Ben's Blog A place to share my thoughts

Don't make me think!

I’m away on holiday, and decided to pickup a copy of the highly rated Don’t make me think: A common sense approach to web and mobile usablity by Steve Krug. UX is something that I have negleted over the last few years, so I’ve decided to dive deep into it!

Chapter 1 - Don’t make me think!

  • Don’t make the user think
    • Don’t let user waste milliseconds trying to figure something out that’s not obvious
    • Users don’t like to puzzle over how to do things
    • Users when doing an activity, there is lots of mental chatter and questions that arise e.g.
      • Users should never be asking themselves
        • where am I
        • where should I begin
        • where did they put X
        • what are the most important things on this page
        • why did they call it that
        • is that an ad or part of the site
    • Your job is to reduce the chatter and questions that come up, as these will lead to errors
  • If you can’t make something self-evident, make it self-explanatory
    • Using a site that doesn’t make you think about unimportant things feels effortless
    • Puzzling over things that are not important saps energy and enthusiasm and time

Chapter 2 - How we really use the web

  • Users don’t read, they scan most of the time
    • Don’t expect them to read your carefully crafted text
  • Users satisfice (users pick the first reasonable option, not the best option)
    • Why do web users not look for the best choice?
      • Time: optimising is hard, satisficing is more efficient
      • Low consequences: if you get it wrong, you can click back
      • No value guarantee: in poorly designed sites, spending more time does not mean we will make a better choice
      • Fun: there is an eleement of chance, which might be quick and pleasantly surprising
  • Most don’t know how things work, they muddle through things - you use something every day, but do you really know how it works, or just muddle through it and make plausible explanations
    • we do this as its not important
    • we stick to something that it works, but unlikely to look for a better way
  • we don’t want users to muddle through things, we want them to feel in control
    • its more efficient
    • more power to user
    • they’ll feel smarter, so more likely to come back

Chapter 3 - Billboard Design 101

  • Innovate when you know you have a better idea, but take advantage of conventions when you don’t
    • Don’t try and reinvent the wheel unless
      • Its so clear and self-explanatory that there is no learning curve
      • Adds so much value that its worth a small learning curve
  • You should still try and be creative and innovative and add as much aesthetic appeal as you can, just make sure its usable
  • Clarity thumps consistency - if you can make something significantly clearer at the expense of a bit of consistency, do it
  • Optimise for scanning, use hierarchies effectively, sizes, fonts, sections to sort and group content
    • Use plenty of headings - make sure size/thickness is different for sub headings and have more space above a heading than below to seperate content
    • Keep paragraphs short - even single sentence paragraphs are fine!
    • Use bulleted lists - almost anything that can be bulleted, should be. Add a little bit of space between each point to make it clearer
    • Highlight key terms - scanning consists of looking for key words/phrases. Bold most important, but not too many or less effective
  • Make it obvious what is clickable
  • Keep the noise down
    • Shouting - not everything can be important, you have to be discliplined.
    • Disorganization - if the page looks like a ransacked room, then designer doesn’t understand importance of structure
    • Clutter - too much stuff. Low signal to noise ratio - lots of noise, little information.
      • assume everything is visual noise, and remove anything that’s not making a real contribution

Chapter 4 - Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral

  • Rule of thumb on number of clicks is 3 mindless == 1 thought click
  • Choices can be difficult, when they are provide information that is:
    • Brief - minimun viable information
    • Timely - well placed - exactly when needed
    • Unavoidable - formatted in a way ensuing its noticed
      • E.g. crossing that has ‘look right for traffic’ markings

Chapter 5 - Omit needless words

  • 1/2 words on most webpages are redundant and therefore can be removed without losing meaning
  • Once removed half - remove the rest!
    • The point here is that you should be ruthless as it
      • Reduces noise levels
      • Makes the useful content more prominent
      • Shorter pages, more content per screen
  • Avoid happy talk
    • When you read the start of the article and it provides no information except for telling you how great they are, rather than explaining what makes them great
    • Its small talk, most web users just want to get to the point
    • Its fine on home page, but don’t let it leak everywhere
  • Avoid instructions - no one reads them. You should make it self explanatory
    • A survey with instructions - no one will read it if its long, make it short

Chapter 6 - Street signs and Breadcrumbs

  • People won’t use your website if they can’t find their way around it
  • Problem with web is that there is no sense of scale, direction or location (unlike physical environments)
  • Navigation must be good to compensate for this as it
    • Tell us what’s there - visible hierarchy tells us what the site contains & navigation reveals content.
    • How to use the site - when done well, you know where to begin and your options
    • Gives us confidence in the people who built it - clear and well-thought-out navigation is one of best opportunities a site has to create a good impression
  • Maintain consistent navigation on all pages, except for forms/checkouts, where its noise. Strimmed down version with just a home button is enough
  • Don’t neglect secondary or tertiary navigation
    • Primary is most important, but you shouldn’t go ad-hoc for the next few levels. They need same attention to detail
  • Page names are important!
    • Every page needs a prominent name and it needs to be in the right place matching what the user clicked - a URL is not enough
  • Mark where you are - ‘you are here’ - mark the links to show what page the user is navigating
    • Make it obvious, don’t try to be clever as users don’t have time
  • Breadcrumbs are useful in larger sites, just make sure
    • they’re at the top
    • use ‘>’ between levels
    • boldface the last item
  • Tabs are underrated, use them as they’re easy and tried and tested.
  • ‘Trunck’ test - on any page, you should be able to answer below as quickly as possible:
    • Site ID
    • Page name
    • Sections
    • Local navigation
    • “You’re here” indicators
    • Search

Chapter 7