Usability in Web Design

Our reading for today included a few chapters from Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think. Krug is a usability consultant, which is relevant to our current project: designing a website. He wrote this book for people (like me) who can’t afford to hire a usability expert. But he even says that most of it is common sense.

Simply put, usability means that the average (or below average) person can figure out how to use the product to accomplish some task.


  • useful
  • learnable
  • memorable
  • effective
  • efficient
  • desirable
  • delightful

Don’t Make Me Think!

Everything on your website has to be self-evident. You want users to look at the page and be able to identify each component without a problem. You don’t want them to be confused about where he can find what he is looking for.

Some tasks will require some thought, but you want the user to think as little as possible to accomplish his goal. In this case, you want the site to be self-explanatory, with as little explanation needed as possible.

Things That Make Us Think

Cute names or unfamiliar names make us think. Krug states that there is a continuum from obvious to obscure, and we want to be the farthest towards obvious. Also, any buttons need to be obviously clickable. When people struggle with using a company’s website, they question the company’s commitment to its customers.

Questions they shouldn’t ask:

  • Where am I?
  • Where should I start?
  • Where is the ___?
  • What are the most important things on the page?
  • Why did they call it that?
  • Is that an ad or part of the site? (my personal pet peeve)

This is important because if a user is frustrated by your site, he will go elsewhere to accomplish his task.

How We Really Use the Web

The user and the producer think of the site in very different ways. As I’ve talked about in previous posts, we like to scan. This means that users are glancing just to see if anything is interesting or clickable.

1.)  We don’t read pages. We scan them.

  • We’re usually on a mission.
  • We know we don’t need to read everything.
  • We’re good at it.

2.) We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice.

We don’t choose the best option, but instead the first reasonable choice.

  • We’re usually in a hurry.
  • There’s only a small penalty for guessing wrong.
  • Weighing our options may not increase our chances.
  • Guessing is more fun.

3.) We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through.

  • It’s not important to us.
  • If we find something that works, we stick to it.

Billboard Design 101

1.) Conventions are your friend




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