Book Review: Badass – Making Users Awesome

As you can see from my resource page, I am a huge fan of Kathy Sierra, so as soon as I learned she has written a new book I grabbed a copy and I was blown away. Kathy uses her distinctive style of using people with bubble talks to breakdown and explain complex stuff in easily understandable and fun way. However don’t be fooled that with all the white space, pictures and bubble speeches the book is easy or a fluff. Instead it is packed with lots of material on cognitive science and leaves you with many ideas on viewing your product in a totally different way.

Making Users Awesome compromise of two different sections. 1. what is the reason that we use one particular product or service over other similar choices and 2. how we build skills over time and what are the ways we can accelerate learning skills over a short period of time.

On part 1 the book’s main argument is that people pick a tool or service over others when they trust the recommendations they get about that particular product or service. When a friend or a family member talks to us about a recent app or a product they have used or when we pour over guests testimonial on Airbnb, we are likely to pick products, apps and hosts based on these reviews over what a particular brands is portraying. Why do we trust friends or even strangers over the brands in choosing something?

The surprising answer comes from the fact that no one uses an app or a service because they really want to get good at using it; instead we use the app or services to be good at whatever real-world domain this software works with. We choose a recommended app or service when see someone else is making progress and becoming better at our desired real-world domain. Our desired real-world domain can be anything, it can be experiencing a city like a local or becoming a front-end web developer.

The second part of the book looks at how people learn skills, the nature of expertise and how one can learn skills in a short span of time. One big take away for me was that, when we start learning something we try to take in everything and we are told that “Practice makes Perfect” so repeating and reviewing what we have learned so far will make us better. However the book shows us that we have only mastered a skill if we can achieve 95% reliability in repeating the task within 1-3 45-90 minute sessions.

If we can’t achieve this then the typical reaction is to repeat the exercise all over again. However we should realize that if we can’t do the skill it’s probably because there’s a small sub skill that we need to master first. So our next step is to break this skill down into its components, master those and then try the original skill again. She calls this principle “Half-a-Skill betas Half-Assed skills” ! 🙂

The book has so many other interesting takeaways and concepts that I didn’t cover to it so go read that book. Seriously. It’s badass itself!!

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