10 Usability Takeaways for Web Developers (Don’t Make Me Think)

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By Aihui Ong (Founding CEO & CTO, Love With Food)

As a web developer, I can easily write code and whip up new features. But are they usable? Would my users understand how to use them? I’ve built features that none of my users like or use and I have to painfully demolish my code to remove them! Yes, I have separation issues! I’ve been coding less now and reading more about design and usability. I have come to realize that I can build new features but that doesn’t mean I should.

I’ve heard so much about this book “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug and indeed, he shares so many great insights and helpful tips on usability. I highly recommend anyone doing business on the web to read it!

Here are the 10 best takeaways for me:

1. Behaviors of Web Users

  • We don’t READ, we SCAN.
  • We love to muddle through to figure things out.
  • We don’t make optimal choices, we love to guess and there’s no penalty when we guessed wrong.

2. Design Pages like Billboards

  • Pages should be designed for scanning, not reading.

3. Web Users like Mindless Choices

  • Mindless clicks are fine, as long as it leads to where the user is going.
  • Rule of thumb: 3 mindless unambiguous clicks = 1 click that requires thought (and users don’t like think when they are surfing)
  • Helping users to make choices mindlessly is the key to making a site easy to use.

4. Words – Less is more because we SCAN and not READ

  • Remove half of the words on the current site.
  • Remove unnecessary words like introductory text and wordy instructions.

5. Web Users Navigate Sites like They are Shopping in Malls

  • We are creatures of habit, how we shop and surf the internet is the same. For example, when we shop at Target looking for ladies PJs, we usually
    • (A) walk into target -> go to Ladies department -> go to Sleepwear section or (B) ask a sale associate to show you exactly where the Ladies Sleepwear section is.
    • Scenario (A) is coming to a site’s homepage -> main navigation -> sub navigation.
    • Scenario (B) is coming to a site and using the search feature immediately.

6. What Makes Well-Designed Pages?

  • View a page at least an arm’s length away to the extend that you are squinting. See if you can identify these:
    • Site Logo
    • What page are you on? (checking to see if the page title is clear).
    • What are the major sections of of this site, e.g. main navigation.
    • What are the sub-navigations/sections of this page?
    • Can you recognize where you are on this site, e.g. “you are here” indicators?
    • How can you search?

7. What Makes a Well-Designed Homepage?

  • Needs a good tagline.
  • Is it clear to users what’s the point of this site?
  • Is it clear to users where to start.

8. It’s a MUST to do Usability Testing

  • If you want a great site, you must test!
  • Testing 1 user is always better than testing none.
  • Test early in the project.
  • Testing is an iterative process. Test, fix and repeat!

9. How Many Testers

  • 3 – 4 testers is ideal.
  • Tester don’t need to have domain knowledge about your site content. Anyone should be able to use a well-designed site.

10. What to Test?

  • Test your competitors’ site to see what works and what doesn’t.
  • There are 2 types of testing: “Get it” Testing, to test if users understand the purpose of the site, the value proposition and how it works. “Key task” Testing is to get users to perform tasks and see how well they perform.
  • Always start testing with the Homepage. Ask users what they think about it and where would they click on first?
  • After the homepage, get users to test 4-5 tasks and the entire test session should be less than 45 minutes.

This post was originally posted at Aihui Ong’s blog.

About the guest blogger: Aihui Ong is the founder, CEO/CTO of Love With Food, the easiest way to find tasty deals and free samples, curated by foodies for foodies She started her first business in her dorm room while pursuing her undergraduate CS degree in Singapore. Now living in the Bay Area, there are two things Aihu can’t live without: her MacBook Pro and KitchenAid mixer! Follow her on Twitter at @aihui and her startup at @LoveWithFood.

  • http://www.overstat.com Leah Edwards

    Thank you for the summary! The book is on a stack of “would be great to read” books on my desk.

    I also like this posting:
    http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2008/01/31/10-principles-of-effective-web-design/

    I’m all for testing! Optimizing live web pages is also critical. A few testers can help you make the best first-pass, but getting data on how users are behaving on a live page and setting up A/B split tests to see if you can make the pages even more appealing is key!