on November 12, 2003
I sincerely enjoyed reading this book on my train rides to work. Falling asleep while reading it was not really related to the book itself ;-)
Despite the many useful tips in the book (sometimes very obvious, but you need to hear them from someone to believe it), I think the design of the book (color print on almost every page) probably makes it too expensive and the actual content could probably have been compressed into 15 pages or so as well.
Anyways, a good read for most so-called "web-designers".
on February 9, 2004
Quit wasting time listening to the "experts" and find out yourself with this book
Couple of great points--
We don't read pages. We scan them.
Sad but true...(sad for those who labor hours over graphics and sadder for those bustin' their nut to write web friendly and readable copy)
The exception as Krug points out are news stories, reports, or product descriptions. "But even then, if the document is longer than a few paragraphs, we're likely to print it out because it's easier and faster to read on paper than on a screen." I found that out when my magazine -AboutBizz Magazine decided to put our print magazine online. We spent months redesigning [...] (I wish I would've found Steve's book two years ago when we started the redesigns -- it would've saved us hours and hours of waste!) We find that our printer friendly pages are always the most accessed pages.
He states that we scan because we're usually in a hurry and we're really only interested in a fraction of what's on the webpage. We only look for what matches our interests and the rest of it is ignored. He does a great job of proving this by showing HOW the eye scans your webpage --(If you don't have your logo in the top right corner after reading this then you must pass go and cannot collect your $200.)
Krug has another "Fact of Life" where he states We don't figure out how things work. We muddle through it.
I wholeheartedly agree. I for years have referred to this as the "scrunch factor". We've all done it...it's when you see or read something, and if you don't quit "get it" or understand what they message conveyed is or can't connect the dots in your minds eye, then you scrunch -- your forehead wrinkles, eyebrows drop, eye's look critical -if you're married then you've possibly seen this look from your spouse ;)
Of the most value is where Steve describes how you can run your own cheap and inexpensive focus study group using a few people, a number of choice questions, and a simple camcorder. After reading this, you will walk away realizing that ANYONE can do their own research and have real answers to how people their website.
It reminded me of a passage out of the classic book, TESTED ADVERTISING METHODS by John Caples. Early on in the book Caples talks about how in years to come who more advertisers will use more scientific methods to get better results with their ads. He talks about how every person had an opinion on what works...long copy, short copy, headlines, no headlines, sketches, etc..
Let me quote the book,
"Not long after that I began to work on mail order advertising. Each advertisement was tested. Results were tabulated. Each advertisement and each publication had to prove itself in actual sales.
I know now that much of the talk (of other people) I heard was just talk. Too often, the ad men were stating opinions, not facts. And in many cases, the opinions were not even the boiled-down opinions of a large group of people. They were personal opinions.
If the real foundation of those opinions could be discovered by psychoanalysis, it would be laughable in many cases. An artist might favor blue backgrounds in advertisements because blue was his mothers favorite color. A copywriter might recommend short copy because his wife once said, 'I would never read all that small print, and I don't think anybody else would, either.'..."
If you are in the midst of designing your website, or trying to get someone to pay attention to it, you will find plenty of "experts" telling you what works. Remember what Caples says, keep my words in mind, do yourself a large favor, go out and buy "Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability" by Steve Krug and find out YOURSELF what works. It's a no-brainer.
You'll never find in another book this great inexpensive method to do focus study research
Wish he would have given examples how the eye scans applies to HTML email
The Bottom Line:
Use the information found on creating your own focus study -- & you may change the way your site looks...Why? Because the USER will tell you what really is working.
on April 6, 2002
No matter how flashy, jaw-dropping, or beautifully designed your web pages are, the bottom line is that whether visitors come back or leave in droves will all depend on usability-- in other words, the navigational aspect of your site that allows them to browse your site with ease. In this well written and interesting book, author Steve Krug shows the importance of designing your pages the way your visitors actually view them, not the way you think they will view them. He also stresses the importance of creating usability that allows visitors not to think too much-- not necesarily navigation that spells everything out for them, but usability that points them in the direction that they need to go without forcing them to go around in circles, fall into false leads, or become hopelessly lost and confused. Free of jargon, simple to understand, and filled with interesting examples, DMMT is one of the most helpful books of web design that I've ever come. If ever you were looking for a great book that gets at the heart of creating great navigation, this one would be it. I can't recommend it enough.
on January 6, 2002
I just finished reading the book November 2001...over a year since it was printed, and probably a good two years since the author started writing the book. At that time (2 years back), web interface was like the Wild West...few conventions with a lot of experimentation going on. However, fast-forward to the present time and there's hardly anything new or fresh to his book because what he was preaching then is by now web convention. It's almost a template to any corporate website. This is by no means a discredit to the author...only to the fact that I read his book at a much later time. Since most of what he was saying then is by now convention only proves that he knows what he's talking about.
What I found useful was his treatment of visual hierarchy. At a glance, the first time visitor should be able to make sense of what the site is all about, what it can do for him and where to start. It's not only having the essential components (site id, tagline, welcome blurb, sections, etc.) but also knowing the proper treatment to these components.
Another useful idea was doing usability tests on the cheap, doing a series of tests with fewer people than 1 big test with lots of people.
For veteran and new web designers embarking on a new project, this remains a good refresher book. But if you want to leverage the current web literacy of users out there, a more current book that expounds on emerging usability issues might be a better choice.
on September 26, 2001
First of all, let's be clear what this book is all about. "Usability" is a measure to determine how successful a design, whether it's a newspaper, a web site, or a WalkMan, is when engaged by human hands and eyes. There are no set "rules" of usability, just tried and true "common sense approaches" that make sense, right off the bat, to just about anyone who comes in contact with a piece that has been designed for interaction.
For example, think of your average stereo or mp3 player. If you wanted to hear music, what would you do? Just about everyone would scan the object with their eyes, trying to find a symbol or word to guide them. In this case, they'd look for a right pointing triangle, commonly known as a "play" button. This all happens within milliseconds, subconsciously, but we all do it. The easier it is to find what you're looking for and engage that option, the higher usability marks the object receives. That's a rather simplistic explanation of usability, but it's the basis of this book when applied to the web.
Author Steve Krug makes a living critiquing web sites to establish how easy they are for your average Joe to use. He gathers willing participants, sits them down in front of a computer, and asks seemingly obvious questions like "do you know where you are?", "do you know what this company does?", "where would you click first, and why?", etc.
It's not rocket science, that's for sure. But if a company is planning on making money off of their web presence, a confusing web site could put them in the dog house with consumers.
And that's the important thing to realize about "Don't Make Me Think" -- this book is written from the viewpoint of what "works" with e-commerce sites. It's the greasing of the wheels to make a shopping experience fast, intuitive, trusting, and most importantly, EASY.
If you are a graphic designer, consider the web to be your personal playground to create, engage, shatter conventions and develop new ideas in design, this book is not for you.
Krug acknowledges this up front, but insists that the lessons learned in this book can be applied to just about ANY web design that deviates from the norm. And in a sense, that's quite true. If you were to build a shining new city on the hill with ultra modern buildings and cutting edge style, you'd still need an effective transportation system to tie your creation together.
But where the book stumbles is that Krug only promotes (or acknowledges) one ubiquitous web design style -- a company logo in the upper left corner, folder tab navigation across the top, and subsections down the left side. Sound familiar? It should...take a look at the top of this page.
P>His opinions would be more trustworthy if he would critique non-standard, but successful examples of web design that are just as effective. But he only offers one solution, and it's one all of us are very aware of already.
Krug does have useful points to remember -- including consistency of style, navigation, and brand identification -- but when you get down to it, it's all COMMON SENSE. Open your browser, check out eBay, Outpost.com, or Salon.com, and study their navigational systems, use of color and contrast, and copy length. See how they allow you to move between pages, subsections, and the placement of navigational icons. Then ask yourself, how did I KNOW to click there? Was it the wording? The color?
This book would be a lifesaver to anyone who was just starting out designing for audiences on the web however, so if you have yet to design your first web site, by all means pick this up. The lessons to learn here are just as important (if not more so) as learning HTML. Because if you didn't want people to use and enjoy your work, you wouldn't be putting it on the web.
on July 19, 2001
I am working on a research project that involves web site usability and I thought this book was very informative. They get right to the point .. with both positive and negative examples for their different usability issues. No long drawn out explanations .. just what works and what doesn't. I am currently reading one of Jacob Nielsen's books, and although he also makes many good points about the same things .. he takes longer to do it. Although I find his biweekly column to be necessary reading for web design, Nielsen seems a little more opinionated and full of himself. When reading this book by Krug, I felt like this was someone who was more in touch with the real people because he was a real person .. rather than because he had done multiple studies and surveys. The author has a sense of humor and treats his subject light enough that you don't fall asleep trying to wade through the intensity.
I would recommend that all web designers read some book on usability before taking on their first (or next) project. This one is fairly easy reading, while still making a lot of good points.
on April 23, 2001
The first thing I thought when considering whether to purchase this book was, "Wow. Could it really be worth ... in soft-cover?" Did I buy it? Well, sure--otherwise I wouldn't be writing this review. And the thing that made me finally decide to purchase the book was the title, "Don't Make Me Think." In a world that values simplicity and ease of use, those are words to live by.
Designers looking for some real nuts and bolts technical information probably won't get much from this book. Actually, tech talk is not what it's about. "Don't Make Me Think" is a friendly, accessible treatise on the principles of Web usability--how to keep users at your site longer by giving them the most uncomplicated experience possible. Will it tell you how to implement your latest Flash creation? Nah. But it will help you discover ways to make your site more "user friendly," and usability is an important issue in building a site that attracts--and most of all, KEEPS--visitors.
I got two chapters into this book and my head was already churning with ways to make my site easier to use and understand, and therefore more "sticky." By chapter three, I'd begun a total redesign of my website, and continued working until 3 a.m. (My advice? Don't read this book unless you're willing to stay up late.) A month later, when all was said and done, I had built a better site and my stats showed that instead of the average 6 pages viewed per visit I had been experiencing previously, the site was now averaging double that with 12. All in all, not bad results for a ... investment.
"Don't Make Me Think" does wander off on a few tangents that have more to do with design and less to do with usability or the psychology behind what makes visitors keep on clickin', and the fact that it wanders from its chosen topic makes it slightly less useful. Still, if finding ways to improve your website visitor's experience is one of your goals, you'll enjoy "Don't Make Me Think."
on April 23, 2001
I once took part in a Web design exercise which set the participants a "budget": we sliced up an imaginary heap of money for spending on design activities, all listed on cards. At the end of the exercise, my team had one hundred imaginary dollars unspent. So on a blank card we scribbled a new category - "lunch with the guy who controls the pursestrings" - and assigned the $100 to that. This whimsical touch started heads nodding all around the group. Everyone in the group agreed that creating a usable Web site required real organisational commitment, commitment that could only come from senior management. And most of the designers and design managers around the table that day wanted to build such support. But few knew how to teach their colleagues about the importance of site usability.
Enter Steve Krug, with a book you can hand to your collegues and your manager for them to browse overnight, a carefully-crafted little volume that will sell Web site usability painlessly to your colleagues. As a bonus, most usability practitioners will enjoy its stylish condensations themselves.
By the standard of current texts like Joann Hackos and Janice Redish's hefty User and Task Analysis for Interface Design or Jakob Nielsen's ubiquitous Designing Web Usability, this book is a carnival midget - eleven large-print chapters, some under 2000 words long, the text broken up by scores of cartoons and other pictures. As Krug himself suggests, he's created the Classics Illustrated version of all those bigger usability texts, the comic-book version that tells you what's in the big books you haven't read.
The Classics Illustrated approach starts with the name. Krug titles his book Don't Make Me Think. Like everything that follows it, that title packs maximum effect into minimum space. Krug calls the phrase his First Law of Usability:
"When I look at a Web page it should be self-evident. Obvious. Self-explanatory. I should be able to 'get it' - what it is and how to use it - without expending any effort thinking about it."
When Krug talks of eliminating effort, he's targeting mental effort that holds up the user for even fractions of seconds. The defining chapter of Don't Make Me Think (available online) argues that site designers work as though users will pore over every detail of their work, when they should expect users to take almost no work at all. In particular:
- Users don't read; we scan.
- Users don't make optimal choices; we look for the first good-enough solution (a process that economics calls "satisficing").
- Users don't figure out how things work; we muddle through.
In other words, designers should think "roadside billboard" rather than "A Suitable Boy".
Krug doesn't ruthlessly strip out material the way the billboard analogy implies. Indeed, many of his page designs look almost as cluttered as anyone else's. But the principle holds. If you want your site used, pare everything down to the essentials.
Actually, the principle of paring everything back has produced good design for thousands of years. The book itself works because it has slimmed the messages of Web site usability down to an essential core. It makes itself useful to designers by powerfully reinforcing a handful of key ideas that most designers already use. It makes itself useful to the designer's non-designer colleagues by teaching those ideas in a concise but highly engaging style. It is least useful when it tries to dig deeper into issues such as navigation design.
Before Don't Make Me Think, Steve Krug was a relatively obscure figure in Web site usability. His book suggests a flourishing consultancy practice, and contains endorsements by the likes of information designer Richard Saul Wurman and designer Roger Black. But Krug's most convincing qualification is Don't Make Me Think itself. Like some of the very best Web sites, it lets its audience learn without ever feeling that they've had to make an effort.
on April 19, 2001
As an experienced user-interface designer and author of another UI design book (GUI Bloopers), I expected "Don't Make Me Think" just to confirm things I already knew. In fact, I learned from it. How to reduce the amount of text on a page, for example, and the value of doing so. I immediately used that knowledge to help my wife cut the text on... not a website, but a printed brochure she was creating.
Overall, I think this is a valuable book. It's a quick read. The advice in it is sound and well-explained. It will be read by many, many more people than will read most other Web and GUI design books. It will reduce the number of clueless Web-designers, and that is good.
My only concern is that many readers of "Don't Make Me Think" may be fooled into believing that this is all there is to it: just read this short book, and you too can be as good a web-designer as Steve Krug. Unfortunately, it ain't so.
For example, an easy-to-use e-commerce website requires not just well-designed pages, but also back-end services that were designed in a user-centered way. You can't slap a user-friendly front end onto a back-end that was designed with no thought to users and their tasks. Another example: Krug makes usability testing sound easy, but doesn't warn that: a) the videotape release and non-disclosure forms will have to be run by your lawyers, who will thwart your intent to make it "short and in plain English", and b) paying test-users in cash has IRS implications you may wish to avoid, so it's often better to "pay" in merchandise or gift-certificates.
on March 6, 2001
"Don't Make Me Think" is an excellent book for those designing web sites. It's a great title, and a great motto for designing any type of technology, not just web sites. Krug calls it "thinking" when you have to stop focusing on your task to figure out the web site, even if only for a few milliseconds.
The book is very well written in an engaging, informal style that feels more like a conversation than a lecture (not easy for a book that is essentially preaching). The layout is wonderful and follows its own advice. Each page is designed to make one good point, and the gazillions of images are simple, clear, and effective in supporting the points. Although a lot shorter (by design) than Jakob Nielsen's "Designing Web Usability," I found it provided a lot more specific, on-target advice -- both per pound and overall. Whereas Nielsen focuses mainly on page design and site design, Krug handles these as well as interaction design, which is missing from Nielsen's book. It has some good examples that you are encouraged to work through before looking at "the answers." It's a good technique. He also has a terrific section that lays out exactly how you conduct a usability test, from greeting the person to interpreting their behavior.
Sure, there's a lot more to learn about good web design and about usability testing, and probably some people will object that he doesn't do justice to the complexity of these professions. But I think this book does a great job of pointing you in the right direction with a lot of good, solid advice and some encouragement. It's short enough that you're inclined to read the whole thing, and compelling enough that it might really affect your designs.