Usability in Three Minutes

“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.

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.

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.

The Home Page Should Spell out the Big Picture

The home page should clearly and quickly answer:

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:

Most common problems are:

Focus ruthlessly on fixing the most serious problems first.

Mobile Design

Responsive design is hard to do well.

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.

Sell Usability at Work

Screw ROI & sales language, instead, get your boss and stakeholders to watch a live usability test.