It sucks to read back great books sometimes. You realize what a dumbass you were when you first read them. So much so that you couldn't consume half of what the author was trying to say because it was too much.
Recently, I reread "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug. It is a simple book but simple books sometimes are hardest to digest. I found out that he still had things to teach me so I made a new set of notes and I wanted to share it with you guys.
Seriously, when you first see the cover of Steve Krug's book you don2t think much of it. I admit as a college student I looked at the high price tag and hesitated a bit at first.
What does it mean for a product to be usable?
I find it easy to tell when a product was making me mad but I find it hard to articulate my reasoning behind my struggles. For example, recently I have been trying to set my Pinterest account to grow my traffic for this blog ;)
To set it up correctly, you go to this page:
Now, to connect your blog content with Pinterest you have to validate a page to connect your blog to your account. Now, the question is:
Should I validate each time I post a blog post or do they just need one sample?
I shit you not I searched for the answer 15 minutes because I didn't want to do this process each time I wanted to share a blog post on Pinterest.
I was furious and angry at myself.
Do you know what the problem was?
The note section had the same attributes as every other element which made me skim over it completely.
Shout out to Pinterest developers, this page below would be much more usable like below:
Now, I wanted to articulate why this product was unusable and Steve Krug's most important usability principle really helped. Steve Krug said:
"Don't make me think."
Any time as a user you have to think more than you have to when using a product, that is a bad sign.
This page of Pinterest was more trouble than its worth and that was because it was making me search for a detail that had to be highlighted in the first place. Thus, I had to search for it line by line to find the notice. A simple red highlighter would do the job really.
These things aren't hard to fix as UX designers but noticing them is.
Not the best option but the one that satisfies users needs
Have you ever wondered why Word is still in production? Look at this fella right here:
On top of my head, I can come up with at least 5 better text editors. then, what is the appeal of Word?
Under the More Font Options, it says "Subscript" what the hell is that?
This is what Adam Estes asked in 2017 to Gizmodo readers.
One of the reader's answer was spot on. The commenter said:
As an IT Architect/Systems Admin: it plays nicely with every other Microsoft product we run. Most of all, everyone knows what word is and there’s very little training to do. That’s a biiiiiiiiiig one too for me.
Now, I have to confess I still use Word sometimes. Because as the commenter said, it integrates better with my PowerPoint presentations. Thus, integration with other software is really important but what is more important is the last sentence of that comment.
Word was in production for so long that it is really hard to find a professional in a workplace these days that have never used it before.
Therefore, Word has no beginner users in the professional workforce.
Now, the reason I am telling you this is because that is not the case for many products.
Many products have not been around as long as Word to become standard. Thus, you will have many beginner users that have to quickly become intermediate users.
Now, most applications are designed to offer the best features to optimize users' productivity. Yet, that is not what gives satisfaction to the users at all. Steve Krug declares:
We don't make optimal choices, we satisfice.
Meaning, when we first begin using a product, we pick the first path that helps us solve our problem. This is important to understand. A novice user who arrives at your application will not scoop around to find and optimize the best way to use the application. They will not cherry-pick features.
This is so important to understand. In fact, I believe Streaks (a productivity app) won the Apple design award just for that.
Streaks might sound like another habit app but what it separates for me is that it offers small "default" settings that help novices understand how to use the app but begin using it immediately.
For example, when a new user first signs in the app, they have default options to choose for their first habits:
The preset helps the beginner into what kind of habits they can set immediately. If they fail to come up with on their own, Streaks provide them options to satisfice. They don't need to come up with the best habit that they have to work with. They just need to begin.
The difficult is not in knowing how to solve problems
To design is to solve problems. It is a craft, not art. I absolutely believe in this idea but it is just a bit of generalization. The truth is a bit more nuanced.
Design is to solve the right problems given the constraints.
This is really important in usability testing. The goal of usability testing is not to understand how to solve problems, if you do the interviews right, you will be coming up with alternative solutions to almost every problem. Yet, you will also realize that you won't have enough budget or time to fix most of those problems. That is why Steve Krug says:
"You'll always find more problems than you have the resources to fix, so it's very important that you focus on fixing the most serious ones first."
This is a difficult part of the design. I remember when I wanted to do more usability testing for my side project giftastic but I only had one week till the deadline I set for myself.
Call to Action
Now, I shared with you guys the 3 takeaways I got from Steve Krug's books. What is the most recent design book or article you read? And what did you take away from it?
Share in comments below ;)