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Book Review: Just Ask - Shawn Lawton Henry

Just Ask is a detailed book on how to incorporate usability and accessibility into your design process. If you are considering conducting usability testing particularly for disabled users this is an essential book.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Table of contents

Author: Shawn Lawton Henry

Published: February 2007


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Three out of Five 3

This review is based on the free online version of Just Ask

Accessibility through design

Just Ask- Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design is not a book that will teach you how to create an Accessible site. In fact there is not one line of code. It is more of a theoretical book and outlines frameworks to test your site and integrate accessibility into your design process. The book advises:

Designing for accessibility doesn’t require a whole new design process; it generally involves only minor adjustments to your existing design process.

Just Ask shows you how to make those minor adjustments with some sound advice.

Well referenced

The book is meticulously referenced throughout allowing the reader to look up standards and recommended documents. As a developer at times I was looking for more interpretation of things like WCAG. Indeed advice is given that standards should be interpreted and tested with users rather than followed to the letter. It would have been great to have some examples of this. The book is certainly theoretical rather than technical.

Users, personas, scenarios

The section on Accessibility in User Centered Design is an excellent framework. First you profile your user groups, then create personas and finally scenarios of tasks to be completed. For me this formalised processes that I follow, but it is an excellent resource to refer to.

Usability testing

Perhaps the most useful section for me was Usability Testing. It outlines in great detail how to set up and run a usability test.

Overall Just Ask is a detailed well referenced theoretical book. For anyone wanting to implement accessibility into a project, or conduct usability testing it provides excellent frameworks. I suspect many projects simply don’t have the time or budget to implement many of the recommendations in the book. Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think for example takes account that the average project probably does not have a big budget. For me it I would have liked more attention being given to smaller projects. That said I will still incorporate as much of the excellent advice I can into my design process.

Have an update or suggestion for this article? You can edit it here and send me a pull request.


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