Don't Make Me Think

6 comments | Posted: 21 August 06 in Books, by Jeremy Flint

Don't Make Me Think I just finished reading the second edition of Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think. The book is short by design which makes it an easy read. In the words of the author, “you can read it on a flight.” Although there are 12 chapters, most of them are fairly short, with only two chapters taking up more than 5 or 6 pages. The author writes with a style that is engaging and witty, which keeps you interested in the book.

He starts out with a brief explanation of why he wrote a second edition and what has changed in this book compared to the first edition. Once he gets that out of the way, he dives right into “Krug’s first law of usability” (hint: its the title). He talks about the way many sites implement the same type of features, and what makes one better over the other.

Krug points out that there is a big difference between how most designers think users see their site, and how those users actually do see it. Designers tend to think that a visitor to their site will read through every single word on the page, taking in all this great copy and information that we spend so much time on. In reality, users scan pages rather than read them. They load a site and immediately begin looking for something that is close to what they think will let them complete the task they have in mind. After talking through these differences, Krug offers solutions to help a site cater more to the user that just scans.

One thing that Krug does keep to a minimum is talk about the proper way to do this or the correct way to do that when building a site. What he does try to convey in this book are some guiding principles for better usability. He discusses proper navigation and sub-navigation techniques as well as arranging content so that it is clear what section of the site a user is in.

The two chapters in the book that Krug commits the most time to covers what are probably two of the most important parts of any site: Navigation and the Home Page. He talks at length about navigation, specifically using the navigation to show a user where they currently are and where they have been. In both cases, real world sites are used to illustrate examples of good and bad navigation design. Krug also exalts the usefulness and importance of the breadcrumb.

If you have been thinking of conducting usability testing, but wrote it off as a luxury that you or your client couldn’t afford, Krug helps smash that myth. With as little as $300, you can run a simple usability test. He even goes as far as to provide details of how to set up the test and a script you can follow if you are unsure of exactly what to ask.

All in all, this is a great book for web designers at any level. It helps put little nuggest of information in your head that you can pull out when designing and building a site to improve things as you build them. If you are new to usability, this book will help show you some simple solutions to common usability issues. The bottom line is that improving the usability of your site will improve your site overall, and this book offers the advice that will help you do that.

Discuss This Topic

  1. 1 Mike Montgomery

    Well done! I’m reading this book at the moment, and was also thinking of writing a review.

    Steve Krug’s persuasive style stands in stark contrast to Jakob Nielsen (just can’t get past how ugly that site is), who reminds me of John the Baptist: a little off, preaching out in the wilderness….

    Anyway, this is an excellent book: well-written, well-presented and well-designed.

  2. 2 Nate Klaiber

    I just finished reading this book as well, and am almost finished reading’ Prioritizing Web Usability’ by Jakob Nielsen. Both of these books are great reads. What I liked most about DMMT was:

    1 – He didn’t push a right or wrong way, just showed how things work according to studies and from a users perspective.
    2 – He gave GREAT information on performing your own usability tests with a small budget. This includes a transcript of a test situation (downloadable from his website).

    Overall, I loved this book and it was a quick read. His approach is great, and the content is rich – and, as said above – it is a fairly short read.

    I highly recommend reading this book no matter what your level – it will help you get a different perspective of your own work. I know I took away several things I will be working on with upcoming projects, as well as refining in old projects.

  3. 3 Nate Klaiber

    RE: Mike
    You are exactly right. As much as I love Jakob Nielsen for his research and studies, his tone is very brash. Steve Krugg has a much better tone, and I think less people would be turned away.

    As I am currently reading Jakob Nielsens book, I find some aspects of his book too ‘preachy’. I respect him. I dont agree with everything he has to say, but I do respect him for his work. BUT – his tone is ‘do it this way, or else you will fail’ – whereas Steve Krugg just sets the picture for you to paint – letting you know what works best. He doesn’t push one thing or another, specifically – but shows how things work in case studies and usability studies.

    One thing I do like about Jakob Nielsen is his attention to detail. His book is much more specific as far as statistics of certain aspects, as well as covering a few more aspects of web development. But, then again, that was the point of Steve’s book – to keep it simple.

    Anyway, both books are great books with two totally different tones and writing styles. I do recommend them both simply for the facts and stats.

    And, sorry for the second post – just wanted to respond to Mike. :)

  4. 4 David Russell

    Nate: Agreed. I think both books are a must for gaining insights into usability—and I value both Krug and Nielsen for many of the same reasons you listed.

    Jeremy: Great review. Usability is a topic that pertains to all of us, whether we think it does or not. :) I, too, enjoyed the brevity of Krug’s book. I also find my brain silently retrieving the principles of usability as I design. I think that’s the goal for discovering usability techniques. It should be a natural part of the design process.

  5. 5 Larry Tomlinson

    Jeremy: In the future, for those that are not familiar with a book, perhaps you should say what it’s about within the first paragraph (before the ‘jump’) instead of assuming we know. Just a thought. :)

  6. 6 Seth Thomas

    I read the first edition during my web courses in college. It’s a very helpful resource on everything from layouts, navigation schemes, to simply letting the user know what your site is about. Definitely recommended.


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