on June 23, 2004
If there's a book to use when introducing someone to the ideas of usability on the Web, I'd have to say that I think this is it. Not Nielsen, and not Cooper (at least not to start with). Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think" has the most no-nonsense and easy-to-follow approach I think I've ever seen, and best of all, he makes SENSE.
First of all, Krug deconstructs some of the sites we all know and use often, and he does so to help us see what we should be doing, as well as what we should not. I remember being especially impressed with his in-depth analysis of Amazon.com's navigation scheme (Chapter 6 - "Street Signs and Breadcrumbs"), from the use of tabs to the structure of the sub-navigation to color changes, he covers it all with a sense of humor, clear pictorial examples, a sharp eye for detail, and a clear concise explanation of what works and why. The reader is left with a greater understanding of not only why Amazon has been so successful, but also what choices they made that helped them find this solution.
The chapter on usability testing (Chapter 9 - "Usability Testing on 10 cents a day") was another fine example of clear communication and great ideas. Krug's breakdown of how the usability process should be conducted, and why it's needed in the first place, is concise and not preachy, as some usability authors are, and it really gives the reader an excellent idea of how they can fit usability into their process. This is probably the best way to "sell" usability to someone, and he does a great job of it.
The whole book is like that, really, but those chapters were highlights in the book for me. His ideas on simplicity of presentation and home page design were also well-taken, both as a designer and as someone who uses the web. Perhaps that is what makes his book so excellent, is that really, anyone could get something out of it. Whether it's the person who surfs the web now and again or the one who designs the pages for it or the one who's paying for the person to design pages for it, anyone could read this book and benefit from it, without having to wade through piles of needless verbage or proselytizing.
In the end, "Don't Make Me Think" seems to be an example of what it advises... it keeps things simple and accessible for a wide variety of people, and thereby makes itself useful as an excellent resource. The next time someone asks me what Web usability is all about, this is the first book I'll be recommending to them.
on October 31, 2002
Secondly, the author is still stuck in largely tables-based HTML presentation methods. Usability means building a site that works on hand-held and telephonic devices as well as assistive interenet devices. This can be accomplished through XHTML and Cascading Style Sheets. In fact, separating markup from presentation is a large part of what Mr. Krug should be discussing, but doesn't.
Thirdly, Mr. Krug's examples are of large, well-branded sites. That's fine, but his comments and suggestions seem best-suited to those sites, not small business or other small-site needs. This shows in his lack of information about designing pages that will expedite search engine effectiveness. In fact, he outright dismisses the usefulness of the introductory paragraph often found on homepages as "happy talk", stating that "happy talk must die" (p. 46). Many search engines print this paragraph, or a portion of it, as part of the information you see when you're searching for a topic. Why not tell developers how to utilize this paragraph to advantage? Is it because his examples are large sites with well-known branding that don't require additional information? The wording of that paragraph can make or break a search engine user's decision about visiting a site.
Even though it is painfully lacking in some very vital information, Mr. Krug's book is worth reading. However, a savvy developer will not take everything he says as gospel, but will continue to learn more about what usability *really* is, what new developments are coming 'round the bend, and will seek out more fully-rounded information before committing development hours and money just to end up with a half-usable site.
on July 5, 2004
This book should be required reading for not only web designers, but anyone who owns a website. The book was a bit on the thin side and when I got it I thought it should have been thicker for the money. I was wrong.
This book takes you through every facet of usability and is as applicable to a single person with one site as it is to a multi-level corporation who owns 30 sites. His writing style is fun and humorous and the book is an easy read.
on December 29, 2000
I've been a usability engineer/information architect for 8 years and have read many books on both GUI and web design. I'm sorry to report that this book was disappointing. It took me only a few hours to breeze through and I came away with very little that was new to me and with the perception that this book was light on substance. Perhaps this is because I have been in this field for so long. However, I just finished reading Jeff Johnson's "GUI Bloopers" and, even after designing GUIs for so many years, I learned so much from Jeff's book. If you are new to this field, Krug's book will help but make sure to read "Designing Web Usability" by Nielsen, "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web" by Rosenfeld and Morville, "Designing Large Scale Web Sites" by Sano, and "Web Navigation" by Jennifer Fleming. I also recommend Johnson's book on GUI design. So many GUI Design Principles are directly applicable to good web site design.
on February 22, 2004
Where to begin?
Mr. Krug has a writing style that matches my own: logical, easy to follow, and full of humor. Once I started reading, I simply couldn't put the book down.
This book gives a copious amount of information about the right ways and wrong ways to design a web site. Mr. Krug easily pairs this information with live examples of sites that are online, or intranet sites in which he played a part. Interjected in this valuable information are some of the funniest barbs, observations, and comments I've heard in quite some time.
Most of the concepts in this book are straight common sense. So common, in fact, that we tend to overlook them, and consequently violate the rules. Don't worry, Mr. Krug gently points them out to you with vivid pictures and diagrams, and has you laughing while he does it. He even has a name for his business that ties in to this common sense mentality. Read the book - you'll understand...and smile.
Want to know what billboards and roadsigns in Los Angeles and Boston have to do with web design? Read the book. You'll soon discover yourself critiqing road signs and such in the area of town you live. Department stores will become a library of examples on how to organize and display information. And you'll always, ALWAYS find yourself analyzing web sites that you already frequent, and pointing out what works and what could be improved upon.
One question: are you a scanner or reader? You'll find out once you read this book. And then you'll be amazed at the accuracy of what Mr. Krug has said and what you actually do when you're on the web.
on September 4, 2002
Don't Make Me Think is like an operator's license for web site building software. An internet developer shouldn't be allowed to "turn the key" until they've digested this book.
Steve Krug's book is a quick read (190 pages) filled with insightful, entertaining and practical prose for those involved in internet development. He shows us what does and doesn't work, and then explains why. His extensive research into usability permeates every page.
The book itself is a stellar example of usability. Every graphic adds value and every paragraph amplifies the point. Color is effectively used, but not exclusively. Steve practices the techniques that he preaches. For example, the chapter called Omit needless words [The art of not writing for the web] is only 5 pages long.
Finally, he presents practical ways to perform usability testing (huh, what's that?) into the development process. Imagine knowing how user's will actually use your site.
I recommend this book to everyone involved in internet development. I've even assigned it to my children (ages 10 and 13) as they start their journey into internet development.
on April 13, 2002
This book walks it's talk. It is written and arranged exactly as a useable web site should be, clear and concise, with scannable (as well as enjoyable) text. The clean attractive design and graphics accurately and efficiently illustrate the text, which is easy to read and to understand. I love the use of cartoon people with thought balloons to suggest how people think while using a web site.
There is no clutter of technical gibberish or endless verbose rambling on statistics. The chapter on usability testing takes us step by step through the process and is descriptive and instructional instead of theoretical. Steve Krug doesn't feel he has to sacrifice creativity, visual interest, individuality, or effective advertising in order to develop a usable web site. "Good tag lines are personable, lively, and sometimes clever. Clever is good, but only if the cleverness helps convey - not obscure - the message."
I can't agree with those who dismiss this book as nothing but common sense. While I see nothing wrong with publishing a reference and instructional manual that is full of common sense, this book also presents the reasoning behind every method that is suggested. The clashes between designers, programmers, and advertisers are explored and addressed. While I agree that the simple and obvious conclusion is that the focus should be on the user, it is refreshing and helpful to find a book which distills information from all of the varied and opposing developer viewpoints, and applies to them to that end. The book is, after all, subtitled "A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability." Also, like most common sense, it isn't really so obvious until after someone has pointed it out to you.
Here are a few things you won't find in this book, which makes it all the more effective and convincing. You won't find anything that claims this is the "right" way to design web sites. There will be no discussion of business models or predictions for the future of the web. The best omission of all is that there is no bad mouthing of poorly designed sites. According to Steve Krug "Designing, building, and maintaining a great web site isn't easy. It's like golf: a handful of ways to get the ball in the hole, a million ways not to. Anyone who gets it half right has my admiration."
This book gets it more than half right.
on April 5, 2002
This book really made me look at web sites in a completely different way. While surfing, we've all come across sites that we don't quite "get" right away; usually we don't spend more than a couple of seconds trying to figure them out before we move on to something else. As the book says - web users are like sharks: if they don't keep moving, they'll die. Of course you don't want people leaving your site because they can't be bothered to figure it out. "Don't Make Me Think" explains exactly why some sites don't work and how to fix them.
One of my favorite things is that Krug asks you to look at actual web pages (pictured in the book in full color) and try to figure out what they are about and how to use them. You become a usability test subject! Turn the page and he gives you his ideas about why it works or doesn't work.
Another aspect of the book you may find useful is the guidelines for holding your own usability tests. It's can be a much simpler process than you might think. These sections include a sample test script, the kind of tools and environment you'd need, and URLs to more helpful stuff (including a confidentiality/permissions agreement you can ask a test subject to sign).
Oh, and the book was very readable, quite funny, and to the point - it only took a few hours to read. The size of the book would actually have been disappointing given the price if the book hadn't have been so useful and interesting.
on October 30, 2001
When I recommend this book to peers, they ask if they can borrow my copy. I tell them no - I'm not willing to be without it. It's that valuable.
I respect an author that can take a complex, nebulous topic (like web usability) and distill his or her thinking into a single statement. Krug does it masterfully, and puts his statement on the cover: Dont Make Me Think. Now that I understand where he's coming from, I can read his book through that lens.
Authors should be able to provide some broad context first, and then descend into detail. An author should say "my topic is about A, B and C. We'll explore many detailed examples within each, and I'll make plenty of recommendations. But at the end of the day, it's about A, B, and C." Those that don't provide the context end up writing books that are glorified laundry lists: "208 things to remember about my topic". I can't retain a list of 208 things, but I can remember A, B and C.
Krug offers up a few sensible laws of usability and demonstrates their validity through carefully chosen examples. The book itself is a living example of interface usability. I recommend it even to people who have no interest in the web. It's that good.
Own this book.
on August 9, 2001
If you are looking for an accessible introduction to the topic of web usability, Steve Krug’s straightforward, humorous approach will fit the bill. Don’t Make Me Think! is a lively overview of usability principles for the WWW, filled with clear illustrations and real-world examples from familiar e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Gap.com and Quicken.com. At less than 200 pages, this book is a quick read written in a direct, approachable conversational style rather than in dry academic terms or complicated technical jargon. Despite its brevity and breezy style, Krug manages to cram it full of critical insights into the psychology of Web users. However, in my opinion he does his readers a disservice by downplaying the importance of user characteristics, especially with regard to usability testing.
While I agree with Krug’s assertion that users of mass market e-commerce sites will vary widely in their likes, dislikes, motivations and preferred navigation styles, this does not negate the need for careful selection of usability test participants. Krug suggests "grabbing some people" at random for testing, but this approach may backfire if the participants do not share the navigation style or goals of the critical user bases for the site under development. While his suggested approach to testing and recruitment may be cost effective for testing navigation structure or familiar transactions such as a shopping cart application and is certainly better than performing no testing at all, it may have expensive consequences for the design of complex, high risk web applications – especially within the environment of a corporate intranet.
Here’s an example: let’s say you were designing a web based application for a high-use call center that required users to look up complex information while speaking to your customers on the phone. Your call center is located in the Midwest, but your developers work in your corporate headquarters in Northern California. Since the developers have no call center experience, and little understanding of the relative importance of various parts of the application, and since they consider the Midwest call center personnel to be relatively unskilled computer users, they decide to create an easy to learn mouse-driven interface requiring several clicks to move between screens. Using Krug’s approach to usability testing, the developers go down the hall and recruit a few web-savvy colleagues to “test” the interface. Sure enough, the designers and developers participating in the test are able to complete particular tasks, and the usability test is declared successful. But when the application is launched, the call center experiences a slowdown in workflow because critical screens are difficult to reach, and the increased reliance on using a mouse for navigation results in an increase in repetitive stress injuries. Both issues result in increased costs to your company, and furthermore, your customer satisfaction ratings plummet as a result of the slowdowns in the phone queue!
When participants in a usability test are not representative of the end users of a web driven application, important aspects of its usability, such as the context and frequency of use, are likely to be overlooked. Additionally, the view of the users held by the developers of a system may be flawed, and those misperceptions can have disastrous results for the usability of your web site. Despite Krug’s assertion that “it doesn’t matter who you test”, our experience has shown that including representative users in the testing of high impact, high cost web applications provides an important reality check in the development process.
Despite these shortcomings, the readability of Don’t Make Me Think! makes it a valuable book, especially for those new to the idea of designing usable web sites or who need convincing that usability testing is an important part of the design process. If you are having difficulty getting the decision makers or developers in your organization to understand why usability is important, I recommend giving them a copy of this book and suggesting they read it on their next plane trip....