5 Timeless Web Development Rules from “Don’t Make Me Think” Book

Over 20 years have passed since the first edition of Steve Krug’s book “Don’t Make Me Think” and we can all agree that this is a classic book on web development and UX design. During these two decades the web pages have changed but lots of principles from this book have remained as actual and powerful as they used to be in 2000. I chose the top 5 things that still make me think about the “Don’t Make Me Think” book.

Book "Don't Make Me Think"

1. People don't read – they scan your website

As Krug wisely wrote, we should not create elaborations about our company because people will not read them. Display a short and clear message about your brand. Include a title and tagline that visibly shows what your page is about. Omit needless words, especially adjectives. Do not write that your product is amazing, write what benefits it brings to the table.

I especially appreciate Krug’s tip to omit needless words:

[...] I find I have no trouble getting rid of half of the words on most Web pages without losing anything of value. But removing half of what’s left is just my way of trying to encourage people to be ruthless about it.

Give people beef otherwise they will just ignore your words.

2. Every second matters

Web users are impatient and have problems focusing for longer than 8 seconds. Therefore your page has to load fast and its interface cannot make them think about what to do on the website and what this page is actually about. Every second matters. Krug knew that in 2000 and our users expect that from us. Google practically demands that. The search giant takes page load statistics as one of the key performance metrics that influence your page rank.

3. Conventions are better than reinventing the wheel

Conventions are friendly to users. As they go through dozens or even hundreds of sites daily, they expect them to be similar with a well-known interface. Krug brought a great example in the book – if you develop a shopping cart page for eCommerce, use the cart icon to visualize it. Do not think about any other icon. Do not confuse people. Users expect to find a shopping cart to check their purchases so give it to them.

Of course, you are allowed to look for other solutions for your website, not every convention is unbreakable. But when you offer a new solution, make sure that it is simpler than the previous one.

4. Show me what I'm looking for

Kruk wrote that in 2000 and it is still the crucial rule of web development. That is the core of Google’s success – we ask and get what we want. Google has been developing the algorithm to give its users what they expect. This seems obvious, but do you really generate traffic to websites that meet users expectations?

5. Don’t assume – do tests

“My uncle doesn’t like…“ stop right there. The anecdotal evidence is a basic human way to understand life. But that is no evidence at all. In the web development world we have to totally resist the temptation to go this way. The thoughts like “I never fill in contact forms, let’s skip them.” or “This creation is ugly, who would click on that?” gives no value. We need to test, not assume.

“Don’t Make Me Think” Book Summary

Krug’s book shows how to conquer the chaos that were websites at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. The book is still amazingly up to date because Steve Krug actually built the whole ground for web development and usability testing. We are where we are thanks to the books like “Don’t Make Me Think”. I still recommend it even if the included screens from various web pages are old, and so cringe. 😉 But Krug's statements are not old at all. Reading this book is like a journey to the past with many timeless stops on the way. Every web developer, product designer, copywriter and marketing specialist should read it.