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Suggested Reading for Usability Testing 

This document provides a list of suggested readings for individuals who want to conduct usability tests. Readings are listed in the following categories:

Background Information

"How To" Information

Documentation Usability

Additional Information

Unsorted References

Paper or site titles are linked to Web sites if available. Please contact the owners of the material directly for copyright information.

Book titles are linked to Amazon provides the best descriptions of each book, particularily because they allow readers to add their own comments about any book in their collection. Get the scoop on each book from fellow readers. These book links are provided in association with And yes, if you end up buying a book linked from this page, I get a cut. Support your friendly neighborhood grad student... 

If you want to hold a usability test soon, read...

If you are on a tight deadline and want to hold a usability test for your project now, read books and articles listed in the "HowTo'' Information section later in this document. If you have time to read only one book, read the Handbook of Usability Testing.

If you want to learn more about usability testing, read...

If you know you'll want to conduct usability tests in the future, but not necessarily right now, read books and articles listed in the Background Information section as well as in the "HowTo'' Information section. If you're interested in a particular aspect of the field, see the works listed in the Additional Information section for more information.

Background Information

The following books and articles provide background information about the fields of usability engineering and human factors in general. They may contain little or no information directly related to usability testing. However, they provide a background that helps to place testing in context.

Bailey, Robert W. 1982. Human Performance Engineering: A Guide for System Designers. New York, Prentice Hall, Inc.

Classic textbook of human factors engineering.

Laurel, Brenda, ed., The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design, 1990, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, ISBN 0-201-51797-3.

Broad overview of HCI. A bit outdated, but an interesting look back at the good ol' days (when the Mac was new) of UI design.

Nielsen, Jakob, Usability Engineering, 1993, Academic Press/AP Professional, Cambridge, MA
ISBN 0-12-518406-9 (paper)

Basic introduction to the entire field of usability. The chapter on usability testing basically condenses the "how to'' books listed in the next section into a single chapter. The book is intended as a textbook for computer user interface designers, but has very little technical detail compared to more procedural or advanced works. Contains a very extensive bibliography.

Norman, Donald, The Design of Everyday Things, 1988, Basic Books, New York, NY
ISBN 0-385-26774-6 (paper)

formerly published as The Psychology of Everyday Things (POET), ISBN 0-465-06709-3

Entertaining, layman's introduction to usability and user interfaces. Through the discussion of commonplace, everyday UIs such as auto dashboards, door handles, and alarm clocks, Norman teaches the cognitive psychology behind a user's interaction with an object.

Also by Donald Norman:

Turn Signals are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles (ISBN 0-xxx-xxxxx-x)

Things that Make Us Smart (ISBN  0-201-62695-0)

Preece, Jenny, ed., A Guide to Usability, 1993, Addison-Wesley, Reading MA, ISBN 020162768X.

Slim book on HCI and usability, probably the precursor to the usability chapters in Preece's Human-Computer Interaction.

Preece, Jenny, ed., Human-Computer Interaction, 1994, Addison-Wesley, Reading MA, ISBN 0201627698.

Large text on HCI. The chapters on usability evaluation are great; wish I had this book before I started this site.

"How To'' Information

The following books and articles provide practical information; procedures, caveats, and techniques, for holding usability tests.


Online Web page at Detailed tutorial describing usability methodology. Great job!

Dumas, JS, and Redish, Janice, A Practical Guide to Usability Testing, 1993, Ablex, Norwood, NJ
ISBN 0-89391-991-8 (paper)

Detailed guidelines for conducting usability tests, but oriented toward formal lab testing.

Lindgaard, G., Usability Testing and System Evaluation: A Guide for Designing Useful Computer Systems, 1994, Chapman and Hall, London, U.K.
ISBN 0-412-46100-5

Basic usability testing textbook, geared toward computer system design.

Rubin, Jeffrey, Handbook of Usability Testing, 1994, John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY
ISBN 0-471-59403-2 (paper)

Step-by-step guidelines for conducting usability tests. Probably the best all-around resource for doc usability testers.

Additional Information

The following books and articles provide in-depth information about a specific subset of the usability engineering field. Many are textbooks or papers written for graduate-level courses, and therefore may be boring or long-winded.

Usability Testing Experiences

Bell, Brigham, Rieman, John, and Lewis, Clayton. "Usability Testing of a Graphical Programming System: Things We Missed in a Programming Walkthrough.'' Communications of the ACM volume/number unknown (1991): 7-12

Describes a program walkthrough and compares it to a usability test on the same code development environment.

Chartier, Donald A. "Usability Labs: The Trojan Technology.''

Online web page at Introduction to usability labs.

Cline, June A., Omanson, Richard C., and Marcotte, Donald A. "ThinkLink: An Evaluation of a Multimedia Interactive Learning Project.''

Online web page at Describes the a usability test of a multimedia project.

Haigh, Ruth, and Rogers, Andrew. "Usability Solutions for a Personal Alarm Device.'' Ergonomics In Design (July 1994): 12-21

Usability evaluation of a personal alarm design.

Heller, Hagan, and Ruberg, Alan. "Usability Studies on a Tight Budget.'' Design+Software: Newsletter of the ASD (1994)

Online Web page at Low-budget usability testing ideas.

Jordan, Patrick W., Thomas, Bruce, Weerdmeester, Bernard, (Eds.), Usability Evaluation in Industry, 1996, Taylor & Francis, Inc., London, UK. ISBN: 0-74-840460-0

Similar to the Wiklund book in that it describes industry practitioners' experiences, but more up to date.

Kirsner, Scott, "Listen Up-The Main Attraction," April 1, 1998, CIO Magazine.

Techniques used by leading Web sites to gather user information.

Lund, Arnold M. "Ameritech's Usability Laboratory: From Prototype to Final Design.''

Online web page at Introduction to Ameritech's usability lab.

Whiteside, John, Bennett, John, and Holtzblatt, Karen. "Usability Engineering: Our Experience and Evolution'' from Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction, M. Helander (ed.). Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. (North Holland), 1988: 791-804.

Describes the authors' practical experiences implementing usability engineering at IBM and DEC.

Wiklund, Michael E., Usability in Practice, 1994, AP Professional, Cambridge, MA
ISBN 0-12-751250-0

Usability specialists from 17 companies describe how their usability programs got started, and how they incorporate usability engineering into the design of their products or services.

Yuschick, Matt, Schwab, Eileen, and Griffith, Laura. "ACNA--The Ameritech Customer Name and Address Service.''

Online web page at Describes the a user-centered design of a telephone company directory project.

Usability Testing Techniques and Issues

Bailey, R. W., et. al. "Usability Testing versus Heuristic Evaluation: A Head-to-Head Comparison.'' Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 36th Annual Meeting, (1992): 409-413.

Dayton, Tom, et. al. "Skills Needed By User-Centered Design Practitioners in Real Software Development Enironments: Report on the CHI `92 Workshop.'' SIGCHI Bulletin v25 n3, (July 1993): 16-31.

Describes the skills deemed most important for UCD practitioners--contains the fact that presentation skills rates very high, etc.

Jeffries, R., et. al., "User Interface Evaluation in the Real World: A Comparison of Four Techniques.'' Reaching through Technology: Proceedings of the 1991 CHI Conference, New Orleans, April-May 1991, NY: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 119-124.

Virzi, Robert A. "Refining the Test Phase of Usability Evaluation: How Many Subjects is Enough?'' Human Factors, v34, n4 (1992): 457-468.

Describes usability tests conducted with varying numbers of subjects, and their respective outcomes. Suggests using 22 subjects to identify any problem experienced by 10% or more of the population at the 90% confidence level, or 15 subjects if an 80% confidence level is acceptable.

Cost-Justifying Usability

Bias, R., and Mayhew, D. J., Cost-Justifying Usability, 1994, AP Professional, Cambridge, MA
ISBN 0-12-095810-4

Discusses the business case for usability work, including accounting for intangible benefits.

Gross, Clifford M., The Right Fit : The Power of Ergonomics As a Competitive Strategy, 1996, Productivity Press, ISBN: 156-327111-7.

Provides a Total Quality Management (TQM)-esqe look at ergonomics as product differentiator.

Karat, Claire-Marie. "Cost-Justifying Human Factors Support on Software Development Projects.'' Human Factors Society Bulletin v35, n11 (November 1992): 1-4.

Basic overview of the cost-benefit of including HF design considerations in the software development process.

Kirchner-Dean, Erica, and Kahler, Susan. "Marketing Usability: A Golden Opportunity.'' Ergonomics In Design (October 1994): 21-24

Usability concerns for software vendors; trade magazine's usability labs.

Mantei, Marilyn M., and Teorey, Toby J. "Cost/Benefit Analysis for Incorporating Human Factors in the Software Lifecycle.'' Communications of the ACM v31, n4 (April 1988): 428-439.

Overview of the cost-benefit of including HF design considerations in the software development process, including extensive balance sheets and accounting worksheets.

Nielsen, Jakob, "Guerrilla HCI: Using Discount Usability Engineering to Penetrate the Intimidation Barrier"

Online Web page at Was one of the chapters in Bias and Mayhew's  Cost-Justifying Usability.

Low-Fidelity Prototyping

Cooper, Alan, "The Perils of Prototyping," August, 1994, Visual Basic Programmers Journal.

When the father of Visual Basic says that you shouldn't use VB for prototyping, well, you listen. Online Web page at

Nielsen, Jakob, "Paper versus Computer Implementations as Mockup Scenarios for Heuristic Evaluation'', Human-Computer Interaction-Interact `90, D. Diaper et. al. (ed.) Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. (North Holland), 1990: 315-320

Nielsen provides a taxonomy of UI scenarios including different forms of mockups, then describes a heuristic evaluation usability test where the same videotex system was implemented as a paper mockup and as a HyperCard running prototype.

Rettig, Marc, "Prototyping for Tiny Fingers (Everything I Need to Know About Prototyping, I Learned In Kindergarten)'', Communications of the ACM, April 1994.

Also available online at Humorous but concise precis of low-fidelity prototyping. [Note: Link broken as of 4/28/96]

Snyder, Carolyn, "Using Paper Prototypes to Manage Risk," October 1996, Software Design and Publisher Magazine

Online Web page at Many more good articles at UIE too.

Virzi, Robert A, Sokolov, Jeff, and Karis, Demetrios. "Usability Problem Identification Using Both Low- and High-Fidelity Prototypes,'' 1995: Obtained directly from the authors.

Study of two products using both high and low-fidelity prototypes. Study showed that low-fidelity prototypes can be effective throughout the product development cycle, not just during the initial stages of design.

User-Centered Design

Borenstein, Nathaniel S., Programming As If People Mattered : Friendly Programs, Software Engineering, and Other Noble Delusions, 1991, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. ISBN: 0-691-03763-9

Mythical Man-Month-like collection of essays, describing various HCI issues in SW design.

Burgess, John H., Designing for Humans : The Human Factor in Engineering, 1986, Petrocelli Books, Princeton, NJ. ISBN: 0-89433-278-3.

Human factors text, but skewed toward evaluation and measurement than guidelines.

Carroll, John, (ed), Scenario-Based Design : Envisioning Work and Technology in System Development, 1995, John Wiley & Sons; ISBN: 0471076597.

How to use user scenarios to guide design.

Catterall, Bernard J. "The HUFIT Functionality Matrix.'' Human-Computer Interaction-Interact `90, D. Diaper et. al. (ed.) Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. (North Holland), 1990: 377-381.

The matrix cross-references user requirements with the technical proposal. Seems like Quality-Function Deployment for usability.

Gould, John D., Boies, Stephen J., and Lewis, Clayton. "Making Usable, Useful, Productivity-Enhancing Computer Applications.'' Communications of the ACM v34, n1 (January, 1991).

Usability design/iterative design process.

Grudin, Jonathan. "Interactive Systems: Bridging the Gaps Between Developers and Users.'' IEEE Computer, (April 1991): 59-69.

Describes three development contexts for interactive software development projects: competitively bid, commercial product, and in-house/custom development.

Lund, Arnold M., and Tschirgi, J. E., "Designing for People: Integrating Human Factors Into the Product Realization Process.''

Online web page at Introduction to user-centered design.

Taylor, B. "HUFIT User Requirements Toolset.'' Proceedings of the Ergonomics Society Annual Conference: Contemporary Ergonomics 1989: 82-86.

Describes a set of tools to help develop user requirements and guidance on gathering and using user data.

"User Centered Design.'' Slides from User Centered Design Conference, Toronto, Canada, 20-24 February 1995.

Presentation from IBM Usability group giving an overview of user-centered design.

Contextual Inquiry

Beyer, Hugh, "Getting Started with Contextual Techniques".

Online Web page at Outline-style notes (talking points from a presentation?) on contextual techniques.

Beyer, Hugh, and Holtzblatt, Karen, "Apprenticing with the Customer: A Collaborative Approach to Requirements Definition," Communications of the ACM, May 1995.

Online Web page at One of the first writeups on Contextual Inquiry.

Beyer, Hugh, and Holtzblatt, Karen, Contextual Design : A Customer-Centered Approach to Systems Designs, 1997, Morgan Kaufman Publishers, ISBN: 1558604111

Finally, a book on contextual inquiry! From the inventors of the method, too. Don Norman sent in a review of the book to Amazon.

Contextual Connection email list: to subscribe to the Contextual Connection send mail to with "subscribe" in the body of the message.

From Beyer's description on his Web page: "Contextual-Connection is a moderated digest devoted to the discussion of design from customer data. It covers process, team, and organizational issues in gathering data about customers in the context of their work and the use of that data in to drive design."

Holtzblatt, Karen, and Beyer, Hugh, "Making Customer-Centered Design Work for Teams," Communications of the ACM, October 1993.

Online Web page at First published article on Contextual Design.

Holtzblatt, K., and Jones, S. "Contextual Inquiry: A Participatory Technique for System Design.'' in Schuler, D., and Namioka, A. (eds.) Participatory Design: Principles and Practice. Lawrence Earlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ. 1993: 180-193.

Describes methods, and principles for contextual inquiry.

Field Studies

Hackos, Jo Ann, and Redish, Ginny, 1998, User and Task Analysis for Interface Design, John Wiley & Sons; ISBN: 0471178314.

Huge, all-encompassing book on user and task analysis. Lots of information about site visits.

Kane, Kate, "Anthropologists Go Native In The Corporate Village," October/November 1996, Fast Company magazine.

Nouveau-biz zine article on ethnographers finding work in corporations.

Macht, Joshua, "The New Market Research," July 1998, Inc. magazine.

Biz-zine article on using low-tech field studies instead of expensive focus groups for market and user research.

Tamakoshi, Laura, 1996, Field Methods, and Field Notes.

Online Web pages at Describes Tamakoshi's methods used during her anthropological research in Papua New Guinea. Geared toward anthropology folks, but still useful.

Wixon, D. , and Ramey, Judith (Eds.), 1996, Field Methods Casebook for Software Design, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY. ISBN: 0-471-14967-5

Nice overview of ethnographic techniques used in software design--the only book on these techniques as used for software design that I've seen so far. Similar to the Wiklund book in that it discusses individual practitioners' experiences.

Interviews and Focus Groups

Greenbaum, Thomas L.,"Focus Groups: A Help or a Waste of Time?" from Tom's articles page at

Lots of other good focus group articles on that site. Greenbaum also has a couple of articles on video focus groups: "Focus Group By Video - Next Trend Of The 90's" and "Is Your Moderator Ready for Videoconferencing?" on his site.

Greenbaum, Thomas L., The Handbook for Focus Group Research, 1997, Sage Pubns; ISBN: 0761912533

Nielsen, Jakob, "The Use and Misuse of Focus Groups"

Templeton, Jane F., The Focus Group : A Strategic Guide to Organizing, Conducting and Analyzing the Focus Group Interview, 1994, Probus Pub Co; ISBN: 1557385300

Maya Design and W3Focus do online focus groups: FAQ

Maya Design also does telephone focus groups.

Silverman, George, "How to Get Beneath the Surface in Focus Groups" from George's articles page at

Lots of great focus group articles here, too.

Remote Evaluation

Hartson, Rex, Remote Evaluation Methods, 2002

Professor Hartson at Virginia Tech is taking over the content José Castillo used to have on his page, cited below. (

Castillo, José, Remote Usability Evaluation Home Page, 1998.

José has a ton of remote evaluation stuff on his page (

Surveys and Questionaires

Alreck, Pamela L., and Settle, Robert B., The Survey Research Handbook, 1994, Irwin Professional Publishing, Chicago, IL, ISBN: 0-256-10321-6 (ISBN is for cheaper paperbound 1995 version)

Nice general introduction to survey research, aimed at lower-division marketing and social sciences students. Less theoretical and more guideline-oriented than other texts.

Foddy, William, Constructing Questions for Interviews and Questionnaires: Theory and Practice in Social Research, Cambridge Univ Pr (Pap Txt); ISBN: 0521467330.

Gaddis, Susanne E., "How to Design Online Surveys," June 1998, Training and Development magazine, vol. 52, no. 6.

Lessler, Judith L., Questionnaire Design in the Cognitive Research Laboratory, ISBN 0840604122.

Oppenheim, A. N., Questionnaire Design, Interviewing and Attitude Measurement, 1992, Pinter Pub Ltd; ISBN: 1855670445

Salant, Priscilla, and Dillman,  Don A., How to Conduct Your Own Survey, 1994, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, ISBN: 0471012734

Even less theoretical than the Alreck book.

Cognitive Walkthroughs

Rowley, David E., and Rhoades, David G. "The Cognitive Jogthrough: A Fast-Paced User Interface Evaluation Procedure.'' CHI `92 Proceedings, (May 3-7, 1992): 389-395.

Describes a user interface evaluation method faster than regular unstructured walkthrough procedures.

Wharton, Cathleen, et. al., "The Cognitive Walkthrough Method: A Practictioner's Guide." in Nielsen, Jakob, and Mack, R. eds, Usability Inspection Methods, 1994, John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY. ISBN 0-471-01877-5 (hardcover)

Nice how-to article for cognitive walkthroughs.

Heuristic Evaluation

Instone, Keith, "Site Usability Evaluation".

Online Web page at Instone describes how to do heuristic evaluation on a Web site.

Instone, Keith, "Usability Heuristics for the Web".

Online Web page at Instone revisits Nielsen's list of heuristics and adds Web-specific comments.

Nielsen, Jakob, "Heuristic Evaluation: How-To".

Online Web page at How to do heuristic evaluation from the main proponent himself.

Nielsen, Jakob, and Mack, R. eds, Usability Inspection Methods, 1994, John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.
ISBN 0-471-01877-5 (hardcover)

Basic introduction to usability inspections, including heuristic evaluation, cognitive walkthroughs, and pluralistic walkthroughs.


Bridger, R. S., Introduction to Ergonomics, 1995, McGraw Hill, New York, NY ISBN 0-07-007741-x

Introductory text on ergonomics, focusing on more on human factors than on workplace ergonomics. Good introductory chapters on human-machine interaction.

Pulat, B. Mustafa, Fundamentals of Industrial Ergonomics, 1992 (update July 1997), Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ. ISBN 0-13-345364-2.

Pulat, B. Mustafa, and Alexander, David C., ed., Industrial Ergonomics: Case Studies, 1991, Industrial Engineering and Management Press, Norcross, GA, ISBN 0-89806-099-0.

Two texts on industrial ergonomics. Both are slim on evaluation techniques, although the case studies book does provide examples of workplace evaluations.

Motion Analysis

Barnes, Ralph M., Motion and Time Study: Design and Measurement of Work, 1980, John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY. ISBN 0-471-05905-6

Niebel, Benjamin, Motion and Time Study, 1984 (update Aug 1998), Richard D. Irwin, Inc., Homewood, IL. ISBN 0-256-025727-4

Two classic texts on motion analysis and time study. Predictive evaluation techniques that plot the user's interaction with an interface have their roots in motion analysis, a field popularized by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth (of Cheaper By the Dozen fame).

Grillo, Elmer V., and Berg, Charles J., Work Measurement in the Office, 1959, McGraw Hill, New York, NY. ISBN 58-13869.

Ancient text covering motion analysis and time study, but with a focus on office tasks. Different tack than today's analogous texts that focus on injury-related issues of office work.

Statistics and Data Design

Box, George E. P., Hunter, William G., and Hunter, J. Stuart. 1978. Statistics for Experimenters. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Textbook for statistical test design.

Walpole, Ronald E., and Myers, Raymond H. 1985. Probability and Statistics for Engineers and Scientists. New York, Macmillan Publishing Co.

Textbook for statistical analysis of experimental data.

Young, Hugh D. 1962. Statistical Treatment of Experimental Data. New York: McGrawHill Co., Inc.

Trade paperback overview of statistical analysis of experimental data.

Summarizing Test Results

Brassard, Michael, ed. 1988. The Memory Jogger: A Pocket Guide of Tools for Continuous Improvement. Methuen, MA: Goal/QPC.

Also by Brassard:

The Memory Jogger II : A Pocket Guide of Tools for Continuous Improvement & Effective Planning, 1994

Quick-reference guide to charting and graphing tools used to summarize test results, including Pareto, pie, run, and x-y charts, histograms, means and standard deviations.

Presenting Test Results

The Dayton, et. al. study from CHI '92 found that presentation skills were perhaps the most important for usability practitioners. Remember, the goal of evaluation is to effect changes in the product--you can find all the problems you want, but if they're not fixed, your user isn't going to benefit. Here's a few sources for more information on presenting your results:

Information Graphics

Tufte, Edward R. 1990. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.

Tufte, Edward R. 1992. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.

Tufte, Edward R. 1997. Visual Explanations : Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.

All of Tufte's books show great examples of how graphic design can be used to describe quantitative information, and provide lots of ideas for incorporation into reports. Emphasis on convincing people (juries, Congress, etc.) using visual explanations.

Huff, Darrell. 1993. How to Lie with Statistics . New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, ISBN: 0393310728

A classic on how to skew opinions using the right graphs. Not like you'd need to do that, though, right?

Meyer, Eric K. 1997. Designing Infographics. New York, NY:  Hayden Books, ISBN: 1568303394


Presentations Magazine

Online Web page at Geared toward selling you a fancy multimedia projector, but also has good articles on delivery or presentation slide design.

Toastmasters International

Online Web page at Nope, nothing to do with bread or appliances. One of the best resources for getting your speaking and presenting skills up to par. Join your local club today!

Kroeger, Lin. 1997. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Successful Business Presentations. New York, NY: Alpha Books, ISBN: 00-286-17-487

Quick and easy guide to presentations.

Kushner, Malcom. 1996. Successful Presentations for Dummies. IDG Books, ISBN: 1568843925

Same thing, this time from the Dummies folks.


All content copyright © 1996 - 2016 James Hom

Last Modified: 0300, 3 August 1998