Book Review – Think First by Joe Natoli


Last year, Jes and I attended the UX Australia conference in Sydney. What is UX you ask? UX sits nice and snug between users’ needs and business needs. In its simplicity it is the discovery, ideation, design and validation process. For us, the conference started with a full day masterclass on UX principles. It was a great opportunity to put our instincts against theories, and hone in our ideas with tools and techniques into practice. It was also where we were introduced to the book Think First: My No-Nonsense Approach to Creating Successful Products, Memorable User Experiences + Very Happy Customers by Joe Natoli.

I finally got around to reading it recently at a time, where as a business, we are putting together a lot of structure and process around what value we provide to our customers. The thinking around creating a better user experience in product development, software, or website development, also appealed to me in terms of business development. How can we improve the way our customers experience our business operationally, as well as in terms of production?

In ‘Think First’, Natoli urges us to think strategically about our customers and clients. In our case, this is occurring on two levels. In terms of our performance in delivery we need to think about our customers, while in the development and implementation of our product, we need to think about the customers of our customers. The latter ensures the former in the end. Engaged customers of our clients make for successful business clients of ours.

The strategy behind every development project is driven by a knowledge of the user, what problems do they need solved? What are the goals of the business seeking to solve these problems? This is also the key to business success, and as Natoli states in this book, UX means business. Successful UX contributes to the core commercial aims of any entity: to make money, and to save money.

The book outlines many strategic approaches to user research, business goals, and competitor analysis. Identifying user needs addresses both the business to business perspective as well as the business to consumer perspective.

For us, we are a business to business organisation, and as stated previously, are concerned about the value loop. Providing value to the end user of our products that drives value back to the organisation offering that value, who are our clients.

The HyperWeb Value Loop

Something Natoli is also strong on is simplicity, reducing the product to its core requirements to meet the user need, and stripping away the unnecessary. We aim to do this in our website development work as a result. There are three questions Natoli identifies in helping to achieve this:

  1. What’s worth doing?
  2. What are we creating?
  3. What value does it deliver?

The book has great tools to analyse design and development components to focus effort on essential.

For some there is bonus material on managing a project for those that are particularly new at approaching UX from a Project Management point of view, as well as managing scope and client expectations.

More than two thirds into the book, it leaves strategy and heads into functional requirements. Here it talks about the UX staples of persona development, scenario planning, user stories, empathy mapping, and situation mapping. Very useful as a reference with needing to put these into practice.

I found the book quite useful not only in our own UX thinking and planning for our website development jobs but also for thinking about our business as a whole. I recommend it to anyone getting into UX, as it would be the ideal fundamental text, or for anyone in business that wants to serve their customers, and by value loop themselves, better.

If you want a copy for yourself, head over to Joe’s website here:

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