Is This Book Right for Me?

I sure hope so. Let’s see if I can help set expectations.

In the many years I’ve been building applications, I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to understand users. I’m obsessed with figuring out how they tick: What motivates them? What frustrates them? What makes them choose one application over another? What can I do to get them to choose my applications?

Based on the many discussions I’ve had with developers from all over the world, it’s safe to assume that I’m not alone. So, I’ve decided to write this book to help developers better understand their users. This book is not meant for the user experience (UX) professional or professional designer. Instead, my goal is to help uninitiated developers understand the fundamental practices of user-centered design, usability, and user experience.

This discussion should be your launch pad into the world of usability experts. You’ll learn about their motivations, terminology, and strategies for judging the success (or failure) of an application. My hope is, with this knowledge, you’ll have a greater confidence to begin studying users in a more meaningful way.

The industry of human−computer interaction is vast, with decades of scientific research. We couldn’t possibly cover every aspect of what is known about usability today. However, this book is full of great (and practical) examples to help you get started.

With this book you’ll learn:

  • How to implement user-centered design and usability practices

  • How to deal with different types of users and their unique personalities

  • How to create a vision that’s essential to your application’s success

  • How to create a plan that will help you navigate the development process and avoid costly mistakes

  • How to boost creativity and create engaging applications using common design principles

  • How to gather feedback and make informed design decisions

Throughout our discussion, I’ll share tools and processes I’ve found helpful in my own work. While the various technology, stories, and examples used in this book may become dated or obsolete, the lessons we learn from them will not.

Perhaps you’re a lone developer, building mobile applications for a broad consumer base. Maybe you’re working with a small development team, creating line-of-business applications for your organization. Maybe you’ve started programming as a hobby in hopes of making it a full-time career. Many of us don’t have access to a UX professional or designer on our team. We’re left to figure it out for ourselves. Although, the value of UX and its associated methodologies are becoming more realized, many organizations aren’t quite ready to invest in full-time positions.

It’s not just enterprise developers either. Through our weekly Internet show, I’ve talked with many developers who are building applications without any formal design or usability training. Often times, they learn enough to get by but continue to struggle with the fundamentals of creating a great user experience.

In any of these situations, the information in this book will help you build better applications by strengthening your observation and design skills.

The book is broken down into the following concepts:

What is user-centered design?

To begin, we’ll have a discussion about the relationships and common misconceptions regarding usability, user-centered design, and user experience.

Working with users

We’ll talk about strategies to get the most from your users.

Having a plan

Building a successful application (a successful anything, for that matter) requires thoughtful planning. We’ll cover critical steps that should be included in your development process. These items will help you implement user feedback effectively.

Creating a personal manifesto

One thing becomes clear when talking to successful developers and designers. They each have a clear vision of what they want to achieve with their applications. We’ll discuss why having a vision is the key to creating a meaningful product.

Creativity and user experience

It takes creative insight to continually generate ideas to solve users’ needs. We’ll talk about ways you can boost your own creativity and inspiration.

Design principles

Fortunately for us, many principles exist to guide us towards proven designs that work. We’ll discuss some of the most popular design principles you can apply to your applications to dramatically improve their usability.

Gathering feedback

Collecting meaningful data from users is the crux of user-centered design. We’ll talk about the different methods researchers employ to solve user-experience concerns.

Usability studies

Observing users while they use your applications is one of the most important processes in usability research. We’ll discuss the various tools needed to conduct your own studies.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:


Indicates new terms, URLs, email addresses, filenames, and file extensions.

Constant width

Used for program listings, as well as within paragraphs to refer to program elements such as variable or function names, databases, data types, environment variables, statements, and keywords.

Constant width bold

Shows commands or other text that should be typed literally by the user.

Constant width italic

Shows text that should be replaced with user-supplied values or by values determined by context.


This icon signifies a tip, suggestion, or general note.


This icon indicates a warning or caution.

Using Code Examples

This book is here to help you get your job done. In general, if this book includes code examples, you may use the code in your programs and documentation. You do not need to contact us for permission unless you’re reproducing a significant portion of the code. For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book does not require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O’Reilly books does require permission. Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code does not require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product’s documentation does require permission.

We appreciate, but do not require, attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: “User-Centered Design by Travis Lowdermilk (O’Reilly). Copyright 2013 Travis Lowdermilk, 978-1-449-35980-5.”

If you feel your use of code examples falls outside fair use or the permission given above, feel free to contact us at .

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People Who Helped Me Write This Book

These individuals were gracious enough to spend some time with me so I could share their knowledge with you. Like I’ve written in this book, in order to be great, you need to follow great people. In my opinion, these are some of the greatest:

Julian Walker

Lead engineer at FiftyThree and creator of Paper. If you want to see more of what Julian is up to, follow him on Twitter @julianwalker.

Jeff Weir

UX Designer for Microsoft who has worked with the Windows and Live Labs teams. You can find talks that Jeff has presented on Channel 9, Microsoft’s video site for developers.

Billy Hollis

A developer-evangelist who promotes the value of good usability practices. Billy is well known in the Microsoft .NET developer community and has his own consulting company called Next Version Systems.

Robby Ingebretsen

A UX Designer and founder of Pixel Lab, a Seattle software design and strategy firm. You can find all about Robby on Twitter @ingebretsen or at his personal blog.

Mark and Lisa

This book would not be in your hands if it weren’t for the guidance and sheer genius of these two. Go Blue Demons!

Mary Treseler and the O’Reilly Media Family

This book is an example of the notion that the industry of application development is changing. Kudos to the entire team at O’Reilly Media for helping others and me learn about the importance of great usability and design. O’Reilly continues to prove themselves as a guiding rod for developers by helping them stay ahead of this ever-changing landscape.

Mary, thanks for being super cool and making me feel like a legitimate author, something that is really weird when I say it out loud.

Amanda, your sharp eye and wisdom have made this book much better than I could’ve ever imagined. Thank you.

Thanks to the many reviewers who offered their thoughtful opinions and insight.

People Who Helped Me with Life

My parents

Kim, Deborah, Kathi, Joe, David, and John. Thanks for all the love and support. This book is as much your achievement as it is mine.

My brothers

The best bunch of bros out there: Ryan, Brandon, and Brett—thank you for always having my back.

My sister

Hope, you get your own section because you’re my favorite sister. Hugs.

My good friends

JC, Daniel, Matt, and Travis (and their wives and kids, too)! V-Town, baby!

One of my sweetest friends, Margery Godfrey. I kept my promise.

My coworkers

The entire staff of Kaweah Delta Health Care District: Dave, Nick, Steven, Eli, Mark, Anita, and Tim—thanks for putting up with my incessant ramblings. Most of what’s in this book came from your patience and active feedback.

My boys

Noah and Jackson, let this little book be a testament to the power of hard work and determination. You’re in my heart and on my mind always.

My wife

Jackie, as with all things in my life, this book begins and ends with you. Thank you for all your hard work and support. This life couldn’t have happened without you.

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