UX Book Reviews: May 2011

This month we review books about ubiquitous computing design and content strategy.

Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design

Smart Things
Type: practical
Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann
ISBN: 978-0123748997
Details: 336 pages, paperback

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For years people have talked about ubiquitous computing and how it will change our lives. It has taken time for this technology to move from the academic and experimental phase of development to being part of our everyday experience. Now that the revolution has started, designers should observe and understand how to design for ubiquitous computing. To fill this need, Mike Kuniavsky has written a book called “Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design.”

Eighty percent of the user experience books I own start with the history of our field and the definition of user experience. So does this book, but this is the first time in years that I actually read these chapters. Here Kuniavsky provides a clear explanation of the position that ubiquitous computing holds in this history. After this he gives his definition of and differences between identity, interface, industrial, interaction, information and service design. And while I heard about most of these before, understanding his view on this was helpful.

In the book, Kuniavsky takes us on a ride through many different ubiquitous computing projects. He explains each project in detail and gives us insights into technology, design choices, marketing decisions and reasons behind the success or failure. This approach really helps you understand what ubiquitous computing exactly is, which is important since it can be so much and so little at once. Writing in this way helps the reader to get a good understanding, but I also thought it missed some details. People with lots of experience in interaction design will probably get inspired by this, but will not learn a lot of new information.

Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content

Type: practical
Publisher: New Riders Press
ISBN: 978-0321733016
Details: 240 pages, paperback

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In Clout, the author Colleen Jones concisely outlines the methods and techniques that will aid the development of a successful content strategy. There are numerous real-world examples that support the core principles of context, rhetoric and psychology. She advises content creators to turn off their “fire hose” of information and provides effective and proven techniques to reach people.

Not only does Clout suggest organizations change the way they think before they begin to solve customer engagement issues; it may also require some readers that they change the way they think before they read it. Jones delicately introduces elements of psychology and sociology to explain the science of influence. The best SEO or A/B testing tools will not heal a company’s reputation or convince customers to trust your content’s voice. Investing in a new psychology will.

I like Clout because it teaches how and why to create influential content. I also love the fact that Colleen Jones takes the time to review the principles of rhetoric and psychology, principles at the heart of influential content, before mapping it all out and discussing practical tactics to develop influential content.

There is so much valuable information in Jones’ book that I want to summarize it all in this review, but I won’t. She has written a beautiful and good overview of what it takes to apply a good content strategy, without making things too complicated. This book can be used by web designers and content strategists, but is also a great gift for clients.

Johnny Holland

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