In two evenings I was able to get through to the end of “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. Considered as one of the ‘must have’ books to read if you take usability for your website (and mobile) seriously, I was eager to see what insight it would teach me as I prototype and develop my own apps (and this website).

Below is my non-professional opinion.. :)

  • "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug

Review Summary

Considered as one of the must-read titles for anybody who takes website usability seriously, Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think" aims to enlighten you with many years worth of experience and insight as to how to best design your website to reduce the amount of unnecessary 'thought' required from your audience to enjoy their web surfing experience.

The obvious goal and primary take away from this book is to do exactly what the title suggests, 'don't make them think'. And most of the book goes into why a web designer would unknowingly create experiences that are not 'obvious' or might not translate well to the conscious language of your users.

At below 200 pages, the author purposely tried to keep the book short and as much 'to-the-point' as possible, all while staying true to his core message of keeping things simple to encourage better engagement.

I have a couple of 'industry related' books on my shelf, and while I like the look and feel of a thick heavy book which I assume is full of answers and wisdom, this is actually one of the few that I have actually read from start to end. And the conciseness of it played a role in that, no doubt. So while this book is one of the 'smaller' books on my shelf, it is one of the few I've actually finished. So I guess that says something of Steve's methods.

Besides keeping the content lean, Steve also has a pretty great style of writing. He very rarely ever uses terms which the average reader might not understand, despite it possibly being aimed at the developer side of the market, and his flow is very casual and easy reading, with a good dose of humour along the way.

As far as the actual content goes, I was not completely disappointed either. I am someone who has had an interest in the user experience(otherwise commonly known as 'UX') psychology for some time now, almost ever since I started pursuing a career in development. I find great joy in being a user to well designed products, and also appreciate the little nuances that developers include to make the experience all that more pleasurable. I would say I am a little more consciously aware of the user experience than the average user, and I have developed my own understanding of such things along the way.

So I was eager to see what more I could learn from "Don't Make Me Think" coming from a professional in the field, and what secret and valuable insight I might find and discover.

The tagline to the book reads, "A Common Sense Approach to Web (and Mobile) Usability", with the 'and Mobile' being the recent inclusion in this edition of the book. It was clear that the focus was still heavily on the 'Web' side of things, and being a software and mobile app developer myself, I was a little worried that some of the content might not be applicable to me (But I wasn't completely put off since I am running this website, after all).

To my delight, there was little to be concerned about. While the examples and use cases do mostly revolve around websites, it is the general idea of usability which is being looked at, and which could be applied to most, if not all, software products.

There are 13 chapters (and with the book being under 200 pages, the chapters are generally short and to the point) which cover topics such as -
- how user's use the web (we scan, not read),
- the art of writing web content,
- designing intuitive navigation,
- learning to embrace conventions and avoid re-inventing the wheel,
- a decent sized section on how to conduct in-house user tests,
- an introduction to mobile usablity
- and other just as interesting topics.

I was doubtful that I would learn something new about UX from such a relatively short book, a field which Steve openly admits is 'not rocket surgery', but while I didn't get the BIG answers I might have hoped to find, it was the wealth of small points and design recommendations which were the valuable take-aways for me.

Being a developer you often forget about being the user, and this book highlighted and cemented a couple key thoughts and design patterns to keep in mind while developing for people other than yourself.

I hoped for a more substantial section around Mobile usability beyond the single 'introductory' chapter towards the end, since I believe that more and more of the web experience is being done through Mobile and is becoming just as important, but Steve believes that it is still in the early stages for Mobile, and conventions are still being developed. Till then, though, the rules around web usability can be adapted to mobile interfaces quite suitably, as the rules generally still apply - Keep things simple, and avoid making your user's think.

Beyond that, there's nothing more I can really add to the already numerous amount of recommendations for this book. I see it being a handy survival guide of sorts when starting and developing a new project, to ensure I'm checking all the right checkboxes along the way.

All in all, "Don't Make Me Think" is indeed a worthwhile book to own if you plan to do any web or mobile development, and I look forward to applying the concepts in my current and future projects (including how I could improve this very site).

Buy the book from Amazon if you're international, else here if you're in South Africa.

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