I just finished reading Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Guide to Web Usability, a guide to web usability by Steve Krug. There were a lot of really good things in here, and a lot of really old things that sometimes made me laugh. Let’s get to it.
I’ve read a handful of technical and techy books in the past few years, and many times I gave up halfway through because I was bored, or the language was too obtuse, or I didn’t understand a lot of what the author was saying. Krug does a nice job of using layman’s terms where he could easily tread into technical language. More than that, though, the book is nice and short, well-organized, and there’s rarely a page filled just with text, all of which makes the book speed by. (After twenty minutes of reading, I was surprised to find I was on page 57. I finished the book later that day.)
Also, Krug uses the first person often, which I like in a technical book. As a reader, I felt he was explaining things to me like he might to a friend or to a colleague at work, which, again, made it an easy read.
Krug makes some really good points about web usability, most of which are common sense, but you don’t necessarily think about these things when designing sites. For example, I found what he had to say about home pages, especially in regards to the navigation, really helpful.
I also liked the fact that he gave breadcrumbs their own chapter. I am a huge fan of the use of breadcrumbs: they really do make life a lot easier and decrease backspace button usage.
And finally, Krug’s advice to make things as obvious as possible really struck a chord with me. Make fonts bigger, make buttons more clearly buttons, make page titles BIG! Thanks, Krug.
The Bad Stuff
I know this isn’t Krug’s fault, and a lot of what he’s got to say is still valid, but this book was published in 2006. It’s almost 2013. So many things in this book are out-of-date that it was a waste of time to read them. Take, for example, his suggestion to start using Cascading Style Sheets, more often known as CSS. That piece of advice might have been useful in 2006, I guess, but it’s an absolute must nowadays.
Also, I thought a lot of the examples he gave of good websites were actually not that good. Many of them were poorly designed and struck me as far too busy, visually speaking. As far as usability, it’s hard to determine how well or poorly the pages worked without actually being able to use them myself–and many of the sites he used don’t exist, either in that form or at all, any more. Again, I realize this is due to the fact the book hit shelves almost seven years ago, so I don’t know how valid my criticism is.
What I think
What makes a good website? Well, like Krug says, ease of use, for sure, and great design. Often, I think site designers over-complicate their sites–usually, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t necessarily need to be there. Here’s an example of a site that is very simple.
Art Basel’s home page is very simple and easy to understand. Better yet, it uses color coding for the link hovers to differentiate the different sites. You know through design that the event takes place in three different locations around the world, but that it is the same event.
The Miami Beach page, again, uses color to mark it as a different event location than the others. Tabs run across the top, showing you the links to the other event locations. A simple navigation runs down the left-hand side. Easy peasy.
The Basel page, under “Visitor Information,” clearly shows you where you are in the site. And look! Breadcrumbs across the top! All the links use the hover attribute, which is extremely useful, and the link of the page you’re on changes color when you’re on it. You’re never lost. The site is simple, easy to use, and the differences in colors and link colors keeps you aware of where you are.