I’ve been reading a lot of user experience books lately but one of the most impressive has been the ‘Research and Design Survival Guide’ by practitioner Leah Buley. I always admire a writer that can take a potentially complex subject like UX and make it a real joy to read. Accessible, practical and extremely insightful.
The book is aimed at two audiences – those who want to seek a greater understanding of user experience (student, project manager, aspiring practitioner) and current UX professionals who are seeking better ways of working more effectively with cross-functional teams. I was attracted because I wanted to understand how the role of a UX professional compares with that of a content strategist. As it turned out there were many similarities.
The book is split into two sections, philosophy and practice. The former offers a brief introduction to user experience before leaping into tool kits, methodology and the rationale behind why we need to focus on users to improve our products. I particularly liked the ‘Building Support for Your Work’ section which, I think, offers a brilliant overview of working with teams to effect change within a company.
Throughout the book there are various useful diagrams and templates dotted about with a link to Flickr to access them in one place. Handy for any presentation deck. The second ‘Practice’ section offers a whole series of practical exercises to match the milestones in your project. From writing your first UX questionnaire to writing a project brief, I think Buley offers just the right amount of detail with links to further reading online. If you completed the ‘Strategy Workshop’ exercise alone, you’d see the value immediately.
We then deep dive into some pretty detailed look at research and design methods before testing and validation (black hat sessions, interactive prototypes etc.). Lastly, a section about evangelising UX and ongoing career development. And there we have it. A great series of practical exercises to back both strategic and tactical thinking. And you don’t have to be a UX practitioner to enjoy it!
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