Don’t Make Me Think, Really…

Reading Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” brought to mind an acronym one of my old grade school teachers taught. KISS, or “Keep it simple, stupid!”, is a principle that can be applied to numerous areas of study. It states that we should do away with unnecessary complexity; things in their simplest state can be easily understood and translate the best results. Krug interweaves this theme throughout the entirety of the book which centers around web usability- a concept that also revolves around simplicity. Usability, according to Krug, is “making sure person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can use the thing…for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated.” The main way to maximize web usability is to make everything clear and concise. 

Concise: If it’s short, it’s more likely to be used.  If something requires a large investment of time, or looks like it will, it’s less likely to be used. This will result in less frustration, and more satisfaction from your users. The author suggests you should cut out half of the words on your site, and then trim that half in half. The extra fluff and unnecessary information create clutter, noise, and more confusion for site visitors. 

Clear: whatever you do, don’t make users think. Things should be blatantly obvious (self-evident) or, with the smallest amount of thought possible, self-explanatory. You can achieve this through the appearance of things on your site, well-chosen names, and the layout of the page.

Both of those thoughts are synonymous with Fact of Life #1, which was one of the more important things I took from the reading. The Fact of Life #1 states: “we don’t read pages, we scan them.” People either don’t have enough time in their busy schedules to read, or simply don’t want to. People look for the relevant parts, or key words and phrases that lead them towards the answers they seek. As studies suggest, we don’t choose the best option, we choose the first reasonable option which is what Krug defines as “satisficing.” If it looks like it may lead to what we want, there is a good chance we will click it. Once again, people simply don’t have time to waste weighing out their options on websites. Especially when there are no consequences: a wrong click and all it takes is another click of the back button. All of this boils down to the simple fact: people speed through websites, which means when creating your website,  you have to make sure they see as much as possible through the short amount of time they are navigating your site.  

Which brings me to the next most important thing I took from the reading: create a clear visual hierarchy on each page. Design your site so that things that are most important appear most important. Make these important things bigger, bolder, or nearer to the top. This has been an age-old strategy used by newspapers. The most important story has the most prominent position, usually on the first page. Stories and pictures are also grouped together under their respective header. Therefore, you organize and prioritize for your users. Telling them what’s most important and what you want them to see first. 

This all seems common sense when you think about it: short, sweet, and easy to understand. Just these few keys can be vital to making a site user-friendly and more enjoyable for visitors. After all, that is the main goal, isn’t it?

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