Addressing a long-standing gap

Over the years, in our conversations with colleagues in different colleges and universities, we found a need for a good process and product book that is easy and straightforward to adopt by instructors. We set out to address this gap with this book. No other HCI product and process book has the ready-to-use supplementary materials that offer such a low barrier for new instructors to pick up this material and teach a UE/UX course like a pro.

From usability to user experience

As the discipline of HCI has evolved, the emerging perspective of interaction design has shifted from a focus on user performance toward a broader construct of user experience. In addition to usability, in this book we emphasize emotional impact and social interaction as components of user experience.

Comprehensive coverage

There are books on portions of what we cover, books on only the iterative lifecycle, contextual research early in the lifecycle, usability and user experience testing late in the lifecycle, creative design and innovation, pragmatics of usability engineering in the real world, and so on. However they do not cover these topics and all the others as an integrative whole as we do in this book.

Our treatment of contextual inquiry and contextual analysis in the tradition of Beyer & Holtzblatt, (Contextual Design: A Customer-Centered Approach to Systems Designs, 1st ed., 1997, Morgan Kaufmann), adapted to the context of a full lifecycle process, is exclusive to this book.

Our “invention” of a bridge to span the gap from contextual inquiry and analysis to design through extraction of requirements and design-informing models, in the tradition of Constantine & Lockwood (Software for Use: A Practical Guide to the Models and Methods ofUsage-Centered Design, 1999, Addison Wesley), is unique among product and process books.

We are not aware of any other book, research or applied, that has the extensive coverage that we have of user experience specifications, used to set operational goals for user experience, including usability.

The use of systematic cost/importance analysis as an engineering tool to prioritize the fixing of user experience problems is another key feature in this book.

In this book we provide a comprehensive treatment of user experience testing (four detailed chapters), including chapters about preparation (before the session), data collection (during the session), data analysis (after the session), and evaluation reporting, plus a chapter on rapid evaluation methods.

Another unique aspect of our book is that it provides a broader development project context for the interaction design process within the overall system development process with a serious chapter on connections to the software engineering side of system development.

Unique treatment of affordances and design guidelines

We devote a full chapter to a unique treatment of affordances, an essential but poorly understood concept in interaction design. This chapter on affordances, with essential concrete ties to guidelines and design, is intriguing and far more comprehensive than any other treatment in a product and process book.

Our treatment of design guidelines is unlike that of any other book on the subject, being the only one organized on user intentions and actions within a structure based on stages of human-machine interaction. Rather than focusing on menus, buttons, and icons, for example, these guidelines are at the finger tips of designers working on a particular stage of interaction.

Most comprehensive treatment of the full interaction design lifecycle process

For large enterprise system development projects that need an approach based on a full engineering lifecycle, this book contains the most thorough coverage ever.  Several chapters are devoted to our full lifecycle process, called The Wheel, used successfully and refined in real-world use.

In-depth treatment of UX in agile contexts

As the state of the art in software development moves towards agile methodologies, there is a growing need for user experience specialists to adapt traditional techniques to fit development contexts with short schedules and limited resources. In this book we dedicate a complete chapter to discuss agile UX methods.

Generality of approach

Many books are written so that the details are specific to computer software user interfaces and the Web. The development process, including design guidelines, of this book apply equally well to designs for a variety of interaction styles and devices–including software systems, the Web, non-PC devices such as mobile phone systems, embedded computing, and special purpose designs such as for mall kiosks, elevator controls, automobile cockpits, ATMs, and even highway signage, clearly showing the universality of the underlying design principles.

Authoritative writing

The authors, especially Hartson, have been doing this for a long time. Hartson is the founder of a pioneering HCI organization, drawing on large resources of UE/UX practitioner knowledge based on decades of HCI and UE development plus of decades of real-world practice and consulting in business and industry. We have many years of experience in developing processes for HCI, many years of graduate-level teaching and industrial short courses.

The material in this book has been vetted in practice and extensive teaching. Nothing here is just conjecture or research results. However, the practical content is grounded in foundational concepts. For example, a book without this depth and grounding would simply state the “3-to-5 users” rule for user experience testing, while we explain the origin of this rule and its underlying assumptions and limitations.

Integrative approach

We have worked hard for a smooth integration of product- and process-oriented topics and to integrate seamlessly material that came from our own work with that of others. Our treatment of the topic of contextual research is an example. Some books cover design without mentioning contextual research and some books cover contextual research without much real treatment of design. We believe the reason for this disconnect is a difficult gap between learning about existing customer and user work practice and designing new systems to support new work practice. By synthesizing the best of what is known in the literature and harnessing it into a practical process, we expose the nature of that gap and construct a way to span the gap based on extracting requirements and design-informing models that can be used directly in design.

Goal-directed adaptable process treatment

Most other books prescribe a process without helping the readers understand how to adapt the process to the needs of a given project. In many books the authors present their methodology as a tightly-knit process.  This can work well if you apply the whole process as presented, but a monolithic process is not amenable to modification or adaptation to particular project needs. This leaves designers and developers to apply that same process for everything ranging from designing an air traffic control system to the next generation iPod.

In contrast, our goal-directed approach to designing for user experience encourages readers to seek out the most appropriate techniques among the many presented in this book. This book offers its processes, not as a dogmatic presentation of steps, rather as possibilities and alternatives, each targeted at different goals, needs, and resources of a given project—type of project, budget, schedule, team makeup, project management style, and organizational culture.  We offer abridged processes and rapid methods still to achieve most of the benefit at less cost. 
Using our problem-solving approach to design, practitioners can deconstruct their design task into sub goals; after that, picking the right techniques comes naturally. Readers learn to realize that the need for contextual inquiry and contextual analysis for an air traffic control system is monumental; whereas design ideation for the iPod system overshadows most other aspects.

Guidelines situated in stages of human-machine interaction

Chapters and even entire books on interaction design guidelines abound, with each author’s take on how to interpret principles like “know thy user”. Because of the large number of guidelines out there, it can be difficult to organize them in a book. Most authors respond by grouping them together by ad hoc themes or arbitrary features (e.g., putting all the guidelines for menus in one place, guidelines for dialogue text in another, and so on). While this might make for easy reading of the ideas, it doesn’t translate into what interaction designers need when, for example, faced with the need to design interaction to support user planning, to help users in deciding what action to make on what object, to design a feature so that the user will notice it, to inform users about how to make physical actions, to craft feedback to users, and so on.
Our chapter on interaction design guidelines is set in a foundational self-extending framework based on an extension of the human-machine interaction cycle, originated by Don Norman, of planning (setting interaction goals and intentions), translation (cognition for translating plans into action specifications), physical actions, machine feedback (displaying the action outcomes), and assessment (of whether the outcomes meet the intended goals). For a designer working on any given part of this interaction cycle, the structure points to the right guidelines for the right parts of interaction design.

User action framework

This framework for organizing guidelines is called the User Action Framework (UAF), which is treated in its own chapter. We have found the UAF helpful in teaching a wealth of HCI concepts, as well as the guidelines and design principles. Since the structure is independent of devices and interaction styles, it is broadly applicable and durable over time.

Extensive treatment of user experience problem data analysis

We introduce significant new material on user experience usability data analysis and problem diagnosis, unique in HCI books.

Connections to software engineering development

Interactive software systems have both functional and user interface parts. Although the separation of code into two clearly identifiable components is not always possible, the two parts exist conceptually and each must be developed on its own terms with its own roles for developers. These two components can be tightly coupled in design and can constrain the development of each other. The connections between these two disciplines are not addressed in most software engineering or usability engineering textbooks. Most books cover their parts in isolation without addressing the relationships and constraints between these lifecycles. Grounded in the pioneering work by Pyla in this area, this is the first book that bridges this gap that has existed for more than 20 years.

Description plus discussion

For readers, often there is a tradeoff between the desire for background and discussion and access to bare-bones how-to-do-it process descriptions for application. In Chapters 2 – 16, the starring role is played by each part of the process as featured in its own chapter. But it would make for a weak textbook if we failed to mix in a depth of rich discussion to provide context to the process parts by way of motivation, background, history, tradeoffs, issues, exceptions, and references to the literature.


Most major steps in the process are followed immediately in the text with an example, usually a running example that gives continuity, illustrating that step or development activity in the context of very simple applications chosen for their universal appeal and ease of understanding.


At the end of each chapter we present numerous exercises covering many different steps in the development process and other chapter material, reinforcing the examples by helping readers test their own ability to understand and apply the principles. In a classroom setting, the exercises can be used as in-class learn-by-doing activities and/or homework assignments. We find that most in-class exercises are best done in teams, with help and support from a peripatetic instructor. The scale of the exercises is gauged to be achievable in one class session, with completion of the final exercise details being done as a team “homework” assignment.

Cameos and/or case studies from the field

We are working on the idea of adding interest and variety by including cameos, “war” stories, and brief case studies about usability and user experience from accomplished practitioners and consultants in the field.