Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

April 29, 2005

I'll make you bet. I'll bet you that, after finishing Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think, you will have a brief head-scratching moment when you think "Well, yeah. I knew all that. Sheesh. I just blew 35 bucks." A few moments later it will dawn on you that while, yes, you did somehow know most of what Krug says--or at least it seems you must have known it; it was all so obvious--you've never actually done much of what he suggests.

That's the "Ah ha" instant. You get it. Krug's observations, conclusions and advice are so sensible and so accurate they seem like they must be self-evident. And while they are made about usability and the web, they have as much to do with human nature as anything.

Which all goes to say, this is one book you don't want to miss reading. You will never again find such a font of sound, down-to-earth advice. It's like having your very own seasoned veteran perched on the edge of your desk, explaining with penetrating simplicity why the world works the way it does. You're going to get tired of saying, "So, that's it? Yeah, you're right. Why didn't I see that?"

The main thesis of Krug's work is that "usability really just means making sure that something works well"--just one example of the way he boils things down to their fundamentals. As he says, usability is "just common sense."

So why do we designers fail to incorporate such axiomatic principles? Perhaps because we sometimes lose sight of the main reason for doing what we do: Good web design is all about designing for users.

In practical, everyday experience there are a lot of other considerations that come into play. Other people are involved with the project, and they each have their own agenda. You may grow too attached to your design or make decisions based on other motivation--the desire to impress your peers or your client or the necessity to satisfy an employer. And somehow, along the design process way, the user is forgotten.

That's what makes Krug's book so important for everyone involved in web design and development. Krug doesn't have those same distractions; it's his job to see beyond them. So with intelligence and good humor, he quietly but firmly reminds us what our ultimate goal is. And gently, he steers us back to creating web sites that users can really use.