As you know, I recently got a redesign done on my website. One of the books I read in preparation for this is Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think.
Have you ever heard of Useability? Useablity is the study of how people use websites, and I can pretty confidently say, it’s not how you think.
Have you ever gone to a website and been flummoxed and frustrated by it? My son wanted to go on a website yesterday, mattelfun.ca. It’s a website that lists the top Mattel toys for Christmas, and the kid can look at them and add toys to their virtual wishlist. A couple of lucky kids will win the contents of their wishlist. It also has games. So, this all sounds good, right?
The website was challenging to navigate through, and each of the toys had a popup kind of window that made it difficult to look in detail at the next toy. There were two major categories: Gift Finder and Toy Store, and it wasn’t readily apparent what the difference was between them. I found it frustrating, can you imagine how the average 7-year-old feels about it?
Useabilty is Krug’s thing. He’s spent most of his professional life researching and working as a useablity consultant. And he poured all that knowledge into a handy little book called Don’t Make Me Think.
The basic premise of the book is, you have to make things as easy as possible for folks that come to your website. This means cutting back on things that are “flashy” (Literally. Does anyone use Flash anymore?), cutting back on the amount of text you have on your website, and limiting the amount of choices you give your user.
Make things on your website as simple and obvious as possible. Essentially, your user should not have to think–they should be able to identify and click on what they need without having to take a second or a minute to think about what they want to click on. It should be clear: “I want toys for boys”: I would like to see a button that says Boys Toys.
The truth is, we don’t read. We scan. So ask yourself: what are the top three things people go to my website for? And make those three things super obvious and very accessible from the second people hit your front page.
Krug also talks about useabilty testing. Now there are lots of fancy-shmancy software packages you can purchase to help you with this, but essentially, all you have to do is to get a friend or a neighbour over, offer to buy them a beer for their time, and then ask them to do a few simple tasks on your website. Watch. Videotape. And see where they run into trouble. Because, chances are, if they are running into trouble, other folks will be, too.
One thing I really like about this book (besides Krug’s sense of humour, which, let’s face it, with such a dry subject, is muchly appreciated) is that the book is written, in a way, like a good website should be. It’s short, pithy, it scans well (meaning there are lots of subheadings and the text is nicely broken up), there are illustrations and photos, and the chapters are short.
If you are creating a website, or doing a redesign on yours, it’s a really useful book. You can also visit Krug’s Website: Advanced Common Sense.