The following excerpts summarize the key insights about web site building Steve Krug provides in his popular work on online usability „Don´t make me think revisited“. It is highly recommended to be read in full length (see reference at the bottom) – but for those short on time: This is my shortcut.
The three laws of usability
Krug´s first law of usability: Don´t make me think.
„For instance, it means (…) when I look at a Web page it should be self-evident. Obvious. Self-explanatory.I should be able to “get it”—what it is and how to use it—without expending any effort thinking about it.“
Krug´s second law of usability: „It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice“
Krug: „The rule of thumb might be something like “three mindless, unambiguous clicks equal one click that requires thought.““
Krug´s third law of usability: „Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.“
What this means for the web site concept.
How we really use the web is by scanning, satisficing, and muddling through:
- We don´t read pages. We scan them.
- We don´t make optimal choices. We satisface. (satisfice = we choose the first reasonable option)
- We don´t figure out how things work. We muddle through.
The consequence: Design for scanning, not reading:
- Take advantage of conventions (on where things are located on a page, on how things work, on how things look)
- Create effective visual hierarchies (importance > prominence, related logically > related visually)
- Break pages up into clearly defined areas
- Make it obvious what´s clickable
- Eliminate distractions
- Format content to support scanning (use headings, keep paragraphs short, use bulleted lists, highlight key terms)
And get rid of text (see third law):
- Happy talk must die
- Instructions must die
- Shorten. Shorten.
Think about your navigation: People won´t use your web site if they can´t find their way around it, because…
- They´re usually trying to find something
- They decide whether to ask first (use the search function (use no fancy wording here, be clear)) or browse first)
- If they choose to browse, they make your way through a hierarchy, using signs to guide you. These signs should tell them what´s there, how to use the site, and give confidence in the people who built it (that is: you).
- Provide a sense of directions by establishing sections, a local nagigation, a footer navigation – navigational instruments people are used to.
- Provide a sense of location by providing a „you are here-indicator“ (highlight the location in the navigation, breadcrumbs), page names (prominently) on every page, in the right place, page name needs to match what has been clicked)
- Eventually, if they can’t find what you’re looking for, they’ll leave.
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