“Don’t make me think” as the usability expert Steve Krug stated. That is, by far, the most important usability rule to keep in mind. If it makes you think: it is unclear, not making any sense and definitely not serving its purpose.
In the revisited version of Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug discusses all the ins and outs of website usability and design. All the bits and pieces of webpages are being discussed. This includes menu items, links and buttons, content, and a specific chapter devoted to mobile design. By following Steve Krug’s advice, you can make your website as user-friendly as possible. Why, you wonder? If your (potential) customers develop positive associations when using your website, chances are they’ll come back more often. It not only increases the likelihood of people visiting your website, you’re customers will become (more) loyal to your website and as a result your website traffic will increase greatly.
Before diving into the subject of website usability, it is best to have a clear view of what it actually means. Hence it is not surprising to see that Steve Krug also starts by explaining his definition for usability. And even though there are lots and lots of different definitions, Steve Krug was able to break it down into easy and understandable attributes:
- Useful. Does it do something people need done?
- Learnable. Can people figure out how to use it?
- Memorable. Do they have to relearn it each time they use it?
- Effective. Does it get the job done?
- Efficient. Does it do it with a reasonable amount of time and effort?
- Desirable. Do people want it?
- Delightful. Is using it enjoyable, or even fun?
These attributes all make sense and it already steers you into a certain direction of thinking. Everything he discusses in the book relates back to these attributes, so know them by heart!
It’s not rocket science
Let’s be honest, website usability and specifically website testing is not rocking science. So why do we need this book? To guide the way we are designing pages and, more specifically, to address the fact that every little detail on your website needs to be user-friendly! And by everything, I literally mean ev-ery-thing.
In order to cover all these subjects, Krug has divided the book in 13 different chapters discussing different aspects of a website. Every chapter contains lots of visual examples and do’s and don’ts, which are very clear. However, a downside of discussing every little detail is that the book tends to lack in structure as Krug jumps from one subject to another.
The first law of usability
The first two chapters are somewhat introductory, to make the reader understand why web usability is so important.
When you are deciding whether a certain design works or not, there is only one law of usability (aka the ultimate tie breaker): does it make me think? If it does, change it! The entire first chapter is devoted to Krug’s law, as he explains the rational behind usability design.
He discusses the most basic website design principles, such as making links and buttons stand out so the visitors immediately understand that it’s clickable. Or giving clear titles to pages and the navigation. Every millisecond a user has to think about something on your website, it will increase the likelihood of the user having negative associations with your website or even your brand. Even though most of those milliseconds happen subconsciously, they all count.
One of Krug’s examples, which explains the first law of usability very clearly, is the image below. The more obvious a button or link is, the more likely users are going to click on it. However, as soon as the button requires thought from the users’ end, as they are not sure whether it is actually a button or not, they might not click on it. The same principle applies to the titles. Give buttons clear and understandable titles to prevent confusion.
What we design for vs. the reality
Another interesting part, which I believe still belongs in the introduction phase, is the second chapter. In chapter 2, Krug discusses how users really use websites. Most designers have a clear structure in their mind when developing a webpage “the visitors will first click here, after which they scroll down and click there…”. While in reality, we use selective receptivity and only view the things we are really looking for by scanning the pages instead of reading them. The example below explains the concept of how users scan the pages very clearly.
THE REAL DEAL
Starting from chapter 3, Krug moves on to discuss the real deal: some serious website design tactics. He discusses a range of subjects, from navigation and homepages to logos and certain decisions users make when looking for particular information. For about five chapters, he continues to give examples and show best practices about why some things work, and why others don’t. It would not add any value to discuss all of his tips in this blogpost, so I definitely encourage you to read the book to soak up some usability knowledge.
Testing the website
Everyone could be a usability tester, as Krug stated in his book. Hence, he discusses ways to test desktop and mobile websites in chapter 9 and 10.
The most important lesson learned from these chapters is that usability testing always takes up a lot of time. Often, when Krug has got a request to test a website that was supposedly to launch in two weeks, he knew that the website designers only wanted to test it to settle some on-going internal debates, rather than really focus on the user-friendliness. Krug gives an entire example of how usability tests often work by including a (very elaborate) transcript of a test. Chapter 9 is very useful when you are about to test your own website.
Let’s go mobile!
Chapter 10 is the last noteworthy chapter, in which he devoted an entire chapter to mobile designs (hallelujah!). In this chapter, he explains that mobile browsing is becoming increasingly important for every website-owner and should therefor not be neglected. This chapter is extremely useful if you are redesigning your website to make it (more) mobile friendly!
To conclude, the book serves as a perfect go-to-guide when you are (re)designing webpage(s). Every little aspect is explained extensively, including best practices and no-go’s. It is definitely a designers’ must-read!
However, I experienced that it is best to use it when you are actually designing the webpage. As there are so many different tips, it is hard to remember them all and put them into practice later. So, my advice is to use this book at the moment you need it the most: when designing or testing the webpage. You can use the clear index to find all the different subjects in the book (yes, even the book is very user-friendly).