Thinking: The Mistake Your Website Shouldn’t Make

Anyone who’s spent any time around me at all knows I’m a fan of Steve Krug’s book, “Don’t Make Me Think.” But what exactly does that mean? Clearly, we do want them to think about our content. What we don’t want them to think about is how to find our content or the contact form or anything else for that matter. We want to avoid playing with expectations. Cleverness should not get in the way of clarity.

Quiet Desperation: Holiday Stress

Anyone who’s spent any time around me at all knows I’m a fan of Steve Krug’s book, “Don’t Make Me Think.” But what exactly does that mean? Clearly, we do want them to think about our content.

What we don’t want them to think about is how to find our content or the contact form or anything else for that matter. We want to avoid playing with expectations. Cleverness should not get in the way of clarity.

With that in mind, and the hope that you’ll find a copy of Don’t Make Me Think for yourself — it’s a quick read! — here are some of the practical applications of the “Krug Philosophy.”

Keep It Simple

If you overproduce a web page — as can often happen if it’s the design team that’s leading the show — it’s more likely that visitors will dismiss important information as marketing fluff. This goes for the big picture as well as granular elements like buttons and links. That isn’t to say that your site needs to look like Craigslist, but you should be sure that user-friendliness doesn’t take a back seat to design for design’s sake.

Two notes on this: first, simplicity may be, well, simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you’re going to have “less design,” you’re probably going to have to sweat the details more to get it right. And second, laugh at Craigslist if you want, but first have a look at the website of perhaps the world’s leading usability experts, the Nielsen Norman Group. Chances are, they’re site resembles the Craigslist site more than it does yours.

Keep It Digestible

You might be tempted to tell them everything you can. Don’t. If you think that laying it all out there is the way not to miss anyone who might be even vaguely interested in what you’re selling you’re wrong.

First of all, doing so makes you sound desperate, like a kid laying out every possible reason, most of them entirely irrelevant, why she should be allowed to go to the big party this weekend …

Second, well, it’s too much. People will skip the wall of text in search of something that can give them the information they want quickly.

But be sure you understand why speed is so important here. I don’t buy the whole “short attention span” argument in this case. Most of us have plenty of attention to give to the things that are important. But we’re all busy and we want to solve our problems quickly. Concise copy make that possible. Give me the supporting data at a secondary level. I’ll seek it out if I want it.

Make Search Matter

It has to work, its granularity has to fit the needs of the site, and results pages have to be useful. In other words, don’t provide more facets/filters than you have content to support. The result will be too many empty search results pages, which never looks good.

Author: Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured?

A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms encourage audience engagement through solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either.

His work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components, and he has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events. His writing appears in various online and print publications. 

Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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