Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition Rating:
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Usability design is one of the most important--yet often least attractive--tasks for a Web developer. In Don't Make Me Think, author Steve Krug lightens up the subject with good humor and excellent, to-the-point examples.

The title of the book is its chief personal design premise. All of the tips, techniques, and examples presented revolve around users being able to surf merrily through a well-designed site with minimal cognitive strain. Readers will quickly come to agree with many of the book's assumptions, such as "We don't read pages--we scan them" and "We don't figure out how things work--we muddle through." Coming to grips with such hard facts sets the stage for Web design that then produces topnotch sites.

Using an attractive mix of full-color screen shots, cute cartoons and diagrams, and informative sidebars, the book keeps your attention and drives home some crucial points. Much of the content is devoted to proper use of conventions and content layout, and the "before and after" examples are superb. Topics such as the wise use of rollovers and usability testing are covered using a consistently practical approach.

This is the type of book you can blow through in a couple of evenings. But despite its conciseness, it will give you an expert's ability to judge Web design. You'll never form a first impression of a site in the same way again. --Stephen W. Plain

Topics covered:

  • User patterns
  • Designing for scanning
  • Wise use of copy
  • Navigation design
  • Home page layout
  • Usability testing


  • ISBN13: 9780321344755
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed


  1. Charles Ashbacher says


    Ordinarily, I avoid using the phrase “common sense”, considering it to be one of those generalities used when you are unable or unwilling to categorize an algorithm. However, in this case, it applies and is the only phrase that can be accurately used to describe web design techniques. The author is refreshing, in that he avoids any hint of passion in the explanations of what is right and wrong about web design. Taken by itself, his “what you use depends on the situation” approach appears to be wishy-washy. However, the most important point of the book, namely that there is no such thing as a typical web user, makes this a requirement.
    His other point about the necessity for usability testing is one that we all understand. However, the points about getting effective feedback using only a few people is so correct that it will foster disbelief in those who believe that you must spend big to get the best results. Such people ignore the simple rules of statistical sampling. In a population with a great deal of overlapping variation, the random choice of three or four will almost always provide a group covering much of the spectrum. The key to getting effective feedback about a site is not to sample large but to sample well and pay attention to what the subjects say.
    All feedback must also be passed through a reality analysis filter as well. There as many shades of like and dislike concerning the style of a web page as there are opinions about economic policy. As the author so effectively points out, a user saying “I like it” can range from, “I like this feature and will not use the site without it” to “I like this feature but will happily use the site if it is not there.” The first is of course the most serious, but it also must be exposed to a critical examination before being taken seriously to the point of inclusion.
    In summarizing the content of this book, it may appear that I am killing it with faint praise when I say that the best way to describe it is that the advice is practical. However, in the emerging art form known as web design, that is as good as it can get.

  2. Anonymous says


    This book walks it’s talk. It is written and arranged exactly as a useable web site should be, clear and concise, with scannable (as well as enjoyable) text. The clean attractive design and graphics accurately and efficiently illustrate the text, which is easy to read and to understand. I love the use of cartoon people with thought balloons to suggest how people think while using a web site.

    There is no clutter of technical gibberish or endless verbose rambling on statistics. The chapter on usability testing takes us step by step through the process and is descriptive and instructional instead of theoretical. Steve Krug doesn’t feel he has to sacrifice creativity, visual interest, individuality, or effective advertising in order to develop a usable web site. “Good tag lines are personable, lively, and sometimes clever. Clever is good, but only if the cleverness helps convey – not obscure – the message.”

    I can’t agree with those who dismiss this book as nothing but common sense. While I see nothing wrong with publishing a reference and instructional manual that is full of common sense, this book also presents the reasoning behind every method that is suggested. The clashes between designers, programmers, and advertisers are explored and addressed. While I agree that the simple and obvious conclusion is that the focus should be on the user, it is refreshing and helpful to find a book which distills information from all of the varied and opposing developer viewpoints, and applies to them to that end. The book is, after all, subtitled “A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.” Also, like most common sense, it isn’t really so obvious until after someone has pointed it out to you.

    Here are a few things you won’t find in this book, which makes it all the more effective and convincing. You won’t find anything that claims this is the “right” way to design web sites. There will be no discussion of business models or predictions for the future of the web. The best omission of all is that there is no bad mouthing of poorly designed sites. According to Steve Krug “Designing, building, and maintaining a great web site isn’t easy. It’s like golf: a handful of ways to get the ball in the hole, a million ways not to. Anyone who gets it half right has my admiration.”

    This book gets it more than half right.

  3. Matthew D. Weseloh says


    Don’t Make Me Think is like an operator’s license for web site building software. An internet developer shouldn’t be allowed to “turn the key” until they’ve digested this book.

    Steve Krug’s book is a quick read (190 pages) filled with insightful, entertaining and practical prose for those involved in internet development. He shows us what does and doesn’t work, and then explains why. His extensive research into usability permeates every page.

    The book itself is a stellar example of usability. Every graphic adds value and every paragraph amplifies the point. Color is effectively used, but not exclusively. Steve practices the techniques that he preaches. For example, the chapter called Omit needless words [The art of not writing for the web] is only 5 pages long.

    Finally, he presents practical ways to perform usability testing (huh, what’s that?) into the development process. Imagine knowing how user’s will actually use your site.

    I recommend this book to everyone involved in internet development. I’ve even assigned it to my children (ages 10 and 13) as they start their journey into internet development.

  4. Meryl K. Evans says


    When we design Web sites, we often overlook the simplest things because we’re too wrapped up in the design. After working on Web sites for a while, some of us have slowly moved away from what we know is usable to adding or removing elements that may enhance the `look’ – and also break a site’s usability.

    Steer back on track with the new edition of Krug’s highly referenced book. Novice, intermediate, expert. No matter where you are on the scale, the book provides value to everyone – even managers, testers and project managers. Management likes to get their hands a little dirty when it comes to Web design projects and sharing this book may make the team’s life easier.

    Anyone involved with Web design or usability will recognize most, if not all, of the concepts covered in the book. What makes Don’t Make Me Think usable is that it’s a great checklist to ensure you’ve covered all the basics.

    Krug provides many before and after examples to show how a few changes can enhance a Web site’s usability. The illustrations reinforce the concepts covered as well as how visitors use and read a Web site.

    As for the differences between the first and second editions, the second addition has three new chapters while usability testing shrinks from two chapters to one and with good reason.

    The testing chapter breaks down the testing process into digestible steps; complete with a script between the tester (user) and the person watching the tester. Too often, we’ve seen testing get mangled or ignored. With this chapter, teams might find themselves empowered and eager to do testing.

    The chapter on “Usability as common courtesy” explores how a site can make or break the “reservoir of goodwill” as Krug puts it. We arrive at a Web site with some goodwill and depending on how well the site meets or misses our needs; the goodwill level goes up or down. It may only take one mistake to propel visitors to flee.

    Another new and short chapter is “Accessibility, Cascading Style Sheets and you.” Krug captures what developers and designers hear when it comes to accessibility and addresses what they fear. He lists five things designers and developers can do make a site accessible without a lot of effort.

    Finally, the book closes with “Help! My boss wants me to…” Krug has received plenty emails and questions on the topic to identify two questions that repeatedly come up. He provides email examples for free re-use, so no one has to explain it to the boss.

    It only takes about two hours or a plane trip to read. The writing is conversational, clear and packs a punch with a dash of humor thrown in. Reading the book is not much different than reading fiction because it flows well and the information sinks in without much effort.

    If you get this book and have the 1st edition, I recommend keeping both. You might find helpful stuff in the original material not found in the new edition.

  5. Anonymous says


    Jakob Nielsen: Impossible to remember how to spell his name. Steve Krug: Easy to remember.

    Nielsen: Usability in a thousand words or more. Krug: Usability in catch phrases and cute graphics.

    Nielsen: Great for quotes in bloated business presentations on why usability testing is important. Krug: Great for ‘I get it, it all makes so much sense to me now’ type reading.

    Nielsen: Testing, testing, testing! Krug: “Don’t make me think! If you have room in your head for only one usability rule, make this the one.”

    Nielsen: 432 pages, mostly text. Krug: 194 pages, lots of inline graphics.

    Nielsen: Loves Sun (not the star). Krug: Loves Amazon (not the jungle).

    Nielsen: Usability Guru writes books for future Gurus who have lots of time to read. Krug: “little known but highly respected usability consultant” writes books for people with little room in their brain and “short enough for you to read on a long plane ride.”

    Thank you for reading my highly subjective and probably wildly inaccurate comparison. I whole-heartedly reccomend this book to anyone concerned with usability

    I tend to like books that present a single argument that’s not necessarily revolutionary, but “sums it up” so well that you can easily apply the knowledge time and again. This book does that. I reccomend it to everyone at my job, especially new designers.

    I think Nielsen’s great too. I own Designing Web Usability and refer to it all the time, however this book presented things in a simple straightforward way that’s easy to get, so for the layman this book is perfect. For the professional, get both. Nielsen’s book will certainly give you a lot more ammo for writing a report on why usability is important to your company.

    Also read: The Design of Everyday Things, Joel on Software, Information Architecture (the O’Reilly book).

  6. Rating

    The “show me” what you mean book of web usability review. I particularly like the common sense handling of the main web problems.

    Some of the key things that are pointed out in this book are:

    1. Don’t make me think: Basically the web user does not want to venture into a site that requires them to figure it out. It should be self-evident. How do we use web pages:

    a. We don’t read pages, we scan them

    b. We don’t make optimal choices, we satisfice

    c. We don’t figure out, how things work, we muddle through

    2. It doesn’t matter how many times I click as long as each click is a mindless unambiguous choice

    3. Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.

    The first 5 chapters clearly illustrate the three “Krug’s Laws of Usability” listed above with lots of pictures and examples. Well done.

    His chapters on navigation and finding your way around are a cookbook on how to do it right. He finishes the chapters with several examples, first asking the reader to look at the examples and then discusses how he feels it should be redone. Excellent teaching tool. Similarly, he broaches the topic of the Home page and how it should be structured and the various forces pulling in different directions. The examples he gives at the end here too are a good teaching tool.

    The remainder of the book discusses the design processes and the usability tests. These are excellent chapters in the forces at work and it is evident, he has done this many times from the information he has gathered.

    He provides specific suggestions for web usability testing for various stages of sites as well as for various problems. This is wonderful guidance if you are new at this. He also provides a guideline on scripting and report writing. Nice job.

    He winds up the book with recommended reading and also providing a website for readers of this book:

  7. John P. Dunn says


    Buy the book and read it from cover to cover.

    THEN: Use it.

    WHY? “Don’t Make Me Think” is loaded with clear, practical and USABLE advice. Although based upon sturdy theory, the book is not “theoretical” or “academic.” The value is in Krugs’ wealth of experience and real world examples. He expertly includes an annotated script of a “typical” user testing session. If you have never had the opportunity to view or conduct a testing session, this will certainly encourage you to relax and give it a go. Be certain as well to check out the “Trunk Test” on page 87.

    WHAT I LEARNED: Of course, the big thing is the difference between THINKING a web page and SEEING a web page. This can be a difficult concept to get across. Not so for Steve Krug. Secondly, “conventions are your friends.” The bottom line: “They are very useful. As a rule, conventions only become conventions if they work.”

    FINALLY: If you are a designer, give copies to your clients. This will help them understand why usability is so important. If you are a webmaster, get copies for your team and the CEO. This will insure that all the effort that goes into development stays focused and that the web site will WORK.

  8. Anonymous says


    “Don’t Make Me Think” is incredibly clear, concise, and helpful – as well as surprisingly enjoyable. Every web designer or developer should read it and take its message to heart. I develop web sites at an e-business solutions provider, and these are the kind of issues I tackle every day. I am reading three industry-related books and ten industry-related magazines on any given day, and I managed to make it through this book in lightning speed. Kudos to author and editors for creating such an easy-to-swallow dose of usability advice, and for adding excellent sprinkles on top in the form of good-natured humor throughout and a resource section at the end.

    Web design is a young field, and because of that, many people who design web sites today have no formal training in web or interface design. A background in print design or technology is a great start, but not sufficient when it comes to creating a usable web site. It is crucial to take usability into account when creating a site that you want people to interact with – ESPECIALLY when you want people to buy something from your site.

    This book provides a terrific outline of usability issues, as well as a look into usability testing, in a very accessible and encouraging manner. Anyone involved in designing or developing web sites can benefit from it. Especially if you have never conducted a usability test and don’t realize how average people (ie, non-web-savvies) interact with a web site – this book will open your eyes to some vital information which will help you create better, more usable sites.

  9. Anonymous says


    As a web designer that owns my own domain, I had purchased Jakob Nielsens Wed Design Usability book and loved it. I thought nothing could top it, but then I was in a book store and picked Don’t Make Me Think up. It had some high-power reviews of the book on that back cover. When I opened this book up, I understood why. This book talks about Web Design as and ways to understand why a site needs to be design to the specific user the designer has in mind.

    Highly respect design expert Roger Black writes the forward. I remember buying a book of his years ago called Websites That Work. While a beautiful book, it was before its time and lacking what Krug has written into this book. I’d recommend this to anyone who has purchased Nielsen’s book. It refreshing that there is actually credible suggestion out there.

  10. Andrew B. King says


    A practical Web design usability guide, “Don’t Make Me Think!” is based on empirical observation not exhaustive statistics. Steve Krug’s five years of usability consulting and testing are distilled down to this thin yet gem-filled how-to. Krug observed how people actually use the Web rather than how we *think* they use it, gleaning key usability guidelines. Most folks can’t afford a full-blown usability consult, but they can afford to buy a $35 book. This book shows you how to conduct your own usability tests on the cheap. What follows is a summary of the book’s major rules and observations:

    1. Don’t Make Me Think!

    The number one usability rule, most often expresed by users. Web pages should be self-evident, obvious, and self-explanatory. Buttons should have short text and look clickable. The default search for your site should be simple.

    2. Design for scanning not reading

    By observing users Krug found that people glance, scan some text, and click on the first reasonable option (called “satisficing”). People scan Web pages, they don’t read them. We don’t make optimal choices, we satisfice.

    Here are some things you can do to make sure users understand as much of your site as possible:

    a. Create a clear visual hierarchy to show relative importance of content (H1/H2 etc.)
    b. Take advantage of conventions
    c. Break pages up into clearly defined areas
    d. Make it obvious what’s clickable
    e. Minimize noise

    3. Users like mindless choices

    Make each click an unambiguous orthogonal alternative.

    4. Omit needless words

    Get rid of half of the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left. This is especially important on home pages and
    gateway pages.

    5. Navigation: Use street signs and breadcrumbs

    Factoid: The back button accounts for 30 to 40 percent of all Web clicks. Persistent navigation appears on every page of the site and should include the following five elements:

    a. Site ID
    b. A way home
    c. Search
    d. Sections
    e. Utilities

    Your navigation should answer these questions:

    a. What site is this?
    b. What page am I on?
    c. What are the major sections of this site?
    d. What are my options at this level?
    e. Where am my in the scheme of things?
    f. How can I search?

    6. Your home page should convey the big picture

    What is the site about? Use a good short tag line and welcome blurb. Rotate site promotions. Remove everything nonessential.

    7. Most Web design usability arguments are waste of time

    These “religious debates” consist of people expressing strongly held personal beliefs about things that can’t be proven. All Web users are unique. There are no average users. There are no simple “right” answers for most Web design questions. What works is good integrated design that fills a need, that’s carefully thought out, well executed, and tested.

    The antidote for religious debate is to ask specific questions and test with real users. The last three chapters of the book show how to perform testing on the cheap with three or four users. I really enjoyed this book, especially Krug’s easy humor. From