Krug Book Review

Don’t Make Me Think! A common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition
Steve Krug. Berkeley: New Riders, 2006. 201pp. Reviewed by Rosalind R. Gash.

Steve Krug is a usability consultant with over twenty years of experience in his field, consulting for companies such as Apple, Lexus, an BarnesandNoble.com. The first edition of Don’t Make Me Think! was published in 2000, during the Internet boom years. The second edition, which is the subject of this review, was published in 2006.

Krug’s stated purpose for writing this book, in his own words:

I’m writing this book for people who can’t afford to hire (or rent) someone like me. I would hope that it’s also of value to people who work with a usability professional” (5).

The thesis of Don’t Make Me Think! is summed up by Krug’s corporate motto: “It’s not rocket surgery” (5). Krug maintains that much of what he does as a usability consultant is just plain, old-fashioned common sense and that “anyone with some interest can learn to do it” (5).

Before continuing with this review, we must define our terms, so that everyone who reads this is on the same page (pardon the pun). So, what exactly is ‘usability’? What does this term mean? Steve Krug gives a straightforward, common sense definition:

… usability really just means making sure that something works well: that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can use the thing — whether it’s a Web site, a fighter jet, or a revolving door — for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated” (5).

Krug achieves his goal to make this book easy to understand for people with little or no previous experience — people who have suddenly “been made responsible for big-budget projects that may determine the future of their companies” (4). Don’t Make Me Think! is easy to read and understand for this demographic. Krug does not use a lot of industry jargon, and includes plenty of pictures, illustrations, and screenshots as examples to accompany his guidance. The book is also a fairly quick read at only 185 actual instructional pages (not including the back sections for Recommended Reading, Acknowledgements, and the Index).

This book differs from others addressing the same subject matter because Krug does not start by assuming that his readers already have basic knowledge of HTML or Web design principles. He also does not use unnecessary jargon in an attempt to place a barrier between him and his readers by showing off how much more he knows about the subject than do they.

Though a useful, easy to understand book for its intended audience, experienced Web, front end, and user experience designers — amateur or professional — will find this book too basic. For experienced designers, the principles taught in this book should already be ingrained into their workflow to the point of being second nature and done automatically, as a matter of course.

A third edition of Don’t Make Me Think!, which would address Web usability in the wake of the new functionality HTML 5 and JavaScript brings to Web sites would be interesting to read. As it stands; however, this book is recommended for those new to Web usability. It is also recommended as a quick-reference guide for those more experienced individuals who just need a simple refresher that cuts to the chase in plain English.

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