As I endeavor to write this book report, something I haven’t done in a long long time, I hope you don’t mind if I don’t take the boring beaten path, or maybe it will be, and try to write something semi-entertaining, at least to me, before you print and place this masterpiece at the bottom of a bird cage or worse.
I hope you don’t mind if I take this chapter by chapter, but that seems like a good way to lay a trail of comments that might lead us back to the original goal of writing a thorough report and kind of showing that I really read the whole book.
I wondered why anyone would write a book called Don’t Make Me Think, because after all, isn’t that what a book is supposed to do, make one think? Even a book with just pictures makes you think of something. My Anatomy/Physiology text comes to mind immediately. I took that class when I thought I was going to be a doctor, yeah right!
Anyway, there was a male model in that book who did a bunch of weird poses in the nude, and he was alive at the time of the photos! Most of the time we worked on cadavers. The photos were very disturbing for me because he looked like Sgt. Carter from the hit TV show Gomer Pyle – U.S.M.C. I thought the actor who played Sgt. Carter, Frank Sutton, must not have been able to find a job after the show went off the air and had to do nude modeling to survive. Anyway, I tried to find a picture of the guy on the internet so I could put a hyperlink here, but apparently he wasn’t worth archiving.
Back to Don’t Make Me Think, that stream of consciousness happened because of the books title. It made me go to the internet to start looking for all this Gomer Pyle, Sgt. Carter, male nude medical model stuff and I was struck at how easy and intuitive it was find some things, but not others. I also paid attention to how easy or hard some of the web pages were to navigate. Then, I got it. You really don’t want to think when using the web. The best pages are laid out like we breath, natural, like the autonomic nervous system.
As Krug describes in his intro and further on in chapter one, it’s as easy as clicking on a web page and just knocking around to discover whether a web page has good usability or it’s just a mess. Like Krug’s book, there is elegance in simplicity (no, it’s not mine. I heard it somewhere and can’t remember where so I can’t attribute it). But, simplicity doesn’t come easy. One has to work at it so that it get’s to the point where one doesn’t have to think about what you do to get what you want.
I think Krug makes a great point when he alludes to that age old journalism adage, see dog say dog, for clickable items on a web page. Buttons should be obvious and the text on them should be obvious as well. There is nothing worse than having to click, click, click, click to find what your looking for. I know, he said, “two clicks away.” Companies like Amazon have gotten it because their very existence depends on it. But what most other companies don’t yet realize is that their very existence depends on intuitive simplicity too.
Self-evident is the term that I take from Chapter one. It’s the most obvious way to keep your page, regardless of what it is, user friendly. How does one do that? Well, I guess you could pay teams of people lots of money to do it for you, or you could read chapter two.
Chapter 2 talks about web pages as billboards. I never really gave it much thought until I passed an electronic billboard on the freeway today. The way I experienced that billboard, one message after another, really is how I experience the web. Difference is, I flip from one page to the next while the electronic billboard does it for me. I think that’s why I enjoy Flipboard so much. It is literally a constantly updating electronic billboard on my phone and iPad that has created instant and unwavering usability in my endless search for knowledge. You know, like Superman. Alright, it’s not endless, but I do go searching. Really, it’s more like scanning, as Krug points out.
I once took a speed reading course and it as with the idea of training myself to retain every bit of information I read and quickly. What I soon learned is that I didn’t need to retain everything. Even if I could it would just fill my head with more useless trivia than I already havw. What the class was really training me for was the future when the web would allow me to point and click and take in as much or as little info as possible though an ever changing landscape that I could paint myself with a mouse or a touchscreen.
Cruising the web was great in the beginning until I realized that, again, most of what I was reading was clutter and trivial. People don’t like vacuums any more than nature and so they try to fill their webpages up with all kinds of stuff, but that doesn’t make it usable and it doesn’t make everything on it worth reading. So yes, we learn to “satisfice.” I really liked the fire field commander (Battalion Chief) example because I’ve seen it play out many times in real life situations. In a time of crisis one makes the best first decision possible because there isn’t time to weigh every option. Positive action, at least initially, is better than no action at all.
On the web, no harm no foul for making wrong clicks, unless it leads to malware, or getting hacked. But for the most part it’s just part of the discovery process and as Krug points out the experience becomes unique to the user, but the tools and their usability placed in front of the user determines their experience.
Chapter three talks about billboard design and that has to be as challenging a task as any when making a site user friendly. But like the example of the Royal Seal used as a nutcracker, the web makes us all innovators in how we use the tools available to us to accomplish what we want. That’s why it is so important to get the layout correct. Chapter three does the point of stating that more important things should be in bigger font. I get that, but I really believe that if fonts are going to be a link to more information then there should really be a two size rule; important and super important. Everything else would be related to the important and/or super-important. Anyway, just my two cents on making billboarding a little less confusing. I mean, we only really look at the big stuff anyway and then hone in after that.
Chapter Four let’s us know how far a klick should be after we click. Clicks are like the game show “Let’s Make a Deal.” Each time one clicks there should be something there worth clicking for, a prize if you will. And really that’s the key. If one is directed to click on something (except “click here”) there should be a pay-off. For example, I like bass guitars. So if I go to a bass guitar web site whatever I click on better lead me to a bass or information about a bass that is new and useful or else I will move on to the next web page. That’s how it should be with our stories. If we have clickable items then they should lead to a nice prize behind click number 1, 2,3 or however many there are.
Chapter 5 reminds me of the story told about Samuel Clemens. It’s said he wrote his father a 10 page letter and after his final salutation and signature he wrote a p.s. It said, I’m sorry this letter was so long. I didn’t have time to write a shorter one. (Opp’s, sounds like this book report). No doubt, needless words are the bane of all good writing. And of course, as Krug points out, web wordiness is often driven by the need to fill space. However, the web is space that is filled by itself. We only need to put things there that have meaning. So, zip it… In a literary sense.
Chapter 6 is about web site organizational clarity and attraction. Huh, did I just say that. I feel like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. Creating an organizational flow is like breathing. Such a simple thing in practice, but highly complex in execution. We need it, but how do we do it. Same with a web site. it needs to be clear and attractive, but most importantly, useful. Get it. I worked at Sears. The signs were great, the aisles were straight, but the shelves were messy. Just like Krug’s explanation of web navigation. He comes from the premise that we are forever lost on the web. I think it’s more we are forever discovering on the web and it’s up to the designers to make sure we don’t get too far off course, unless that’s where we want to go.
Chapter 7, heh, he stole my game show example. Not fair! Anyway, if ever there was a place to advance the notion that there is elegance in simplicity, it is the home page. Oh, by the way, there is no essential.com. There may have been, but not now. Anyway, I know there lots of temptation to make the home page as busy as possible because you want to say it all. This is where that old saying about first impressions really comes home to roost. It should be like a box of chocolates. You open the box and want to try each one. Anyway, that’s my analogy. Each click should be a tasty treat of information that relates to your primary message or branding and it should take you to other tasty treats. Think I’d better get a snack.
Okay, I’m back. Chapter 8. As Miss Prissy said in Gone with the Wind, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ baby’s.!” I don’t really know what chapter 8 was about; something about cows and plows and developers and designers and pull down menus. As journalist, for the most part those things are out of our hands. We just give the stories to the web team with all the built in goodies and hope the heck they know how to put it up in its most useful way.
Chapter 9, really! I can barely get my stories in on time and now I have to test the web page for usability. I know, this is a what if you were a usability person. Really, I think that we all should have some experience with coding. It is amazing how simple, yet involved it can be. What’s more amazing to me is that some people actually find it exhilarating. Takes all kinds. Anyway, I read it I realized this chapter was way to long and I had no real interest in testing procedures for web site ease of use issues. Sorry.
I always wondered what a “mench” is so I’m glad Chapter 10 led me to actually look it up. It sounds like it should have a negative connotation, but it is actually positive. In case you don’t know what it means I will not tell you so you can experience the joy I felt in discovering on my own and not through my Jewish friends what it means by looking it up (on the web) myself. If I speak one word of Yiddish does that quality me as tri-lingual? If you say yes you are such a mench! I get it, web pages should be a mench.
John Frazee does not make sense with his buttered cat story. The cat lands on its feet, the toast lands on the buttered side. Neither one of them spins or hovers. I don’t get it. Chapter 11 and accessibility . I thought by linking to the ADA website on Standards for Accessible Design it would cover Chapter 11. Important stuff, but I have never thought about how it is accomplished when I am writing a story. May be now I will start thinking about cascading style sheets in my stories. Really.
Chapter 12, I’ll be you thought this would never end. I think if I have any shot to be employable in the future, I’d better have at least a cursory understanding of how a web pages usability impacts the users experience and what can be done to make that experience the best it can be in order to bring users back and draw more users to the fold. There is one thing. Krug states, Make all content accessible by keyboard. Remember, not everyone can use a mouse. I think he should remember that sometimes the only thing one can use is a mouse. so, it works both ways and touch screens are a way to make accessibility more viable.
Anyway, that’s it. What day is it? What’s my name? Where’s my car? Hope this meets the requirements. If not I’ll have to start all over and write an even longer book report for you to read. You don’t want that, do you?