for you to learn about user interface design from the beginning than to learn about it from your customers when they're unhappy with your product.
If you have been working in product or documentation development and you're ready to work on a new project, you should read this book. You probably have a feel for what your customers like, but you're not sure how to maximize the usability of your product for your customers. Or perhaps you're charged with creating documentation or training and you need to know what your customers expect not only from the product, but also from the information contained in the documentation or training modules. If this sounds like you, this is a book you should read.
This book is also appropriate if you have experience in the usability and user interface design fields. Although you may already know one or more of the theories and practices contained in this book, it can serve as a refresher. You will likely find nuggets of information you hadn't considered before as well as new ideas that you can apply to your product design and beyond.
This book is a primer that puts together the leading practices and ideas about user interface design and usability design and testing into a "big picture" view of how people can and should design and implement user interfaces that your customers will enjoy.
The book begins with grounding in user interfaces so you understand how we got from the beginnings of user interface design to where we are today. Then the book delves into designing user interfaces and usability testing for a product; that product can be a hardware product such as a printer, a software interface, or a Web site.
After you read this book, you will know the basics of the user interface design and usability design and testing fields. This book is only the beginning of your journey into usability and user interface design. If you want to dive in and indulge yourself in one or more of the theories and practices discussed in this book, be sure to read the books listed in Appendix B, "Recommended Reading."