“Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition” (New Riders) by Steve Krug
Although “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” was released over a decade ago, the advice within the book is timeless. Steve Krug has written a book that is easy to digest, and it won’t take a large amount of time. He reports some readers have read it in two hours; it took me about four. Krug opens the book by emphasizing the book’s title and stating that web designers should never expect the user to think; a webpage should be clear, and everything on it should be visible and easy to find. Krug recommends keeping terminology simple, because when terms become too clever, there is the chance the user won’t understand what is meant and that can lead to frustration.
Krug has spent many years observing how users interact with websites, and what he found is that they tend to glance at a webpage rather than read it. Technology has helped speed up our world, and we are always rushing. The mindset of being in a hurry influences how we use the web. Krug found users tend to click on the first thing that jumps out at them on a webpage, and one way to combat users not viewing the entire page is to create a hierarchy that is clear. Krug recommends making the most important item the most prominent and cautions against any extra noise on the page; this can include items that are underlined and webpages that are too busy.
Since webpages are giant billboards that can be sold to advertisers, visual space is a huge commodity. According to Krug, a simple way to free up space on a webpage is to eliminate useless words. Krug suggests removing half of the words on most webpages, and he is certain value won’t suffer. Krug speaks of eliminating happy talk which he describes as promotional writing that is self-congratulatory. He found another source of useless words in instructions. By making everything self-evident, there isn’t a need for step-by-step instructions on a webpage, because the user will already understand the purpose of the site.
One of the most important chapters in the book focuses on the home page. Krug insists that because there are so many items that automatically need to be included on the home page, this section of the website is beyond the web designers control. But, Krug stresses that a good tagline is vital to the success of the site. Taglines are typically placed next to the site logo, and they describe what the site is about in six to eight words. Taglines should be informative and sometimes witty. Krug recommends against generic and vague taglines, because they can lead to user confusion.
Krug’s chapter on usability testing is one of the main nuggets in the book. With easy instructions and guidance, he explains why testing is so crucial and how to do it at a relatively low cost. Since the book is over a decade old, some of the techniques described are outdated, but the crux of his advice is solid; he recommends doing usability testing even if it’s only with one user. Krug found that it’s never too early to test, but often, companies are testing too late. Test and test often is Krug’s enduring advice.
“Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” is full of knowledge and advice that has stood the test of time. It is valuable for anyone seeking a clear and concise presence on the web that will be simple for the audience to use and interact with.