Jan Kubr

Posts Tagged ‘web design’

A book read: Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2008 at 20:34

Yes, I’ve finished reading another book. And not today, but on Friday. I’ve heard about this before, but now I’m actually experiencing it: If you get into the habit, you can read one book a week and later probably more. I wonder how that can change your personality. Ryan Davis said at last year’s RubyConf that the average number of books read by people from the IT industry is one a year. So if you read one a month, you’re on 12 times the average. And if you read one a week..

I think reading broadens your view. Reading a lot broadens it a lot. Even if you can’t name all the things you found interesting in the book a few months later after reading it, I believe it is there somewhere in your mind and it not only influences you, but also will pop up when the situation is right.

Writing a summary like this helps me remembering the book even better and helps you decide whether you’re interested in reading the book yourself.

So. Don’t Make Me Think is a book about web usability. Mostly usability of web sites, rather than web applications, but still pretty useful for webapp developers as well. Since the author preaches the “common sense approach,” the advices are pretty simple:

  1. General advice: Don’t make people need to figure out what you meant by things on your page. Make it obvious (not dumb). The experts will appreciate it as well.
  2. We don’t carefully read everything on the web page. We scan it and click whatever first seems to get us where we want.
  3. Don’t force people make complicated decisions. They are OK with taking more steps if deciding on each is easy.
  4. Don’t have too much text on your page, especially if the text is not necessary (“Welcome to this page!” kind of thing or lengthy instructions).
  5. Navigation should show on which page I am, how can I get to the homepage, in what section I am, and where can I search. Steve is a bit sceptical about using breadcrumbs (a series of links showing how you got to the section you’re currently at) and so am I.
  6. Homepages should answer four questions: “What is this?”, “What can I do here?”, “What do they have here?”, and “Why should I be here – and not somewhere else?”.
  7. Usability testing is neither complicated nor expensive.

I think especially the part where Steve shows how to do usability testing very effectively and cheaply is very interesting. He is planning a whole book on this topic, so that one should be great as well. Btw there’s a lot of tips for further reading in the book, too.

A book read: Defensive Design for the Web

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2008 at 21:56

This is a terrible book. After you read it, you’ll feel lousy, lose your self-confidence, and make your to-do list longer than ever. In other words, this book is very useful and contains some great tips.

The authors of the book suggest that you plan for situations when things go wrong on your site. That you should care about the user’s experience even (especially?) in crisis situations. If things go wrong (and it’s far from “they never do”), it is an unpleasant situation for the user, but you have a great chance to show him the way out and make her happy again.

The structure of the book is very simple and straightforward. Each of eight (main) chapters talks about a specific aspect of (almost) every website and contains a few guidelines on what the most common mistakes are and how to correct them. Each guideline is accompanied by examples of site that follow the guideline and those that don’t. These chapters talk about:

  1. Displaying obvious error messages and alerts
  2. Providing clear instructions
  3. Creating friendly forms that are easy to complete
  4. Overcoming missing pages, images, or plug-ins
  5. Offering help that’s actually helpful
  6. Eliminating obstacles to conversion (e.g. unnecessary ads, registration, navigation etc.)
  7. Delivering the rights results with smart search engine assistance
  8. Making sure unavailable items don’t become dead ends

If you don’t feel bad enough after all this, you have the chance to take a Contingency Design Test in the next chapter which will help you evaluate your site. If just by any chance it doesn’t turn out that good, the next chapter contains some great tips on how to make “error recovery and prevention part of your long term design process.”

And this book is even a quick read! Recommended.