By March 29, 2011 4 Comments Read More →

First Law Of Usability – Don’t Make Me Think, And Other Facts Of Life On The Web

do-not-make-me-think[1]  “I should be able to ‘get it’ – what it is and how to use it – without expending any effort thinking about it.”

If you are building products, offering services, or building web sites you better read a book  Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition by Steve Krug. Indeed the more we make people think the more hurdles we set for them on their way to buying and using what we have to offer. I strongly believe that usability is a key competitive advantage especially in the era when the information and advice for a better product just click away. I like how Krug sets the stage by “demystifying” few facts of life – we do not read pages, we do not make optimal choices, and we don’t figure out how things work. I call it usage scenarios or patterns. Once you know the scenarios you can design your product or service that can be used frictionlessly.

We Scan Web Pages

Krug writes:

“One of the very few well-documented facts about Web use is that people tend to spend very little time reading most Web pages. Instead, we scan (or skim) them, looking for words or phrases that catch our eye.”

I can safely confirm that that’s the way I use the web. Back in consulting I used to work in under-the-fire mode, I needed priceless answers to customers’ tough questions fast. The cases I was successful is when I knew the answer (very rare cases) or I knew how to quickly find one that is hidden somewhere on the Web. Google rarely helped, it usually brought a lot of noise and I needed to work hard to find the needle in the haystack. The solution for me was to collect those gold info nuggets found on the Web into personal scannable knowledgebase.

We Search For The First Reasonable Option

Krug writes:

“… we choose the first reasonable option, a strategy known as stisficing. As soon as we find a link that seems like it might lead to what we are looking for, there’s a very good chance that we’ll click it.”

I think there are two key messages here:

  • Provide list of options.
  • Organize the options by relevancy to the task.

From my experience, most successful resources I used effectively and efficiently were those that organized content in simple lists categorized by tasks. I could easily jump to specific and relevant category and pick from a reasonable amount of options the one that seemed most optimal for the case at hand.

Muddling Through

Krug writes:

“Faced with any sort of technology, very few people take the time to read instructions. Instead, we forge ahead and muddle through, making up our own vaguely plausible stories about what we are doing and why it works.”

…and another one

"For most of us, it does not matter to us whether we understand how things work, as long as we can use them. It’s not for lack of intelligence, but lack of caring. In the great Don't Make Me Thinkscheme of thing, it’s just not important to us."

Reflecting back on my consulting experiences I can perfectly remember times when I was brutally stopped when trying to explain how things work. I was directly demanded to show how to make it work! No one could care less about under-the-hood stuff. But everyone cared to get things done and go home early.

image by Evil Erin

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This blog is dedicated to share simple practices I that get me results.

4 Comments on "First Law Of Usability – Don’t Make Me Think, And Other Facts Of Life On The Web"

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  1. J.D. Meier says:

    > we do not read pages, we do not make optimal choices, and we don’t figure out how things work
    That pretty much sums it.

    Of course it depends on the mode we are in, if folks have to work too hard to parse your page, then the content just took a backstage.

  2. alik levin says:

    The key for me is focusing on design that enables users to quickly hack through the page and find the answer/goodness in no time. Time is key.

  3. Lew Sauder says:

    I have very little patience with hard to use Web sites. If there is a link for some promised functionality, it better be front and center when I click on it. As an IT Consulting veteran, I assume I can navigate things easier than someone who is not as computer-literate. If I have trouble finding my way around, how will someone with a lower comfort level deal with it?

  4. alik levin says:

    Lew, it’s good reinforcement and reminder to those who create the web content.
    Thank you.

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