“Don’t Make Me Think” is a classic book on web usability. This is what I learned from the book, reduced down to a three minute read.
Usability is how well a person of average ability and experience can figure out how to use a website to accomplish something without it being more trouble than it’s worth.
Don’t Make Me Think
When a user looks at a web page, they should be able to get what it is, and how to use it, without expending any effort into thinking about it.
Design for Scanning, not Reading
People don’t read web pages, they scan them.
- Separate content into grid chunks
- Make clickable things look clickable
- Format text to support scanning: use headings, short paragraphs, lists
Users Like Mindless Choices
“It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice.”
Omit Needless Words
“Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.”
Wording should be concise, and wisely chosen.
- reduces noise level
- makes useful content more prominent & concise
- allows pages to be scanned better
Kill happy talk, introductory text, welcome text, and instructions.
Design Navigation Properly
Good navigation tells the user what’s on the site, and how to use it.
- Always include a home link.
- Include breadcrumbs
- Highlight the navigation for the current page
The Home Page Should Spell out the Big Picture
The home page should clearly and quickly answer:
- What is this?
- What do they have here?
- What can I do here?
- Why should I be here and not somewhere else?
Arguments About Usability Are a Waste of Time
CEOs, programmers, designers, and business people are all are biased as to how they think a page should look. Debates on how the average user would use the site are pointless because the average user is not like us.
Thus, focus groups are ill-suited for optimizing the user’s experience.
The only solution is usability testing.
Keep Usability Testing Simple
A usability test is watching one person try to use something or doing typical tasks so you can detect and fix the things that confuse and frustrate them.
A test session consists of:
- Welcome (4 min)
- Questions about user to put them at ease (2 min)
- Home page tour with user saying what they think the site does (3 min)
- Various tasks with user verbally thinking out loud (35 min)
- Probing questions to user as to why they did what they did (5 min)
- Wrapping Up (5 min)
Most common problems are:
- Users are unclear on the concept of the page or site
- The words they’re looking for aren’t there
- There’s too much going on
Focus ruthlessly on fixing the most serious problems first.
Responsive design is hard to do well.
- Allow zooming
- Keep every feature available that full site has
- Or if not, make it easy to switch to the full site
User’s Goodwill Reservoir
The user’s reservoir of goodwill lasts only so long before they leave.
Make the main things that people want to do on your site obvious and easy, lest you piss them off and deplete their reservoir.
Test your site out with a screen reader to see how usable it is.
- Use headings correctly
- Add alt text to every image
- Use labels on forms
Sell Usability at Work
Screw ROI & sales language, instead, get your boss and stakeholders to watch a live usability test.