It’s a fact: people won’t use your Website if they can’t find their way around it.
Once you realize this, there are two things you can do to ensure that your site works:
- Hire a usability consultant at $100+ per hour
- Buy "Don’t Make Me Think" by Steve Krug
With a healthy dash of humor and wit, "Don’t Make me Think" explores common sense approaches to ensuring that your Website can be used by anyone with average (or below average) ability and experience.
Unlike many other books packed to the brim with dry statistics, "Don’t Make Me Think" gets straight to the point of what you really need to know. I should be upfront here: the book doesn’t cover every aspect of usability. And in my opinion, that’s a good thing. The application of the few key principles in the book will make your Website better than 99% of what’s out there. And, by keeping the book brief and direct, Steve Krug has made it more likely that his work will actually be used by those creating Websites.
What’s in the book?
The author wastes no words on useless information. Right off the bat, the book dives into the first law of usability:
"Don’t make me think. It means that as far as humanly possible, when I look at a Web page it should be self-evident. Obvious. Self-explanatory. I should be able to ‘get it’ â€“ what it is and how to use it â€“ without expending any effort thinking about it."
The second chapter dramatizes the difference between what we design for, and the reality of how users use the Web. In particular:
- People don’t read, they scan
- Users don’t make the best choice, they select the first "good enough" solution
- Visitors don’t figure out how things work, they "muddle" through
After six more chapters, the author dives straight into the subject of usability testing "on 10 cents a day." Three chapters are devoted to an explanation of how to run usability tests and interpret the results in a way that’s so simple, anyone can apply it. The myth that it takes money and expensive consultants to conduct usability tests is finally dispelled.
Once I opened the book and started reading, I didn’t put it down until I was finished – the author’s engaging and informal style makes reading this book a pleasure, and not a chore. When you read the book yourself, you’re bound to have a few "Why didn’t I think of that?" moments. I know I sure did. When I was finished reading, I had a dozen pages covered with notes and ideas on how to improve SitePoint.
The presentation of the book, and its judicious use of graphics, screen shots and comics make it a quick read. If you’re looking for a lot of words for your $35.00, look elsewhere. While the book is 190 pages in length, only about half of that is actual text. But the words that are there are worth their weight in gold. The increased pageviews, sales, and decreased customer service costs to be gained through the application of Steve Krug’s advice make the price of the book insignificant.
The Final Word
Every Web designer should read this book and take its message to heart. The book’s practical advice, presented in an easy, smart and fun way make it a must-have. Just make sure that after you read the book, you use the information you’ve learned.
Buy it at Amazon.com for $24.50
Matt is the co-founder of SitePoint, 99designs and Flippa. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.