“Don’t Make Me Think” revisited

It’s still the first rule of website usability:  Don’t Make Me Think

I first read Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability a few years ago and recommend it to people who are working on their first website. Even though the book was first published in 2000 (the Dawn of Time in the Land of the Internet) and updated in 2005, most of Krug’s laws of usability are still relevant. Update: There is a 3rd edition published in 2013. You can check it out here.

The title, “Don’t make me think”! is Krug’s first law of usability when it comes to websites. In other words, it should be self-evident what the site is about. And it shouldn’t take an advanced degree in programming to figure out how to get to a page, or buy something on a site.

Some other timeless tips from the book:

  • Design pages for scanning, not reading. People do not spend the time to read all of your fabulous prose. Cut out half the words you have on the page, then cut half of that.
  • Break up pages into clearly defined areas.
  • Make links obvious.
  • Make it easy to navigate. People will leave if they can’t find their way around.
  • One of the main functions of the Home Page (and the one that isn’t done properly) is to make it clear what the site is. The home page has to answer these 4 questions:
    • What is this?
    • What do they have here?
    • What can I do here?
    • Why should I be here – and not somewhere else?
    • The welcome blurb should be a terse description of your website. It should NOT be your mission statement, which, Krug notes, often sounds like it was written by a Miss America finalist. (XYZ Corporation offers world-class solutions… blah, blah, blah.)

Why read this book if you’re new to websites? It’s short, it’s humorous, and it’s written in English, not tech-speak.  Check it out at your local library or here’s a link to the book on Amazon.