Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

The saying that “good is obvious” is pretty damn old, and I am sure it took different shapes in the previous centuries. It referred to good food, music, architecture, clothes, philosophy and everything else.

We forget that human mind changes very slow, and the knowledge you have about human behaviour will not go old for at least 50 years or so. To make it easy for you, we need to keep consistent with a couple of principles that will remind us of how to design great products. We should be told at least once a month about these principles until we live and breath good design.

The human brain’s capacity doesn’t change from one year to the next, so the insights from studying human behaviour have a very long shelf life. What was difficult for user twenty years ago continues to be difficult today — J. Nielsen

Revisiting: Don’t Make Me Think

Steve Krug laid out some useful principles back in 2000, after the dot-com boom which are still valuable and relevant nowadays. Even after his revised version, nothing changed. Yes, you will tell me that the looks are more modern and the websites are more organised and advanced (no more flash!). But what I mean about that is — nothing has changed in human behaviour. We will always want the principle “don’t make me think” applied to any type of product we interact (whether it is a microwave, tv, smartphone or car).

1. We don’t read, we scan

The reason for that is — we are on a mission, and we only look for the thing that interests us. For example, I rarely remember myself going through all the text on the homepage of a product website. Why? Because most of the web users are trying to get something done, and done quickly. We do not have time to read more than necessary. And we still put a lot of text because we think people need to know that. Or as some designers say: “it adds to the experience”.

  • Use plenty of headings — they tell you what each section is about or if they are relevant to the person. Either way, they help you decide to scan further or leave the website
  • Keep paragraphs short — long paragraphs makes it harder for readers to keep their place, and they are harder to scan than a series of short paragraphs. There’s always a reasonable place in a paragraphs to break it in two.
  • Use bulleted lists — almost anything can be a bullet list. Do you have a sentence that separates many things with comma? Than it can be a bullet list. Also, don’t forget to leave space between bullet list rows for optimal reading. Take Medium as an example.
  • Highlight key terms — much of page scanning process consists of looking for keywords and phrases. Formatting the most important one in bold, makes them easier to find. Also, don’t highlight too many things because it will lose effectiveness.

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