Don’t Make Me Think Revisited by Steve Krug is a usability and user experience book. It’s a series of well-illustrated rules for getting the basics of usability into a web site. There is also an excellent chapter on how to run your own usability test on the cheap. The revisited edition includes some information about working on mobile apps, and mobile web sites as well. The rules of creating a good navigation system was a great way to codify things you know but may have struggled to express.
Krug’s guidance on running your own cheap usability study comes down to using fewer users and putting together a simpler reporting plan. Instead of having 20 users and generating a giant report, you get two or three users and select a couple of important things that can be actively fixed. You don’t need a report with hundreds of issues, since once you fix a couple of issues the rest of it might not be useful anymore. Once you run one study and fix those issues, iterate and try again. It’s almost like A/B testing except it works on smaller scales.
The information on mobile testing goes beyond the usual advice of “make the buttons bigger” and “put less on each page.” Krug’s advice on deep linking on mobile is obvious, that it needs to work when you navigate to a full site url on a mobile device needs to work, but nobody seems to get it right. And, even though this is minor, the number one thing I got from the mobile chapter was a way to combine a webcam and a clip on light, and build a mount that lets you see what the user’s hands are doing while they’re using the app. That’s way more useful than conventional video recording equipment where you would mount the phone but then they don’t hold the phone normally. Plus it only takes an hour to put together and costs about $30.
Krug’s rules for a navigation system basically boil down to the obvious. Keep the navigation consistent page to page. Make it clear where you are in the application. Put the things most people want in easy to find places. Ensure that every page has a name and it is in a consistent place, which maybe isn’t as immediately intuitive as the other rules. However, when I went and checked some sites and most seem to do this. Putting all of these rules together comes out as an explanation of the tabbed design and why it became so common.
Overall design is not one of my strong interests, but this is a good primer on the topic to help keep you from doing anything too silly. I certainly feel like I can put Krug’s advice into practice. There are also lots of references to some other books if you want to try and dig in deeper.