Reading Steve Krug’s book, Don’t Make Me Think, has definitely given me some insight about making websites that I otherwise would not have even thought about. He brought to light interesting ideas and “facts of life” that are important to take into consideration while designing the content and layout of your site. Krug urges us to take advantage of the fact that people don’t read every word, instead they scan through. For example, taking advantage of conventions is a good way to make everything easier to understand when in a hurry. Conventions are widely used and standardized design patterns, such as a stop sign. People expect the logo/site ID of a website to be in the top left hand corner of the page so it would be beneficial to put yours there as well. In addition, how things work and look on your website should be similar to most websites in that if you are selling products or services you should use the shopping cart symbol, as well as using the icon that tells you it’s a link to a video, the search icon, and social networking sharing options.
One of Krug’s ideas that particularly stood out to me was having a clear visual hierarchy. Someone viewing your website should be able to understand where to look first. This can be accomplished by having all the visual cues accurately illustrating the relationships between things on the page. It should be clear which things are most important, which things are similar, and which things are parts of other things. Krug suggests that the more important something is, then the larger, bolder, or nearer to the top of the page it should be. Grouping things together is also important to show the things that are logically related.
Visual noise is something that can distract some people. In order to keep this from happening, Krug suggests keeping down shouting. This is when everything on the page is fighting for your attention, shown by many exclamation points and bright colors. Using the visual hierarchy you should make sure to guide users through the most important things you want them to see, everything can’t be the most important. Clutter is also detrimental to a website. It is important to make sure your website, especially Home Page, does not have too much stuff on it. It is important to get rid of things that is just noise and everything that is not needed must go.
No one wants to read a word heavy website. The best way to organize your website is to support scanning. Most of the time, users are looking for specific things in the text. In order to help, it is crucial to use plenty of headings to tell you what each section is about. Keeping paragraphs short is also useful. Long paragraphs are discouraging and harder for readers to keep their place. Using bullets are important as well. They are optimal for readability. Highlighting key terms is another characteristic of a good website. Scanning usually consists of looking for key words and phrases. If these words are bold, then they are easier to find. However, make sure not to highlight too many things.
It is hard to keep track of where you are in a website, that’s why its important to utilize street signs and breadcrumbs to help your users navigate. I think it is fundamental to display links that have already been clicked in a different color to give a sense of how much ground was covered. A good navigation on a website will tell users where to begin and what the options are. Putting them in standard places helps people locate them quickly and with minimum thought. Using persistent (global) navigation is helpful because it is displayed on every page of a site. It gives users constant confirmation that they are still in the same site. In addition, navigation helps users with the lost feeling that sometimes occurs when using the Internet. This can be counteracted by highlighting a users current location in the website whether it is in the navigation bars, lists, or menus. Krug also recommends taking advantage of breadcrumbs, which show you the path from the Home Page to where you currently are and make it easy to move back up to higher levels in the hierarchy of a site.
Often, the Home Page of a website will include a bunch of information that a typical user is not looking for when they go to the website. The Home Page has to accommodate so much that it is often difficult to decide what to keep and what to remove. However, Krug says that one thing that is important not to lose is conveying the big picture. He claims that the website needs to answer these four questions: what is this? What do they have here? What can I do here? And, why should I be here—and not somewhere else? It is important that your site can answer these questions at a glance and with little effort.
Towards the end of his book, Krug talks about mobile browsing, which I think is important in today’s society. He gives a few important tips such as to allow zooming as to help users read tiny text on a small screen. In addition, without the hovering capability that you have with a cursor on a computer, you do not have the same capability on a mobile device. This means that your affordances have to be clear. Affordances can be the three dimensional style of some buttons making it clear that they are meant to be clicked.
Krug then goes on to talk about usability as a common courtesy. He explains that there are some things that increase goodwill and that are important to keep in mind. Knowing the main things that people want to do on your site is one of them. These things should be made obvious and easy. Saving steps wherever you can, knowing what questions the user is likely to have and answering them, and making it easy to recover from errors are some of them as well.