Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Review: Don't Make Me Think!

I just finished Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug.  Before reading this book I was a little skeptical about how useful it would be.  It has high ratings on Amazon, but it was published in 2000.  A lot has changed on the web in the last ten years so I thought the concepts would be outdated.

To my surprise, this book was still very applicable.  The concepts are timeless and I suspect that the book will still be useful in another ten years.  I liked this book because it was straightforward and no nonsense.  It was just practical advice on making web sites as usable as possible by understanding how people interpret and scan web pages and by using conventions that people expect to see.

The main concepts that I took out of this book include:
  • An understanding of how people scan websites.  The main purpose of the site should be obvious as well as where to begin.
  • Brevity is key.  No one is going to read a lengthy description of your site.  They want something short and concise.
  • Proper navigation.  It should be obvious and consistent between pages.
  • The importance of good design of the homepage.  Your home page will get the most traffic and should be well thought out, focused, and easy to use.
    • Every home page should have
      • Site identity and mission
      • Site hierarchy (persistent navigation)
      • Search
      • Teases like content and feature promotions
      • Timely content
      • Deals
      • Short-cuts
      • Registration (if used)
  • The importance of usability testing.  Usability testing doesn't have to be a huge project.  It can be inexpensive and just as meaningful as expensive testing if done correctly.  Usability testing throughout the design process will save time, money, and energy over the course of the development of the site.

This was a quick read.  It took me two days to read it, but the author mentions that he wrote it such that it could be read in a long plane ride.  The website doesn't seem to exist anymore, but the book's resources are now located on Steve Krug's website.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in practical advice on web usability.  This book doesn't cover all the concepts in web usability, but it gives enough information to be extremely useful without getting lost in useless noise.

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