Don’t make me think

When I picked this book up, I thought it would be a silver bullet for some of the UX problems I was facing at the time. It wasn’t… but what it is is a very high level set of rules and principles that can help you when developing a UX.

Most of the stuff in this book is common sense but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the guiding principles.

I particularly enjoyed reading the chapter on testing… which describes an approach to testing on a budget.

Here are some of my notes:

Chapter 1

  • The most important thing you can do is to understand the basic principle of eliminating question marks.
  • the main reason why it’s important not to make me think is that most people are going to spend far less time looking at the pages we design that we’d like to imagine. As a result, if Web pages are going to be effective, they have to work most of their magic at a glance. And the best way to do this is to create pages that are self-evident, or at least self-explanatory.

Chapter 3

  • If you’re not going to use an existing Web convention, you need to be sure that what you’re replacing it with either (a) is so clear and self-explanatory that there’s no learning curve—so it’s as good as the convention, or (b) adds so much value that it’s worth a small learning curve.
  • CLARITY TRUMPS CONSISTENCY
  • A good visual hierarchy saves us work by preprocessing the page for us, organizing and prioritizing its contents in a way that we can grasp almost instantly.

Chapter 4

  • When you can’t avoid giving me a difficult choice, you need to go out of your way to give me as much guidance as I need—but no more. This guidance works best when it’s Brief: The smallest amount of information that will help me Timely: Placed so I encounter it exactly when I need it Unavoidable: Formatted in a way that ensures that I’ll notice it

Chapter 5

  • Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
  • Getting rid of all those words that no one is going to read has several beneficial effects: It reduces the noise level of the page. It makes the useful content more prominent. It makes the pages shorter, allowing users to see more of each page at a glance without scrolling.
  • Your objective should always be to eliminate instructions entirely by making everything self-explanatory, or as close to it as possible. When instructions are absolutely necessary, cut them back to the bare minimum.

Chapter 6

  • Too-subtle visual cues are actually a very common problem. Designers love subtle cues, because subtlety is one of the traits of sophisticated design. But Web users are generally in such a hurry that they routinely miss subtle cues. In general, if you’re a designer and you think a visual cue is sticking out like a sore thumb, it probably means you need to make it twice as prominent.

Chapter 7

  • The one thing you can’t afford to lose in the shuffle—and the thing that most often gets lost—is conveying the big picture.
  • Don’t use a mission statement as a Welcome blurb.
  • Taglines are a very efficient way to get your message across, because they’re the one place on the page where users most expect to find a concise statement of the site’s purpose.
  • tagline conveys a value proposition.
  • Good taglines are personable, lively, and sometimes clever.

Chapter 9

  • Testing one user is 100 percent better than testing none.
  • Testing one user early in the project is better than testing 50 near the end.
  • Do-it-yourself tests are a qualitative method whose purpose is to improve what you’re building by identifying and fixing usability problems. The process isn’t rigorous at all: You give them tasks to do, you observe, and you learn. The result is actionable insights, not proof.
  • Even before you begin designing your site, for instance, it’s a good idea to do a test of competitive sites.
  • For each round of testing, you need to come up with tasks: the things the participants will try to do.
  • start by making a list of the tasks people need to be able to do with whatever you’re testing.
  • Choose enough tasks to fill the available time (about 35 minutes in a one-hour test), keeping in mind that some people will finish them faster than you expect.
  • Then word each task carefully, so the participants will understand exactly what you want them to do. Include any information that they’ll need but won’t have, like login information if you’re having them use a demo account.
  • your job is to make sure the participant stays focused on the tasks and keeps thinking aloud.
  • During this part of the test, it’s crucial that you let them work on their own and don’t do or say anything to influence them. Don’t ask them leading questions, and don’t give them any clues or assistance unless they’re hopelessly stuck or extremely frustrated. If they ask for help, just say something like “What would you do if I wasn’t here?”
  • After each round of tests, you should make time as soon as possible for the team to share their observations and decide which problems to fix and what you’re going to do to fix them.
  • FOCUS RUTHLESSLY ON FIXING THE MOST SERIOUS PROBLEMS FIRST

Chapter 10

  • Having something pinned down can have a focusing effect, where a blank canvas with its unlimited options—while it sounds liberating—can have a paralyzing effect.
  • One approach was Mobile First. Instead of designing a full-featured (and perhaps bloated) version of your Web site first and then paring it down to create the mobile version, you design the mobile version first based on the features and content that are most important to your users. Then you add on more features and content to create the desktop/full version.
  • In some cases, the lack of space on each screen means that mobile sites become much deeper than their full-size cousins, so you might have to tap down three, four, or five “levels” to get to some features or content. This means that people will be tapping more, but that’s OK. With small screens it’s inevitable: To see the same amount of information, you’re going to be either tapping or scrolling a lot more. As long as the user continues to feel confident that what they want is further down the screen or behind that link or button, they’ll keep going. Here’s the main thing to remember, though:
  • MANAGING REAL ESTATE CHALLENGES SHOULDN’T BE DONE AT THE COST OF USABILITY
  • Always provide a link to the “full” Web site. No matter how fabulous and complete your mobile site is, you do need to give users the option of viewing the non-mobile version, especially if it has features and information that aren’t available in your mobile version. (The current convention is to put a Mobile Site/Full Site toggle at the bottom of every page.)
  • Affordances are visual clues in an object’s design that suggest how we can use it.
  • For affordances to work, they need to be noticeable, and some characteristics of mobile devices have made them less noticeable or, worse, invisible. And by definition, affordances are the last thing you should hide.
  • Flat design has a tendency to take along with it not just the potentially distracting decoration but also the useful information that the more textured elements were conveying.

Chapter 11

  • I’ve always found it useful to imagine that every time we enter a Web site, we start out with a reservoir of goodwill. Each problem we encounter on the site lowers the level of that reservoir.

Chapter 12

  • About i18n… It’s the right thing to do. And not just the right thing; it’s profoundly the right thing to do, because the one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. Personally, I don’t think anyone should need more than this one example: Blind people with access to a computer can now read almost any newspaper or magazine on their own. Imagine that.
  • And for those of you who don’t find this argument compelling, be aware that even if you haven’t already encountered it, there will be a legislative stick coming sooner or later. Count on it.
  • “Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites: Observing Users Who Work with Screen Readers.”

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