Indi Young's Mental Model book

My old friend and former business partner, Indi Young, has just had her first book published by my old friend Lou Rosenfeld and his new company, Rosenfeld Media, for which I'm an advisor. That caveat aside, I think this is a pretty great day for user research, user-centered design and publishing around, even as I've watched it take shape for several years from afar.

First, Indi's book. Although the title says it's a method to construct "mental models" through in-depth task analysis, it's a lot more. In the book Indi documents the many techniques she perfected working with a huge variety of clients. The techniques range from how to structure a cross-functional team, to recruiting people, conducting interviews, analyzing them, and creating effective diagrams that communicate the results. Really, it's Indi's whole rigorous process, which so many Adaptive Path projects hinged on, described clearly and in detail. It's a fantastic resource, a toolbox of highly effective, original tools for doing insightful, in-depth user research. I recommend it without reservation to everyone who does user research. We've all been asking Indi to write this book for years, and I'm so happy she's finally done it. Congratulations, Indi!

[FYI, get 10% off the cover price when you buy it directly from Rosenfeld Media's site when you use the code "FOKUNI10" I recommend doing this, rather than going through Amazon because Lou gets a larger proportion of the revenue, even with the discount.]

Second, Rosenfeld Media. Lou has been a friend of mine for many years. We were both part of the soup at the University of Michigan in the 80s and 90s which led to that school's far-thinking innovations in technology. We were there at the beginning of the Web and although we didn't know each other then, I believe we were influenced by many of the same ideas. When I went to LA in 1994 to design websites, Lou was already thinking and writing about information organization. He then went on to basically invent information architecture as we understand it today. He then went on to found a successful company and, in the process, he managed to write something like 8 books.

When he said he wanted to reinvent publishing based on his experiences writing books and designing information systems, I was very excited. Rosenfeld Media is the product of that redesign process. With it, he's decided to embrace the user-centered principles of site design and applied them to making books. But it's not just books, it's the whole culture of information around the books. In Lou's vision, the physical book is an artifact of a larger process of taking experts' knowledge and matching it to the needs of his company's audience of practitioners. Right now it looks mostly like traditional, if somewhat enlightened, publishing company, but you can start to see some differences in it immediately: books have version numbers on every page and you get the digital copy when you buy the paper one. He's also doing much of his marketing research out in the open and he's beta testing his books. It really is a different way of thinking about how to publish technical books, and I wish him luck and success (frankly, I don't think he needs the luck, but it can't hurt ;-).

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Kuniavsky published on February 25, 2008 3:56 PM.

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