Agile Web Development in Rails 4

Book Review

Okay, I read this one again, since the first reading was before I knew what things were and why I was doing things and oh, god, what have I gotten myself into? Helps to have development under your belt for these things.

This book was recommended to me as the book to learn Rails development. It has two main sections: a hands-on let's-build-a-rails-app section, and a here-are-the-explanations section. The first is designed to guide you through building an application with Rails, the second to explain what the hell just happened and how all the parts fit together. The book builds a slight e-commerce platform: a store's product display / catalog, administration section, shopping cart, checkout and user authentication. The example is great, I definitely liked that it wasn't a blog or a twitter client.

The book is good and it works. It is not the book for new developers, however. It uses a lot of words and concepts without explaining them, assuming the reader knows what they mean. And this is okay. The book is for a developer who is learning Rails. It does that well.

Time-wise, if you're going to read the book and do the exercises (say, a new employer is giving you a chance to come up to speed with Rails, or the first couple weeks of work to learn), give yourself 2 work weeks to go through it. You can do it faster (you can always do things faster), but doing the exercises and typing things in and playing around with things relevant-to but not part-of the lessons is what makes learning better. So, yeah, play around, poke around, learn something outside the lesson for greater good.

Interviewing Users

Book Review

THIS is a fantastic book to read to learn about how to interview someone for research, whether it's market research, user research or design research. If you're starting out in the area of interviewing users, or need to understand how to structure interviews, read this book, by Steve Portigal, published by Rosenfeld Media.

The book gives an overview of the interviewing process, including a warning about being sure you're looking for what the client really wants, which may actually just be validation for something already done (the "gaining insights" versus "persuading the company" dichotomy), as well as a very specific roadmap on how to prepare and conduct user interviews. I love the reference to satisficing, a term given to "good enough" solutions where yes, the pain point exists, but the pain is less annoying than the effort to fix it. How many products are there that solve satisficing (satisfying + suffice) problems? I'd say TONNES and WAY TOO MANY. And likely, "not a product to build a company around."

The book has helpful information on building a rapport with an interviewee, documenting the interview, asking question and optimizing the interview. There are parts on how to ask questions, how to prepare for an interview, and what to do when adjusting the interview with the not-quite-perfect-fit interviewee.

The book's only lack is in the "how to analyze the interview data," yet even that isn't bad. There's an overview on how to start analyzing provided, along with references for other books to read. The analysis of interview data a whole other book, so I'm unsurprised the topic wasn't fully covered here, and nor would I have expected it to be.

Interviewing Users is a great book. If I had to start interviewing people for gaining product or market insights, I would happily reread this book and use it as a guide.