Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug

In probably the most straightforward and useful textbook I’ve been assigned, Steve Krug gives simple techniques for creating websites that enhance user experience without complicated way finding or overly elaborate marketing schemes.

By sticking to the idea in the title, Krug hones in on a simplistic principle that can be applied almost anywhere: if your product needs explaining, make sure it’s the simplest explanation it can be. There were certain themes I thought I understood and had the most obvious answer to, that I realized could be tweaked to be incredibly more effective, considering how small the changes needed to be. For example, the necessity of a clear page title and tag line: I’ve been making the mistake of thinking that that information is implied and would be redundant. In chapters seven and eight, verbatim and with clear diagrams to support, Krug explains why orientation as the first constant is such an important foundation of a clear, effective website.

The metaphor of the internet being a place that you’ve been dropped into and need to navigate blindly really helped me see holes in what I considered good web design. The “You are here” indicators are my favorite and the first thing I look for on any map, and that shouldn’t be any different when navigating the web. Again, the metaphors presented were explained all the way through.

The information on usability was useful because chapters nine and ten lay out a practical plan to run usability tests and guidelines to qualify usability.

I also appreciated the succinct structure; the chapters were short, the diagrams useful, and the flow of information stayed interesting.

One criticism I’d have would be the footnotes. They were interesting and often funny, but just often enough, there’d actually be useful and relevant information, not just puns or anecdotes. That made me hesitate to skip them, and while it’s always good to read the footnotes, they just seemed to take up a pig portion of the text and labor of the book, which makes me think it was a style choice. I do think it was funny and the sprinkles of real information were probably intended to keep you reading the footnotes, as they did for me, but I don’t think it’s a reliable place to put real information that’s part of your intended lesson, especially when your tone is already informal and the majority of the footnotes aren’t serious.

So it’s not a problem at all, it’s just a second comment on the style choices of the book, but chapter 4 is basically two pages long. While it was slightly jarring to turn the page into another chapter, I understand the format seemed to be a priority to the author, and maybe the information just really needed to be divided that way.

All in all, this might have been one of the easiest reads I’ve had, as a textbook. Krug promised in the introduction that the book could be read on a single airplane ride, (although that also confused me because it’s an incredibly ambiguous claim; where did you depart from and where are you flying? What if it’s only an hour long?) and it did go by surprisingly quickly, while feeling so useful throughout.

Especially for websites based in news, articles, or blogs, I think this book is an essential read.

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