People sometimes ask me what book to read to get started with usability. My recommendation depends on your background and focus:
IF (you like your knowledge applied and theory light) ->
- IF (mostly for web, interested in guerilla usability tests) ->
Don’t make me think by Steve Krug
- IF (you’re a developer and want people to be happy with the solution you’re coding) ->
User interface design for programmers by Joel Spolsky
- IF (love lots of examples, mostly from non-web GUIs) ->
GUI Bloopers – Jeff Johnson
IF (you like theory and psychology) ->
- The design of everything things – Donald Norman
The 1st and last ones are also great, if you’re not yet convinced that usability is a good thing and usually suspect that your system’s fine and your users are just too stupid to operate it.
While I’m at it: One thing that will improve the usability of everything you “produce” – software, emails, whatever – is good writing. The 2nd book has a great chapter on this. Alternatively there’s a great article on writing well by Su-Shee. It’s the best I’ve ever read on writing, ever. Everything you really need to know on just 3 pages. Read it in English or the original German.