Don’t Make Me Think! (Revisited) by Steve Krug

Don’t Make Me Think (Revisited) by Steve Krug is a book on designing sites and applications for usability. Its core focus is on the web, but it is also widely applicable for mobile applications as well.

I read this book to get a better handle on usability concerns, especially for web design. As part of my current job as a Software Engineer for Amazon, I am a product owner of a website where I am expected to propose new features, consider requests from others, and assess the impact of each additional effort that goes into the website’s development. My teammates and I would frequently debate about what features / UI components would be more “usable”, but I quickly realized that none of us have any formal training in usability. This book looked like a perfect way to get my feet wet in understanding usability, and I feel that it delivered in this respect.

There are a couple of fantastic takeaways from the book, of which I will keep a running collection below.

    • Don’t Make Me Think!” — is the fundamental tenet of the book. Think of your visitors as highway drivers only glancing at billboard signs. Very few people will thoroughly pour over the page, reading all elements in sequential order. Most people quickly glance at what is available and will just click at the first thing that seems reasonably close to what they came for.
    • When needed, provide guidance — but make it brief, timely, and unavoidable. Kind of like London street “Look Right”/”Look Left” signs:
dreamstime_xxl_43929429.jpg
These signs are apparently common throughout London, and provide just enough information at exactly the right time, making it nearly impossible to miss.
  • Omit needless words.
  • Navigation (clear hierarchies/categories) and search are critical components of a listings website: It tells us what’s there, it tells us how to use the site, it gives us confidence in the people who built it.
  • Testing is not all that ambitious or difficult, but should really be done often. Grab someone and see if they understand how to use your site.
  • Try not to burden the site with domain specific acronyms or lingo. The more approachable, in general the better.
  • Do not assume an “average user” for the site. You may be surprised at who ends up visiting.
  • Avoid religious debates on what specific UI element is appropriate in general. Consider instead, “what UI element is appropriate for this specific situation for this specific purpose?”, try it, and ideally test it.
  • The author has another book, Rocket Science Made Easy (Buy it on Amazon), about how to conduct usability tests without a usability expert. That said, a bunch of publicly resources are mentioned in Don’t Make Me Think (Revisited), including a usability interview video (link here).

Overall, I enjoyed reading Don’t Make Me Think (Revisited). At under 200 pages, this book gently introduced me to thinking about usability, and feeling much more comfortable about testing throughout development. If you find yourself getting into potentially religious debates with your coworkers about the “most usable” UI component for a particular feature, this book may help you and your team save you some time and effort!

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