Book review: Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think!”

DON’T MAKE ME THINK! - A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Second Edition
© 2006 Steve Krug
Author: Steve Krug
Pages: 201
Publisher: New Riders
ISBN: 0-321-34475-8
The book introduces the principles of Web usability, and explains how to overcome political obstacles to actual implementation of usable Web sites. Being an introduction, the book is rather superficial. However, it has several footnote references and a section devoted to Recommended reading, which would benefit people, who want to learn more about Web usability.

In practical world, Web site design and implementation is fraught with politics, due to the large number of stakeholders in a typical organization. The book covers the political aspects as well, even though its title does not reflect this fact.

The book is very readable, and is rich with colorful illustrations. To fully benefit from the book, the reader should have browsed Web sites and to have participated in a Web site building project.

The book was designed to be readable in a single flight. I actually finished reading it in less than four hours, excluding pauses. In my opinion, it meets very well the needs of beginning Webmasters, and of busy executives in charge of Web site design projects.

The book starts with an introduction, which explains why the book is thin, and what was left out of it and why. Chapters 1-5 cover the guiding principles, which can be summarized as follows.

Krug’s Laws of Usability:

  1. Don’t make me think!
  2. It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambigous choice.
  3. Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.

Principles:

  • Create a clear visual hierarchy.
  • Design pages for scanning, not reading.
  • Conventions are your friends.
  • Users like mindless choices.

Facts of life:

  • We don’t read pages. We scan them.
  • We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice.
  • We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through.
  • Steve Krug’s wife: “If something is hard to use, I just don’t use it as much.”
  • People won’t use your Web site if they can’t find their way around it.

Chapter 6 treats the subject of Web site navigation, covering search, breadcrumbs and tabs. It also introduces the “trunk test”.

Home pages have their special technical and political issues, so chapter 7 discusses home pages. An home page needs to answer the following questions:

  1. What is this?
  2. What do they have here?
  3. What can I do here?
  4. Why should I be here - and not somewhere else?
  5. Where do I start?

The conscientious Web designer will find in chapter 7 also a list of the top five plausible excuses for not spelling out the big picture on the home page, along with arguments, which refute those excuses.

The next two chapters, chapters 8-9, deal with the politics of designing for usability and present usability testing as a way to reduce the impact of “religious arguments”. Chapter 9 provides also a list of the top five plausible excuses for not testing Web sites, along with their refutations.

Chapter 10 deals with the benefits to an organization from improved usability of its Web site. Chapter 11 covers accessibility. Chapter 12 deals with the politics of bad design decisions and how to overcome them.

The following points pertaining to politics are covered by the above chapters:

  1. Home page design is fraught with politics, because there are several stakeholders.
  2. Usability testing is presented as antidote to religious arguments in the Web design team.
  3. People are afraid that better accessibility degrades the experience of non-disabled users.
  4. Bosses want to ask too much personal data.
  5. Bosses want to add “sizzle” to the Web site.

The author’s Web site is at http://www.sensible.com/.
The first edition of the book had three chapters about usability testing, which were condensed into a single chapter in the second edition. The original text of those chapters can be found in http://www.sensible.com/secondedition/.

The book was reviewed also in Amazon Web site: http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Make-Me-Think-Usability/dp/0789723107

The following are reviews of the first edition of the book:

The following is an interview with the book author: Meet the MasterMinds: Common Sense Web Design with Steve Krug.

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