... when you don't make me think

Steve Krug’s book “Don’t Make Me Think” made me think all the time, but in a good way - I wanted to remember all his great tips and apply them when appropriate.

I typed these excerpts from the book more than three months ago. I didn’t want this book to be the kind of book that you read, think it’s a great book, and then forget. After not coming back to the excerpts for a while, surprisingly it still made a lot of sense to me when I read it today. I was able to refresh my memory. I hope it will be useful for people who have read the book but want to refresh themselves or for people who haven’t decided if it’s worth reading. It is ;)

Below you will find:

  • excerpts from every chapter
  • a list of web sources from the book
  • a list of suggested books from all of the chapters

*Everything below is excerpts from “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug.


Read me first:

If something is usable it means that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can figure out how to use the thing to accomplish something without it being more trouble than it’s worth.

Chapter 1

People don’t like to puzzle over how to do things. They enjoy puzzles in their place - when they want to be entertained or diverted or challenged - but not when they’re trying to find out what time their dry cleaner closes.

No question marks. No mental chatter. And no errors. The most important thing you can do is to understand the basic principle of eliminating question marks.

Your goal should be for each page or screen to be self-evident, so that just by looking at it the average user will know what it is and how to use it.

If you can’t make something self-evident, you at least need to make it self-explanatory (when it takes a little to “get it”).

Chapter 2

When we’re designing pages, we tend to assume that users will scan the page, consider all of the available options, and choose the best one. In reality, though, most of the time we don’t choose the best option - we choose the first reasonable option, a strategy known as satisficing.

Chapter 3

If you can make something significantly clearer by making it slightly inconsistent, choose in favor of clarity.

Ideally, on any well-designed Web page users can play a variation of the old TV game show $25,000 Pyramid. Glancing around, they should be able to point at the different areas of the page and say, “Things I can do on this site!” “Links to today’s top stories!” “Products this company sells!” etc.

Don’t let your headings float. Make sure they’re closer to the section they introduce than to the section they follow. This makes a huge difference.

Chapter 4

Users don’t mind a lot of clicks as long as each click is painless and they have confidence that they’re on the right track.

Chapter 5

Survey introduction example:

Please help us improve the site by taking 2-3 minutes to complete this survey.

Note: If you have comments or concerns that require a response, don’t use this form. Instead, please contact Customer Service.

Chapter 6

A third-level navigation is confusing.


  • Because multi-level navigation is just plain hard to design.
  • Designers usually don’t even have enough time to figure out the first two levels.
  • It just doesn’t seem that important.

Chapter 7

Make it clear what the site is.

The Home page needs to answer the four questions I have in my head when I enter a new site for the first time: What is this?
What can I do here?
What do they have here?
Why should I be here - and not somewhere else?

If people are lost when they start out, they usually just keep getting… loster.

Good taglines convey differentiation and a clear benefit. Jakob Nielsen has suggested that a really good tagline is one that no one else in the world could use except you. When I enter a new site, after a quick look around the Home page I should be able to say with confidence:
Here’s where to start if I want to search.
Here’s where to start if I want to browse.
Here’s where to start if I want to sample their best stuff.

Chapter 8

There is no Average User.

All web users are unique and all web is basically idiosyncratic.

Chapter 9

Testing one user is 100% better that testing none.

Testing one user early in the project is better than testing 50 near the end.

You should try to do whatever you can to encourage everyone - team members, stakeholders, managers, and even executives - to come and watch the test sessions.

Focus ruthlessly on fixing the most serious problems first.

Chapter 10

In a mobile version of your site always provide a link to the “full” Web site.


Usability test script

Usability Demo Video

How to Recruit Participants for Usability Studies

Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites: Observing Users Who Work With Screen Readers

Learn how to write good alt text


Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions by Gary Klein

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Letting Go of the Words by Ginny Redish

Forms that Work: Designing Web Forms for Usability by Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffney

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences by Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery

Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance by Richard Rutter and more authors

Cost-justifying Usability: An Update for the Internet Age by Randolph Bias and Deborah Mayhew

It’s Our Research: Getting Stakeholder Buy-In for User Experience Research Projects by Tomer Sharon

The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

How to Get People to Do Stuff by Susan Weinschenk

Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug