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Review of Don't Make Me Think


Is this review any better than reviews on Amazon?

Unfortunately this book is so straightforward and simple that it’s difficult to offer more insight than what you might get from ordinary book reviews.   But one thing you’ll get here that you probably won’t find elsewhere is the summary checklist of web issues that Krug covers through the book and that should have been included at the end of his book (see “Major Weakness” section below).

Lightening Fast Overview

Don’t Make Me Think is a book about how to carefully think through the appearance of your company’s web page.  For example, if you stop to think about a first-time user who is completely unfamiliar with your site, will they be able to quickly discern the purpose of the site?  Your immediate answer is “yes”, but, as Krug points out, you might be surprised to watch a quick test with your neighbor, nephew, or mistress.  Exactly how long does it take them to determine what to click on first?  Can they quickly find what they are looking for?  Are they ever confused?  If your web site is going to survive, users need to be able to gather this information at a glance, with no thought at all (hence the title).  Krug systematically covers a number of common mistakes and offers many good examples to drive home each point.

What’s the Real Value of the Book?

You’d think the topics in this book would be obvious, and they are.  There’s nothing here you couldn’t have figured out yourself if you took the time to do so.  But that’s the point – Krug took the time to assemble this information for you, so you hardly have to think of all the potential problems your web page is likely to have.  Ironically, the real value of this book is to force you to stop and think.  Simply by taking the time to drift through this light read, you can’t help but to ponder how your own web site addresses each of Krug’s common web page problems.  You’ll undoubtedly end up making a number of improvements to your own site.  Krug’s small changes really do end up making a big difference and that’s the real value.  We made at least ten changes based on the insights in this book.  (If this is the improved version, imagine how bad it was before!)  There are even more changes we’d like to make too, but we still have day jobs.

Minor Weakness

The book has a cutesy style, so be prepared for that.  Also, the book’s pace slows down at the end.  I can’t help wonder if Krug was concerned that he wasn’t going to have enough pages.  Do we really need an entire page that tells us that some people are naturally less patient than others?  But even at his slower pace, there are still sentences here and there that make you think.

Major Weakness

Why didn’t Krug design a checklist of issues as the last page?  You can’t use his table of contents as that checklist since his style is to use cute titles that don’t mean anything without reading each chapter.
Here’s a rough draft of the page Krug left out:

  • Is it obvious where you can click and where you cannot?  Are there “hotspots” on images that are not obvious?
  • If a user were to squint and look at your web page, could they discern what each area on the page was most likely about?
  • Does your search capability have confusing pulldowns?
  • If a user arrives at any random page on your web site (say, from a search engine), can they figure out what site they are on, what the page name is, what are the major sections of the site, what are the best options on the page, where they are relative to the other pages, and how they can search?
  • Do your user’s eyes have to leap all over the page in order to figure it out? 
  • Does any operation ever take more than a few seconds to figure out?
  • Does the reader ever have to read through instructions to figure something out?  (They won’t.)
  • Is information organized in a clear, visual hierarchy?
  • Do you violate any web page conventions?
  • Does your site have excessive images and flashy items on it?
  • Are your pages reasonably short?  (that is, not too much scrolling required)
  • Does the page have any text on it that isn’t absolutely necessary?  (like “welcome to blah blah blah)
  • Navigation on your site has to be crystal clear.  If the user is “looking for a chainsaw”, do they know if they should look in the “tools” section or in “lawn and garden”?
  • If the user makes a bad guess when navigating your site, is it easy to recover from the error?
  • Do any of your pages look so different from the others that the user might be confused if they’ve hyperlinked off your web site?
  • When you analyze your site, have you spent the majority of your time thinking only about the higher level pages (rather than the low down, leaf nodes)?
  • Does every page have a unique identifying name?
  • Is every page name prominent?
  • Does the page name ever not match the hyperlink that was used to arrive at that page?
  • Have you favored the use of navigation tabs?  (Krug is a big proponent of tabs.)
  • Does your home page establish the site mission, hierarchy, and search?  Do users immediately know why they should be on your page and not someone else’s?
  • What items appear “above the fold” on each page?  (that is, without having to scroll down)
  • Does the site have any current references so users know they are not looking at an old, dead site?
  • Does the company have a good, descriptive tag line? (like “If you don’t know the common mistakes, then you’re not PRACTICING SAFE TECHS”)
  • Is it clear where the user can search, browse, and find the best your company has to offer?
  • Are you aware that display space devoted to promoting one item implicitly detracts from other items on the page?
  • Have you ever observed a completely new user (with no introduction whatsoever) land on your site?
  • Have you made the mistake of doing no user testing at all because comprehensive testing is too expensive?
  • Did you perform usability testing very early in web development, like you should?
  • Did you make the mistake of giving help to your new test user during your usability test?
  • Does your site blatantly omit obvious information about your company because of embarrassment?  Does it conceal information like contact phone numbers?
  • How quick and easy does your site service its most common request?
  • How kind is your site to the vision impaired?  What happens if you change the browser font setting to “largest”?  Anything?
  • Does every image have “alt text”?

Of course, the overriding theme is that anything on your web page that takes more than a fraction of a second of thought is bad. Note that the Internal Revenue Service has the exact opposite policy - anything on their web pages that takes less than a day of thought is bad.

You may think you don’t need to read the book now, but remember what we said above about the real value of the book – to stop and make you think for a while.  You can’t do that blowing through this list in 10 seconds, especially without the examples in the book.  But the checklist above still has value.  Why not email the URL for this page to one of your web team members and ask them to be sure they have considered all the issues in this list?  Don’t Make Me Think has been one of the best seller s in software books since August 2005 and for good reason.  This list of questions really does warrant some thought.

Overall

Despite some weaknesses, the book is fun and offers enormous value.

Now here's a comic you won't want to think about to much: