Usability for Cavemen and Dummies

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Do you remember those old Geico commercials? The ones that always ended with that corny slogan, “So easy a caveman could do it.” Or what about the big yellow _________ for DUMMIES books? Steve Krug implies in his book Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense to Web Usability that we should design websites with these types of people in mind.

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Some of you may be a bit offended by this implication, thinking you’re way too smart to be treated like a caveman or a dummy. But, Krug explains that while we have the capability to search for information and truly learn about a certain subject, we often approach the Web with a minimum time, minimum effort attitude. For example, when we search something on Google, we click on the first website that appears under our search and hope to find the answer to our query by simply scanning that site in less than a minute. If our first click (or maybe second if we have lots of time on our hands) is unsuccessful, we move on to the next search result.

Krug’s 1st Law of Usability

Because our interactions with websites tend to be so fast-paced, Krug claims that the 1st law of usability is “Don’t make me think!” (11). He emphasizes the importance of making websites as self-evident, or at the least as self explanatory, as possible. The less obvious and deliberate website choices are, the more we have to contemplate our choices online, which eventually frustrates and distracts us even if we don’t consciously realize it.

Two of the most common areas of confusion are names and links. While many people assume clever names will appear to viewers, these types of names will actually confuse the viewer because it makes us think more about what the name actually means. In a similar manner, the less obvious, or clickable, a link is, the more trouble we have finding it.

Krug’s Facts of Life:

  1. “We don’t read pages. We scan them” (22). Think again about all those Google searches. We don’t truly read through the entire page of those search results, instead we look for words that relate to our topic and grab our attention.
  2. “We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice” (24). Once we find a solution online to what we are looking for, we tend to accept this solution rather than look for better solutions or information.
  3. “We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through” (25). We only learn as much as we need to in order to get by, not substantial information to fully understand the topic (Think college chemistry for non majors).

Learn more about the principles of usability according to Krug.

Discussion Questions

  1. How often do you read the entire page of a webpage when browsing the Web?
  2. How long, on average, do you search a website before moving on to your next search result?

Until next blog,

Evan

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