General Session with Steve Krug and Notes On “Don’t Make Me Think”

Keynote at HighEdWeb 2010

Steve Krug (pronounced “kroog”) is best known as the author of “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability,” now in its second edition with over 200,000 copies in print.

His new book, “Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems,” explains how everyone can-and should-be doing their own usability testing.

His books are based on 20 years of experience as a usability consultant for a wide variety of clients like Apple,,, NPR, the International Monetary Fund, and many others. His consulting firm, Advanced Common Sense (“just me and a few well-placed mirrors”) is based in Chestnut Hill, MA.

He currently spends most of his time teaching usability workshops, consulting, and watching old movies.


My Notes

The following are my thoughts on Steve Krug’s book, “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.” Steve was a keynote speaker at HighEdWeb 2010 and he touched on a few points in this book and his new book, “Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems.”
p. 16?
Referring to Krug’s 3rd law on p. 45., can we simplify too much? into the obscure? How do you know? or how do you find the balance?
p. 45 “Krug’s 3rd law of usability: get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.”
p. 22
I had a thought, how many people use CTRL+F to find something on a page?
“And the worst thing about the myth of the average user is that it reinforces the idea that good web design is largely a matter of figuring out what people like.”
“the average user doesn’t exist.”
“The problem is there are no simple “right” answers for most web design questions. What works is good, integrated design that fills a need – carefully thought out, well executed, and tested.”
So, how can Krug tell us what is good design or what is usable or what doesn’t make us think if there is now average “us” to base it off of? I know he’s done tons of usability studies, and watched lots of people, and found that “all web users are unique, and all web use is basically idiosyncratic. (p. 128)” How does he know that I want site id in the top left with a clever tag line?
p. 129
“The point is, it’s not productive to ask questions like “Do most people like pulldown menus?” The right question to ask is does this X create a good experience for most people. The only way to answer that question is with testing. You should watch ordinary people as they try to figure it out.

My interest in Special Interest Groups @HighEdWeb 2009

My interest in Special Interest Groups @HighEdWeb 2009 and why:

  • Marketing and Communications: I work for a group called Communications and Marketing; we need to market the dry topic of information technology. But seriously, I think it is a delicate subject in higher education. We don’t have the budget that Sapient has, and we have to be more tactful than corporate America.
  • Leveraging Social Media/Networking tools: using social media is the norm today. Students coming to college use (some forms) of social media without batting an eye. We need to be comfortable with it. We need to use it as a marketing tool just like we used older forms of communication.
  • Accessibility: I’ve heard it summarized best this way, “Making anything accessible to the disabled makes it more accessible to the abled.” We need to make our communications accessible to the challenged not just because it’s the law, but because it makes it more accessible to the masses.
  • Usability and Usability testing: Like accessibility, usable design is universal. If it is good for a few chances are it’s good for the many. We need to make the web usable the first time or it wont get used and other aspects of our business will suffer – marketing, accessibility, management, etc.
  • Content Management: When we manage content well it makes life a whole lot easier. A Content Management System (CMS) can take care of a lot of above e.g. accessible, usable blogs with links to twitter/facebook/myspace.

Reposted from

Web Usability Training 10/31/2008



* Your preference isn’t the same as everyone else

* Lengths: In general use shorter pages for homepage and navigation pages and apage that need to be quickly browsed and read. Use longer pages to

– facilitate uninterrupted reading esp. content pages

– match the structure of a page counterpart

– simplify page maintenance (fewer Web page files to maintin)

– make pages more convenient to download and print

* Line length: if reading speed is most important, use longer line length (75-100). if acceptance of the site is most important use short line length (50 characters per line)
* Web style guide: “one of the fundamental principles of the Web however, is that users should be able to structure their own view…..So although leaving text free to fill the browser window may affect readability, following conventions may also affect the accessibility and legibility of your documents”
* White space: limit the amount of white space (area without text) on pages that are used for scanning searching, on content (text) apges use some white space to separate paragraphs, too much separation of items may require users to scroll unnecessarily.


* Navigation: web site’s navigation scheme and features should allow users to find and access information effectively and efficiently. When possible, thi
* Dead end: dont make pages with out any navigation, never assume that a user will have a back button, don’t open a new window without letting the user close it with a link
* Group navigation: consistent grouped navigation improves users access and accomplishment rate
* Navigation: use clickable in page navigation for long pages, content headers should offer in page navigation, use “Return to Top” on lengthy pages.
* location: let the user know where they are, bread crumbs are a great way to keep the user informed about their location, differentiate navigation elements for the users location too
* Placement: user navigation times improve the primary navigation on the left, group secondary and tertiary menus together, users prefer all to be grouped, grouping all three increased right side menu performance to almost the same level
* To tab or not: only use tabs when they are descriptive, users dislike tabs that leave doubt, emulate software and real world tabs as closely as possible, avoid requiring the user to mouse over a tab to discover that it is a navigation element
* Navigation only: keep it short, never require a user to scroll on a navigation only page, users often to do not continue past a single screen full and may miss any navigation options displayed…
* Menu types: use sequential menus for simple forward-moving tasks, and use ‘simultaneous’ menu for tasks that would otherwise
* Sitemap: use site maps for sites that have many pages, site maps provide an overview of the site, they may be

– hierarchical view

– resemble a traditional table of contents

– a simple index

* Glosses/glossary: preview links with information to help the user find the correct link, never use to make up for poorly titled links, keep it close but dont mess up the main text.
* Breadcrumbs: uneducated users rarely benefit from them, users who have learned how to use them tend to experience a significant increase in take completion speed.
* Iterative design approach: build prototypes, do usability testing, continue until goals are met

– benefits: 30% increase in task completion, 25% decrease in time required

* Solicit tester comments: testing is more effective, “think aloud” comments, retrospective comments
* Evaluate before and after: when you redesign a site, test it before and after to ensure your goals are being met and to help define those goals.
* Usability priorities: rank and fix usability issues by :

expected | outcome

#1 easy | hard

#2 hard | easy

#3 easy | easy

#4 hard | hard

* Frequency vs severity: frequency is determined by number of users experiencing the problem, severity is the individual users problems, fix the most severe problems
* Right size test groups: testing with experts, testing with users ( graph looks like y=ln(x) )
* Use the right prototype:

paper – often used early, when computer cannot support idea, when members of the team lack skill

computer –

* Inspection evals: good for surface, bad for deep issues, often requires high numbers of evaluators, heuristic evaluations often misapplied
* Evaluator effect: it occurs when multi evals evaluated the same interface detect markedly different sets of problems
* Automatic evalutations: commercial tools are a great start, never a replacement of professionals and usability testing, will usually find slow pages missing links jargon accessibility
* Cognitive walkthrough: often exaggerates issues only about 25% of potential problems when compared with use testing

frequ misses about 13% of problems

* Lab vs. remote: almost identical task completion rate, time to complete, satisfaction scores
* Severity ratings: often misleading, different teams identify issues differently, heuristic…

Web Usability Training 10/30/2008

Where do you get examples of sites?
How grainular should we allow users to decide?
Don’t give users choices like “A” or “B” – that ends with 50%/50% split. Rather, focus on requirements. Ask, “What do you want the site to do?” Then you can test them with if “A” or “B” is better.
* Use Cases: avoid implementation specific language, dont worry about interface,
* Expectations: stick to conventions (link on logo), be familiar, dont try to innovate, understand user expectation
Navigation? Language?
* system that is consistent, efficient, productive, organized, intuitive
* users define the requirements, they know what they want, they not best for design, without them site is pointless
* goals: write them, keep the present through design process, what is the site purpose (entertain? education? sell? inform?)
* usuability goals: focus on success rates, time to find information, satisfaction and acceptance
* does it work? performance over preference
looks dont matter if it doesnt work
* the whole package: dont stop at the page, consider typical compuer are used, consider the typical user (accessibility for disadvantaged), consider connection speed
* be visible in search, found in the first page of results, users cant use the site if they cant find it, test keywords, ask you users what keywords they would use
xml sitemaps (wordpress plugin)
* parellel design: dont just develop one design, dont develop together, develop several designs and choose the best elements for the -final design. start with 3 independent designs then move to iterative design to unite them
-benefits: seeing the trying others’ designs improved final solutions
-creating many designs produced better results
-combining design elements resulted in better user interfaces
* personas: stand-ins for real users that motivate the decision making process, not real people but represent them, imaginary but important, need details to make realistic
– persona are defined by their goals
– build your interface to satisfy the persona’s goals and needs
– have fun with it!
* develop personas: write short narrative description, build specific ideas, detail 2-3 technical skills, include an interest or habit to make the persona unique, dont use a real person, create a composite based on interviews and research
– Cooper develops personas
* user experience: no pop-ups – unnecessary distrations, annoying, unwanted interruption for users who have a goal
* increase credibility: be sure information is up to date, professional, credible, linked to outside sources, credentialed, offer faq, offer archives
– Standford guidelines for web credibility
* standardize layout: stick to one method, dont created confusion by changing layout, dont change something like a navigation method from one part of the site ot another
* standardize tasks: dont offer two different formats for the same function – example drop down and popup calendars
– users become conditioned, variety creates unnecessary confusions
* make it easy: most calculations should be done by the system, optimize tasks done better by humans then by computers
* diminish memory limitations: use the computers memory no the user’s, compare side to side not page to page, a user can only remember 3-4 items for a few seconds.
* keep it moving: minimize page downloading times, minimize number of byte per page, reduce the number of external files called, the slower a page loads the fewer the people who will sit and wait
* Your session has times out: warn users of time outs before and not after they occur, program the option of continuing the session
* Waiting: providing feedback on processing time, 10-second wait (hour glass), minute+ wait process indicator, estimate time, provide auditory signal on completion
* Downloading: when large images, docs, charts etc. list the file size and approx download time
* Displaying Information: use formats the audience will understand, users should have to convert, kilograms/pounds, Fahrenheit/Celsius, military time/civilian time
* To Read or Not: design with scanning vs printing in mind, long documents, research, complex material should be designed to print, short docs entertain and should be designed to read, users prefer to read not print.
– 5 pages+ usually printed
* Printing: design pages for printing makes this easy, use standard orientation, if you cant read it you can’t use it, provide a link to printable versions
* Avoid Multitasking: dont require the user to multitask, dont require the user to remember large amounts across multiple pages
* Use plain english: speak at the reader’s level, leave breadcrumbs, use tabs, include search capability, explain unfamiliar terms
* Never Assume: design the site for the first-time user, include information about the content and navigation, include both the user without experience and the user with disabilites
* Browsers: Pareto Principle, 80% of your users will use 20% of the available browsers
* Browsers: not all settings are the same, consider common browser settings (font size, disabled ads, disabled colors/images)
* Operating systems: aim to develop for 95% of your audience, keep in mind the users settings too
* Connection Speed: amoung people who use the internet at home, 79% ahve a high-speed, 15% use dialup
– Pew Report 07/2008
* Screen resolution: default 1024×768 (45%), 1280×1024 (31%)
* Usability Testing:
* Accessibility: disabled users, search engines (consider crawlers like blind users – no javascript)
*Section508: all federal websites must be designed with disabled in mind, design for visual mobility auditory and learning disabilities
all forms must be compatible with assistive technologies, approach accessibility from the beginning not the end
* Forms: most information collected is entered via forms, ensure
* Color blindness: offer alternatives where information is primary in color, never use color as the only indicator for anything critical
– choose colors combos that can be seen, use tools, keep contrast high
* Skip navigation: allow screen readers to bypass repetitive information
* Alternate Text: always provide text for non-text elements, allows visually impaired, allows search engines, not just for images (video, audio)
* Plugins Applets: test flash and other plugins to ensure that they are accessible, offer alternatives where needed
* Javascript: ensure that changes a script makes can be read by assistive technology, dont require a mouse to be used
* When all else fails: provide equivalent text-only pages, keep them just as current, inform users that the information is equal
* Closed Caption: with movies or animations offer synchronized captions or auditory descriptions
* Style sheets: dont require style sheets, make sure the information underneath is still readable
* Lynx: linux-based text browser, started by University of Kansas
* JAWS: one of the oldest screen readers (15 years), windows-eyes
* First Impression, Different from the rest of the site, Limited Prose, Minimum scrolling, purpose and major options
* Easy to find: make getting to the home page easy, users find it easier to start from the complete a task, easier to start over from
* Major options: stick to major options only, most commonly access taks and information, be selective, it not a site map
* Positive first impression: key to conveying quality, often a determining factor in credibility, up to date fresh let the user know the site is alive, easily scanned
* Value and Purpose: taglines help identify and communicate purpose, keep explanations, if needed, brief
READ: Web Style Guide, 2nd edition
* No Prose: large blocks of text slow the user often go unread
* Walks Like a Duck: make sure the home page is clearly different from other pages, users have different expectations about home pages
– important links, site map, index, search
– common distintions – masthead with tag line, all major content categories, prioritize category lists
* One screen to rule them all: try to keep the home page to a single screen, information below the fold is often overlooked
* Users hate change: dont make changes to the site without informing users that its coming, assure users that the same information will be available, post this information on the home page where it will be highly visible
* Panel with: home page panels should be sized to convention, users are trained to anticipate information display, too wide a panel for navigation may be overlooked as content instead
* No Clutter Allowed: dont offer too many choices, dont forget to use pagination, dont forget, web real estate costs ‘nothing’
* Conventions: keep important items in the same areas of the page towards the top, navigation, error messages, informational messages
* TopCenter: users generally look at the top center of a page first, then look left, then right
* Make Comparison Easy: structure pages so items can be easily compared when users must analyse those items to discern similarities, differences , trends and relationships
* Importance levels: establish a high-to-low of importance for information
* Target Scanning Density: to facilitate finding target information on a page, create pages that are not too crowded with items of information, target in spare areas of the display tended to be searched earlier and found faster
* Alignment: users prefer consistent alignments for items such as text blocks, row, columns, checkboxes radio buttons data entry fields, etc. Use consistent alignments across all Web pages.
(make paragraphs 75 characters wide, 3 lines long)
* Fluidity: use a fluid layout that automatically adjusts the page size to monitor resolution settings that are 1024×768 pixels or higher
* Dont stop the scroll: ensure that the locatio of headings and other page elements does not create the illusion that users have reached to top or bottom of a page when they have not
(keep page scrolling to 3 pages max i.e. 3 page-down keys)
Analysis of VPAPIT
* Put title attributes on vpapit navigation CIS or title=”Computing and Information Services”>CIS
* Maybe change “Welcome” to “Home”
* Chagne RSS alt text to “RSS of news”, change RSS image to higher contrast
* Add alt “Skip to main navigation” to skip nav image
* Add another skip link: “Skip link to main content”
* Should use only 1 h1 tag

Hello all,

As promised, here are those resources Doug mentioned in the Usability

And one more Doug just sent over:

Just ran across this great tool, its pretty
awesome for testing usability and compatibility with web sites and the
iPhone. I thought you and your teams might find it interesting, hope
things are going well!