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Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

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A nice book by Steve Krug about human computer interaction and web usability. The book's premise is that a good program or web site should let users accomplish their intended tasks as easily and directly as possible, without engaging too many brain cycles. Krug points out that people are good at satisficing, or taking the first available solution to their problem, so design should take advantage of this. He frequently cites Amazon.com as an example of a well-designed site that manages to allow high quality interaction even though the site gets bigger and more complex every day.

-- Contributors: PeterThoeny - 29 May 2008

Discussion

Cognitive Seduction: (from Creating Passionate Users)

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In other words: do make me think, otherwise I am bored . Advertising also works using Cognitive Seduction. For example there was a nice AXE one entitled "get dirty" showing a s**y woman in front of a fireplace with a mustache painted on her face. And you brain reacts with "yea I can get dirty, they will wash me clean again, using this fantastic shower gel". Well and some other aspects are activated as well.

Userinterfaces sometimes work like this also, so that you easily remember how to do things. Caution: don't get too funky. There is a certain minimum of brain you want people to activate - and help them to activate it. Presuming that every user is a beginner that you have to talk to like a child is probably not the right point where to start. Make them think a bit, but surely not too much.

-- MichaelDaum - 30 May 2008

I really recommend this book. One of my favorite caption is: "Omit needless words"

-- ColasNahaboo - 03 Jun 2008

Yes, and it is a quick read. The idea is to place elements where users expect them (simple things like position of home icon, position of OK vs Cancel) and to make it easy to scan pages in a second.

Michael: Interesting perspective, and there is some truth to it. But I think you missed the point of the book. I recommend you read it and let us know what you think of the book.

-- PeterThoeny - 03 Jun 2008

Some things are hard to define as final pattern. For instance: should you offer redundant links or just one? I have learned that redundancy is good for information retrieval. And most people appreciate to have multiple ways to get to the content. Yet some persons that by personality want control and predictability really suffer from such an interface. They keep hesitating and arguing which link to follow, instead of taking the risk and find out.

-- ArthurClemens - 03 Jun 2008

Arthur is absolutely right; there is no "correct" answer. A lot depends on the content, too. If I'm presenting a reading primer to a target audience of 3 year olds, I want one kind of interface. If I'm presenting a how-to guide on dating to a target audience of teenage boys, I want another. A technical treatise on linux internals to experienced programmers, a third.

An interesting experiment for someone would be a "pick your portal" interface that presents different styles of interface to the same application, targeted at different user groups. We have seen some of that in the "expert mode" interfaces some web applications carry - notably google, which presents a really pared-down "don't make me think" common portal, but also offers simple routes many "make me think" add-ons as you grow in confidence.

-- CrawfordCurrie - 04 Jun 2008

That is why twiki.org should make a clear separation, or at least hide the geekyness of twiki on pages meant for a general public.

-- ArthurClemens - 04 Jun 2008

I got the book and started reading it and I must admit - it is a great inspiration.

I always say that we should be careful with TWiki (not twiki.org but TWiki the program) not to hide too much user interface.

Making the user interface with few controls is good for people that pass by a TWiki site to find some information the first time - mainly as readers. TWiki the program is a bit crowded for the user that moves about the first minutes.

But we must never forget that TWiki is a tool and that the main target group is enterprises to enable collaboration. Hiding controls means the tool becomes easy to pass by and use the first hour. But a real pain the next 10000+ hours. I put my thoughts about it on my KennethLavrsen page a long time ago.

The challenge is to develop our complex user interface to that the first hour becomes a more attractive experience without sacrificing the fast operations like for example seeing what changed in the last revision with one click.

The Dont Make Me Think book is focussed on the typical web page that tried to sell a product and where the users are typically arriving the first time or come back now and then to purchase something or find some information fast.

Looking in the context twiki.org and in the context TWiki in an enterprise the book still interesting in the way it says to organize things in a page, not to write too many words because people do not read them.

I already reacted by changing my landing page for Motion to a simpler design with better overview.

So yes I recommend the book. But remember that TWiki is a tool more than a web portal.

-- KennethLavrsen - 05 Jun 2008

I really recommend everyone to read Kathy Sierra Creating Passionate Users blog (the one mentioned by Michael). IIRC there is a post, somewhere in that blog, that basically said that you need to satisfy both beginners and advanced users. If the product is too simple, advanced users (the kind that do TWikiApplications) will look elsewhere. If it's too complex, common users will look elsewhere.

I am all into putting away expert features as long as they are easily found, as you need to tease advanced users into exploring that feature, without scaring away beginners. By "easily found" I don't mean "documented someplace in the distribution".

I really like those tools that hide some items from the menu in "beginner" mode, and allows you to change to "expert" mode: If anything it makes you feel good that you're "expert" enough to use the full feature set smile

Other post from Kathy that I really recommend:

-- RafaelAlvarez - 05 Jun 2008

I agree, the Creating Passionate Users blog is a great read! I can recommend How to Build a User Community, relevant to the TWikiCommunity.

Obviously, "don't make me think" should be applied to a Persona or target user base.

-- PeterThoeny - 05 Jun 2008

On the simplicity vs power debate, I am more and more finding that streamlining everything to the max on the body of the page, but still explicitly giving access to all the features for power users in the footer is a good compromise. I remarked that linkedin does it this way efficiently, as by asking non-power-users of linkedin, they never noticed the footer, so you can be free to put everything a power user need without making the general user think. I started making a pattern-based TWiki skin with this design, you can see an example at http://koalateam.com/

Note that the value of the book in my eyes is not the recipes it gives, but the insight it gives on the general process of usability and especially usability testing

-- ColasNahaboo - 05 Jun 2008

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