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Don't Make Me Think

Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug (2nd Edition)

Book Review by Jason Robinson

Summary: Designing sites for usability can increase the Return-On-Investment for any website, and how users actually use your website may be dramatically different than how you think they use it.

Don't Make Me Think is a substantial book, not because it is a long book (by contrast, it is short and concise) but because it offers fundamental guidance and experienced perspective on common problems that web producers will encounter, and how different members of the team will view the problem in contrast to what users (generally speaking) see. Steve Krug's background is extensive, but suffice it to say he has not only been developing websites for years, but he has run many usability studies for clients, and offers this book as your map to understanding usability and how to navigate it through the political waters of your web design projects.

The book runs the gamut, starting out with how web site visitors generally muddle their way through a web site. Then he moves into topics such as designing web pages for scanning (bullets and short summaries belong on the home page, not long paragraphs of text), and how to constructively guide visitors through the process of finding what they are looking for, even if they start on the wrong page (think inbound links from a search engine). From here, he discusses fundamental navigation elements and proper placement and making sure they get the attention deserved through use of size, placement, and coloring.

Starting with Chapter 8, Steve starts in on the dealing with usability as the political football it often is, and how to deal with arguments between the designers and the developers, with the idea being to present usability as a fundamental aspect of the site and not as an afterthought. The book then goes into anecdotal examples of how one can run usability study for very little (to no) money, and still get 80% of the effect of running a many-thousand dollar study by a third party.

Steve summarizes the whole point of usability with the idea that people come to your site with a certain amount of trust and anticipation, and for every mistake you make with usability, that amount goes down, until they finally leave the site. This is sometimes a hard concept for people to grasp, and yet it is pervasive across all demographics, and this section should be read aloud to a team who is working on a product sales site, as it will effect the bottom line.

The rest of the book offers guidance on improving usability through different web tools and CSS, with additional resources and further reading. The sample letters to your boss Steve provides in the back of the book are more than fun, they could potentially help some people out there who are having a hard time convincing management that usability should not take a back seat to aesthetics.

I wish every designer and developer would read this book, it would make design meetings so much easier.

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