Review of “Selling usability: user experience infiltration tactics”

Webword was one of the first blogs out there, and it was all about usability, so I loved it. John Rhodes was the man behind it, and today he emailed me with a new book he wrote, which I’m reviewing here.

The book is about selling user experience, not from the top down (ie. convincing your CEO), but from the bottom up, which is how 99% of us have to sell it. It’s funny, it’s brilliant, if I could write like that I’d be writing my next book today. I love it.

If you’re doing UX work in a large organization, you should buy this book. And if you’re a UX consultant, you should too. It’s that simple. The book is worth it’s weight in gold: it gives you (as a UX person) insight in how to really get things done in large companies.

The first chapter starts off good (and I’m gonna put a lot of quotes in this review to give you an idea of the writing style and wisdom in the book):

"99% of the people in an organization are not thinking about UX and the other 1 % are thinking about women, fire and dangerous things. Most managers understand UX about as well as they understand the average airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow."

A wakeup call, but true. It’s a practical book, can’t emphasize this enough:

“This book is full of stealth. We’ve got guerilla attacks, end runs, and cloaking devices. These tactics are not conventional. I’m asking you to reject the frontal assault. We’ll be successful under the radar.”

In "2. The First Business of Business is Business", he explains what business is all about.

“How Do You Talk About UX? The advice I am going to give you next is worth the price of the book: Do not talk about user experience for at least a month. Instead, before you say or do anything regarding UX, think about what it means to the bottom line. Modify your language to be more in line with the true intentions of the business.”

Chapter 3: User Experience is an Ugly Baby

I didn’t know Donald Norman used the term “user experience” in 1998 and 1999.

Again, John puts his finger right on the problem:

“Most folks involved in UX do not have business or management experience. This means that few people can bridge the gap between the two worlds. There isn’t a common language available. This leaves UX at a disadvantage.”

In chapter 4: Understanding Your Role in the (Dis)Organization, he explains how companies *really* work. Forget about the org chart.

"Managers hate risk; they love people who can reduce it. In business, there’s nothing so valuable as a sure thing. Put that idea in your pocket and never let it go."

In the following chapters, John explains how to deal with managers, co-workers, designers, sales, CEOs and executives, teams, stakeholders and consultants. One chapter each. This part of the book is pure gold: for every group, John clearly explains how they think (and this is true in almost all organizations), and even more importantly, how to influence them).

More good quotes:

"A consultant has power nearly equal that of a customer. There isn’t quite as much juice flowing, but it can be pretty damn close, especially since your organization is probably paying this person hefty sums of cabbage."

"I like almost all designers and developers. The reason is pretty simple. Unlike so many workers, these men and women get real work done. "

"Sales people talk. They talk to a lot of people and they talk all the time, mostly to product managers, marketing, and of course customers. Although unusually biased, these workers have an exceptional grasp of what your company has to offer and what your customers want and need."

By the time we get to chapter 14, it’s back to you. How to use project momentum to your advantage. Here’s the first sentence of this chapter: "All projects are headed in some direction. You want to understand the vector of activity and inject UX along the way." Damn good stuff.

Now go buy this book.

I’ve only read half of the book this far, but I am wildly enthusiastic, so I’m going to go ahead and post this review right now. Buy this book. Order it for everyone in your consulting company. Really. It’s almost at the level of "Don’t make me think", which I think is the best book about usability ever written. And I only say "almost" coz it lacks the funky illustrations. Go order it! If you’re disappointed you can email me personally.

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5 thoughts on “Review of “Selling usability: user experience infiltration tactics”

  1. Hey, I took your advice and ordered the book. I’m interviewing for a job at a company that cares only about the bottom line, not customer service or user experience, and this should be just the perspective I need to adopt. Thanks for posting on IAI. Best wishes, Cassandra

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