Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think takes a look at website usability and simplicity. The point he hammers home throughout the book is how important it is for web designers to produce a clean and simple product for users to navigate.
According to Krug, “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.”
In theory, the idea of constructing a simple web page seems… well, rather simple. But, when trying to create and launch your own website, you may overshoot and certain features of the site could become too complicated to use.
Knowing a few main features that a majority of users will want to use on the site helps streamline the process. In a day and age of mobile and tablet apps, placing features into a hierarchy of importance becomes increasingly critical. After all, when using one of these devices rather than a traditional desktop computer, less information can be displayed to the user at any given time (due to the size restraints imposed by the screen).
Once you identify which features you want your website to highlight, the next part becomes arranging them in a useful way on your website. The main goal for this stage should be all about usability. Put the most used features at the top of the webpage and make them easy for users to access. The easier it is for users to navigate around your webpage, the more likely they’ll be to return to your site in the future.
In his book, Krug calls the distractions he finds on websites “noise.” According to him, there are three types of noise: shouting, disorganization, and clutter.
Shouting occurs when you fail to decide which features of the website you will highlight for users. According to Krug, “The truth is, everything can’t be important. Shouting is usually the result of a failure to make tough decisions about which elements are the most important and create a visual hierarchy that guides users to them first.” In order to keep shouting to a minimum, its important to remember that often times “less is more.”
Websites are disorganized when its most used features are hidden deep down on the webpage. Krug wants you to make a visual hierarchy for your website, meaning the most important things for the user should be located at the top of the webpage and be easy for people to find and use.
The idea of clutter jumps on the heels of both shouting and disorganization. When a webpage has too much going on, it can be intimidating for users. Online, but especially with mobile apps, it is important to structure words and sentences into easily digestible paragraphs. “Keep paragraphs short. Long paragraphs confront the reader with what Caroline Jarrett and Ginny Redish call a ‘wall of words.’ They’re daunting, they make it harder for readers to keep their place, and they’re harder to scan than a series of shorter paragraphs.”
In my opinion, I think Krug is spot-on with his ideas about webpages. They should be simple so even the most technologically-inept user can navigate the site, while also being a positive reflection of the company. Thinking of real life examples for his ideas wasn’t difficult because his observations are being put to use by many of the top websites that people use every day (Google, ESPN.com, etc.).