photo
Deborah Lynne Wiley
Next Wave Consulting


[ONLINE]
hardcopy

Recommended Reading on Pleasing Clients and on Super Searchers

ONLINE, March 2001
Copyright © 2001 Information Today, Inc.

Subscribe

**** EXCELLENT

*** WELL DONE

** MOSTLY GOOD

* SOMETIMES ADEQUATE

No Logo - POOR

FEATURED BOOKS:
Customer-Centered Products: Creating Successful Products through Smart Requirements Management

Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Super Searchers in the News: The Online Secrets of Journalists and News Researchers

Super Searchers on Health and Medicine: The Online Secrets of Top Health and Medical Researchers



This month, we look at a couple of books designed to help you please your clients and patrons, either by designing a better Web site or by creating better products and services. Then we examine the latest in the Super Searcher series–News and Health & Medicine.

* * * *

Customer-Centered Products: Creating Successful Products through Smart Requirements Management
by Ivy F. Hooks and Kristin A. Farry

ISBN: 0-8144-0568-1
Published: 2000
Pages: hardcover; 272pp.
Price: $35.00
Available from: AMACOM, American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019; 212/903-8315; http://www.amacombooks.org

How often are your projects a success–the first time? Chances are that a lot of the mistakes could have been avoided with clearer and better-defined requirements. That's the premise of this book, written by two experts with NASA and aerospace backgrounds. Their goal is to help managers guide the process correctly and encourage better requirement statements from their staff. The book was developed from feedback at training courses on requirements management offered by the authors. Attendees complained that their bosses needed to know this stuff, as I will second from my own experiences in product development. The authors have devised a book that provides enough detail to convince a manager that the requirements process is extremely crucial to a project's success, without getting bogged down in minute details.

Each chapter focuses on a different segment of the requirements process, with plenty of graphics and sidebars to highlight key points and give real-life examples. The examples tend to focus on engineering projects, but in such a way that the lesson is understandable to all. Each chapter also contains a "sanity check" which summarizes the key concepts the manager should include in developing the requirements process. These are very useful for reviewing the book later, or for skimming the chapters.

The writing style is very clear and the examples are plentiful, guiding the manager through the differences between requirements, objectives, goals, missions, and other concepts. If you are struggling to define a project for others to create, or stuck trying to interpret a vague product proposal, get this book. Have all involved in the project read it, and implement the basics, at least. Your project and your staff are sure to be the better for it.

* * * *

Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
by Steve Krug

ISBN: 0-7897-2310-7
Published: 2000
Pages: softcover; 195pp.
Price: $35.00
Available from: Que Publishing, Macmillan USA, 201 West 103rd Street, Indianapolis, IN 46290; 800/428-5331, 317/581-3500; http://www.quepublishing.com

Oh, to make every Web site designer read this book! With a sense of humor, excellent graphics, and loads of common sense, the author shares his guiding principles for designing effective Web sites. He talks about how users really use the Web–how we scan, not read; "satisfice" rather than make optimal choices; and basically muddle through the Web.

Each chapter focuses on a different concept of Web usability, covering content, navigation, design, and user behavior. The last few chapters tell how to conduct Web usability tests on a very low budget. Essentially if you can get even a few novice users to examine your site, the comments will help you build it better. The author describes how to be a facilitator in these tests, and even includes a script from one of his own sessions.

This book is designed to be read in a few hours, and you can start at almost any chapter. The author states that "if it's short, it is more likely to be used," and wisely points out that you don't need to know everything. Although Web professionals will probably still gain from reading this book, the target audience is those who work on Web sites along with doing their real job. They need to know the basics, but don't have the time to know it all.

If you'd like to polish your site, or are about to build one, read this common-sense-filled book. It's overflowing with the things you ought to think of but probably wouldn't without Krug's help.

* * *

Super Searchers in the News: The Online Secrets of Journalists and News Researchers
by Paula J. Hane, edited by Reva Basch

ISBN: 0-910965-45-5
Published: 2000
Pages: softcover; 251pp.
Price: $24.95
Available from: CyberAge Books, Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055; 609/654-6266; http://www.infotoday.com/supersearchers

What a wealth of knowledge is contained in the minds of librarians! Like the other books in this series, ten researchers were interviewed about their jobs in the research arena. These information professionals were all media- and news-related, several from newspapers, a few from TV and radio, and one from the U.K.'s BBC.

The author does a great job of letting the interviewees talk, and allows their personalities to shine through. Even when the same questions are asked time and time again, the answers are interesting and the flow of the conversation does not feel stilted.

A few themes prevail throughout the book. One is that the Internet has drastically changed the way things get done, but the interaction of people is still important. However, that interaction may come via email or discussion lists these days. A second point for this particular environment is the convergence of the roles of the investigative reporter and the news researchers. All the interviewees felt that the future will bring even more integration of the librarians' role with the reporters, removing them from the traditional library environment and ensconcing them smack in the middle of the action.

The interviewees talk about their jobs and the kinds of resources they use to answer the myriad requests they get. All of the resources mentioned are listed alphabetically in the Appendix, with URLs, but annotations would be really nice. I understand that the interviews would get bogged down if all the resources were examined in detail, but annotations in the Appendix would be really useful for those unfamiliar with all the resources.

With the time to talk with colleagues always being so limited, these interviews provide a way to see how others view and perform their jobs. It's the next best thing to being there.

* * *

Super Searchers on Health and Medicine: The Online Secrets of Top Health & Medical Researchers
by Susan M. Detwiler, edited by Reva Basch

ISBN: 0-910965-45-5
Published: 2000
Pages: softcover; 251pp.
Price: $24.95
Available from: CyberAge Books, Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055; 609/654-6266; http://www.infotoday.com/supersearchers

It was interesting to read these two Super Searchers books back-to-back. Although the layout is the same–ten interviews with top searchers–and some of the questions are tech- nically the same, the answers are dramatically different. The skills and focus of these researchers cater more to precise, comprehensive or exacting searches, while the news group tended to have more immediate, we-just-need-an-answer-now type searches. Hence the information in this book tends to be more specific than the previous book.

The interviewees come from a spectrum of the health and medicine arena, representing academia, allied health, toxic risk, Web resources and consumer services, and the pharmaceutical industry. And, of course, their resource of choice was nearly unanimously MEDLINE. They all seemed to rely more on commercial databases, although the Internet certainly still plays a key part in their efforts.

The flow of the interviews was more of question and answer rather than conversation, but plenty of good information is presented. I particularly liked the effort to highlight the resources and strategies used in seeking different kinds of information. All the resources mentioned are compiled in the Appendix, again without any annotations.

I think this book would be useful to anyone interested in health and medical information, no matter what your experience level. But if you have no interest in the subject area, then a different searcher book is better for just general search and technique tips.


Deborah Lynne Wiley (deb@consultnw.com) is Principal of Next Wave Consulting, Inc. and HARDCOPY Editor.

Comments? Email letters to the Editor to marydee@infotoday.com.

[infotoday.com] [ONLINE] [Current Issue] [Subscriptions] [Top]

Copyright © 2001, Information Today, Inc. All rights reserved.
custserv@infotoday.com