Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition is not a new book. The 'updated' version that I read was published in 2006. But the concepts are still relevant, maybe more so.
Many of the ideas are pure common sense, but in our haste to design the site, gather content and 100 other webmaster tasks we sometimes overlook the basics.
By 'Don't make me think' the author means that visitors should be able to use your website in an easy and obvious manner. For example, using a navigation title like "Jobs" is probably easier to comprehend than "Employment Opportunities" and much easier to mindlessly understand than something clever like "Job-o-Rama."
Web designers design a page the way we think, and wish, users would read and navigate them. Krug says that the reality is that users don't read pages, they scan them. So a good web design will have important stuff be apparent to the scanners and the author offers many examples. The book is full of illustrations and examples of what to do and what to avoid.
I liked his section on avoiding needless words. One of the topics is "Happy talk must die." We are all familiar with the long blocks of welcoming text on a website that tell us how great the site and what we can expect. Krug states that most people don't read this happy talk and it wastes valuable home page real estate.
You should have a 'Welcome Blurb' - a terse description of the site, visible without scrolling. He cautions not to use a mission statement as a welcome blurb because nobody reads them.
He gives lots of techniques for improving site navigation. Designers are so used to their sites that they can't view the navigation objectively. He suggests the Trunk Test. Imagine you've been blindfolded and locked in the trunk of a car, driven around for awhile and dumped on a page deep in your website. Will you be able to:
- Know what the site is,
- what page you are on,
- what options you have for local navigation,
- where you are in the grand scheme of the web page
- and how to search?
He also warns about "The myth of the average user." Krug says that "All web users are unique and all web use is basically idiosyncratic." The way around that is to test early and often.
If you want a great site, you've got to test. The purpose of testing is not to prove or disprove something but to inform your judgment.
It's a quick and easy read and even seasoned web veterans can learn a thing or two. Basically, know the main things that people want to do on your site and make them obvious and easy for them to do it.
Great Lakes Geek Rating:4 out of 5 pocket protectors.
Reviewed by Entreprenerd Dan Hanson, the Great Lakes Geek
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