Book Review & Notes: Don’t Make Me Think (Steve Krug)

I recently asked for some recommended resources and books to read on usability and UX (user experience). One that came highly recommended was Steve Krug‘s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.

I really appreciate a number of things, many of which are in other reviews and even in his introduction. Nevertheless, for the benefit of my readers, here’s what I like.

  • It’s short.
  • It’s easy to understand.
  • It’s concise and boils it down to a few simple guidelines.
  • There’s humour in it.

I will say that while most of the ideas and concepts still hold, there are some ideas presented that I think may be a little outdated. It could be that as someone who works with websites on a daily basis that some things seem obvious to me, but may not be “common” knowledge to others. Still, I think it’s easy enough to skip some sections if you feel you already know about it (as I did), and while some parts could be updated, the guidelines and concepts still hold true.

My Notes

I decided to take some notes for myself since I borrowed the book. If these notes pique your interest in any way, I suggest reading the book, because my notes are just that, notes, and in no way do the book justice.

Rule 1: Don’t Make Me Think

This translates to Eliminating Question Marks.
For example, When searching: What is a keyword? If you say it searches all or everything, then that’s what it should do.

Users should know without thinking:

  • Location within the site
  • What’s important
  • Where things are
  • Where to go
  • Why labelled that way

You can’t make everything self-evident, but you can make it self-explanatory.

People Scan and Click the First Reasonable Option

I don’t think this a surprise to people anymore, but it still holds true. The suggestion is to cut your text in half and then half again. Omit any unnecessary words.

Happy talk must die.

Cut down instructions as much as possible; make it self-explanatory instead.

The benefits:

  • Reduces noise
  • Useful content more prominent
  • Shorter pages

Design Pages for Scanning

  • create a visual hierarchy
  • take advantage of conventions
  • break pages into clearly defined areas
  • make the clickable obvious
  • minimize noise

People Like Mindless Choices

User should have confidence that they are on the right track. There’s still a limit to the number of clicks a used is willing to go through, but no hard number if they are mindless and not repetitive. Good example is buying for home office and needing to choose home or office.


Should be persistent and consistent with the possible exception of the home and forms.

Links should match the page title. This may seem very obvious, but I see this discrepancy quite often.

On any page, you should be able to identify these basic elements:

  • Site
  • Page name
  • Major sections of the site
  • Local nav
  • Location within the site
  • How to search

Home Page

Should be able to answer these questions at a glance:

  • What site is this?
  • What do they have?
  • What can I do here?
  • Why should I be here and not somewhere else?
  • Where do I start?

Test Early and Test Often

Not the same as focus groups, which are good for determining the audience, if ideas and wording make sense, and their feelings.

[Usability tests are] for learning whether your site works and how to improve it.

Ideally, one morning a month for testing and then debrief over lunch.

Keep and Refill Users’ Goodwill

Goodwill goes down when:

  • information is hidden
  • things are inflexible e.g. form fields
  • unnecessary information is requested
  • looks unprofessional

Goodwill goes up when you:

  • make things obvious
  • save steps
  • make it easy to recover from errors

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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