Don’t Make Me Think

illustrated guide to new web strategies and usability

This is one of the new generation of web usability manuals. The objective isn’t to produce sophisticated pages full of tricky code. It’s more concerned with general strategies – based not on what web designers can do, but on what web users actually need. Steve Krug’s sub-title makes his approach clear – ‘A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability’. He admits from the outset of Don’t Make Me Think that he will only comment on successful sites. [This is the opposite approach to Flanders and Willis’s very successful Web Pages that Suck]. And like many other instances of successfully applied common sense, his advice comes from carefully observed details. In almost every example of successful implementation here, you feel like saying ‘Oh yes – that seems so obvious now!.’

He’s particularly good at analysing the finer points of positioning instructions on the page, the careful use of navigation devices, and the reduction of all text and choices to an unambiguous minimum. That’s the point of his title. We want to get through web sites with the least possible thought and struggle. He has a light, friendly style, and almost every point he makes is elegantly illustrated by examples from well known web sites which you can check. He offers a detailed study of tabs for navigation, then a few sample pages as tests to see if his theories work – which they do.

There’s also a lot of good advice on the design of home pages – using and organising the screen real estate as efficiently as possible and maximising the information conveyed by visual messages. His arguments are illustrated with analyses and makeovers of well known sites.

He’s very strong on usability testing, and offers good reasons why it should be done as early in the design process as possible. He also shows how it can be done very simply, and even argues that a small group of three or four testers is enough.

This is a pricey but very elegant publication from New Riders – who have set new standards in book production values. It’s amongst their web design best sellers – and quite rightly so.

© Roy Johnson 2000

Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Indianapolis (IN): New Riders, 2000, pp.195, ISBN 0789723107

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