If you do a Google search for “best web design books” you will find “Don’t Make Me Think, A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Krug. It’s been on my reading list for a long time. While I’m not a web designer I do build web pages occasionally so it’s good to have some appreciation of the wizardry that is web design. Fortunately Don’t Make Me Think is very easy to read and very concise. I highly recommend it.
What stuck with me the most were the chapters on usability testing. In particular the point that focus groups are not the same thing as usability testing. To quote UX Myths:
Focus groups assess what users say: a number of people gather in order to discuss their feelings, attitudes and thoughts on a given topic to reveal their motivations and preferences.
Usability testing, on the other hand, is about observing how people actually use a product, by assigning key tasks to users and analyzing their performance and experience.
This stuck with me because recently I worked on a project that introduced some significant changes to a web site registration page. I was concerned that some of the elements we changed were not as easy to understand as they were previously. But we had done many many rounds of focus testing which gave me some confidence. However now I understand the distinction between focus testing and usability testing I’m not so confident. In future I will suggest using both forms of testing.
I read the second edition which is from 2005. I believe all the content is still relevant but I suggest reading the latest edition if you can.