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

Krug_Don'tMakeMeThinkMy Rating: 3.5/5

About the Book
Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability is a beginner’s guide to website design and usability testing. In twelve chapters, the author covers topics such  web site conventions, accessibility, wordiness, organization and hierarchy, homepage design, and other related topics. Readers can expect basic instruction and awareness about how people react to diverse elements of webpage design and can feel more comfortable in designing their own websites with end users in mind. Small business owners can use this book to get helpful tips and insights about how to usability test their company’s website.

Author: Steve Krug
Publisher: New Riders
Cost: about $26 on Amazon
ISBN: 978-0321344755

What I Liked
Steve Krug does a wonderful job making web usability approachable. I found that students in introductory web design classes love the book because it is so easy to read, full of so many examples, and laced with a humorous writing style. Beginning web designers can go from knowing nothing about web usability to feeling fairly aware in just a couple hours of reading. Krug covers a wide range of useful topics, including how to limit “happy talk” on a page, how to make links look “clickable,” how to use breadcrumbs and “you-are-here” indicators to guide users through a site, how to navigate the bureaucracies of homepage design, and how to keep users happy while reading. One of the most useful elements of the book is a section that shows a step-by-step guide to conducting a simple but effective usability test.

What I Didn’t Like
While the book does an excellent job reaching its target audience and making usability easy to understand, I give this book a 3.5/5 mostly because it is becoming too dated. Krug, in the introduction to the book, notes that his examples are old, but that usability principles don’t change that much and so the examples still work. As you read the book, though, it is difficult to agree with Krug entirely; the examples look like the internet as we knew it in the late 1990s. Published in 2006, this second edition really needs a more modern version that addresses social media, responsive design for mobile devices, and even some explanation about search engine optimization, since each of these affect user experience. The book remains an effective classroom resource and it is still probably the #1 seller in introductory web usability, but it is falling quickly behind the advances in the way we use the internet.

How I Used It
I have used this book in both undergraduate and graduate courses on beginning web design. I spend about a month with the book, covering foundational principles in web design. By the end of reading this book, students are able to act as consultants to small businesses and non-profits to create website inspection reports, usability tests, and ultimately valuable recommendations to their clients. Students overwhelmingly seem to love this book.