Friday, 2 January 2015

Reference Notes

Chapter 1 Don't Make Me Think 

When looking at a web page " should be self-evident. Obvious. Self explanatory.

Using a site that doesn't make us think about unimportant things feels effortless, whereas puzzling over things that don't matter to us tends to sap or energy and enthusiasm - and time.

He basically saying when he looks at a really well designed website, where information is accessible and the message is built-in, that he doesn't have to think and can therefore enjoy the time he spends there. This contrasts a poorly designed websites where the goal of the user becomes just to understand how to it works and what it's function is, this "thinking", at best, distracts the user from the design, at worst, alienates the user from the design.

Chapter 2 How we really use the Web

"Rule #1 - We don't read pages. We scan them." Pg 22


"We're usually in a hurry" - We're motivated to save time and energy.

"We know we don't need to understand everything" - only a fraction of the information matters to us, there for this is what we scan for

"We're good at it."- we have been scanning things like magazines and newspapers all our lives, we know it works.

"Rule #2 - We don't make optimal choices. We satisfice*." Pg 24
(*Satisfice - a cross between satisfying and sufficing.)


"We're usually in a hurry" - making an optimal choice is hard and takes more time.

"There is not much of a penalty for guessing wrong" - the user can go back if they choose wrong ( in fact... the back button is the most used feature of Web Browsers)

"Weighing options may not improve our chances" - a lot of poorly designed sites exist where nothing makes sense and it is often easier taking a quick chance and just using the back button if you've got it wrong.

"Guessing is more fun" - if you guess right, it's faster and introduces a element of chance

"Rule #3 - We don't figure out how things work. We muddle through." Pg 26

"It's not important to us" - most people don't need to understand things as long as they can use them to there own ends

"If we find something that works, we stick to it." - once we find something that works for us, no matter how badly, we are unlikely to try and find an alternate way unless we stumble across it.

Chapter 3 - Billboard Design 101

This is important knowledge because now we get an idea that our messages have to be clear, consider and directed. Following this, he gives a list of things to do to make sure that the user sees and understand the site as much as possible (pg31)

Create a clear visual hierarchy on each page
Take advantage of users existing knowledge and the conventions they already know
Order pages into clear divided section
Make any user interaction obvious; navigation, links, buttons etc
Focus attention by minimising any unnecessary noise, less is more

He goes on to say that "there is nothing new about visual hierarchies. Every newspaper page, for instance, uses prominence, grouping, and nesting to give us useful information about the content of the page before we read the words." Pg32 

Para phrasing "We all parse visual hierarchy, we do it automatically, the only time we are aware of it is when we are forced to think about it due to the absence of the visual cues."
Pg 33

The book talks about convention and that these pre-existing cues for people should be used not ignored. He adds that; designer usually, wrongly, assume that they are hired to create something new and exiting but when doing so they focusing on design too much and they should realise that the aim is to focus the user on the content. 
(NTS: Don't reinvent the wheel just for the sake of it, you can still design something great just use these conventions to your advantage and don't get hung up on it being something no one has ever seen before, that would be working against you)

Chapter 4 - Animal, vegetable or mineral?

This chapter discusses click-throughs. There is a general consensus that there should be a limited amount of click through a, however, he argues that it is not how many click there are it is how often you are required to engage your brain. If the click are easy, obvious choices, leading you directly to what you want then it's a choice that take little time to consider. Keep the clicks mindless.

Chapter 5 - Omit needless word

Kruger third law of usability "get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of whats left" pg 45

The reasons for this are simple; it reduces the noise of the page, it makes relevant content more prominent and it makes the page digestible at a glance.

"Happy talk must die" pg 46
(*happy talk - content that serves no purpose except to enclave the ego of the writer, eg welcome text)

"Instruction must die" pg 47
Basically acknowledging that people have good instincts about the web so a lot of the time it is unnecessary to tell them how to suck eggs

If you remove these two forms of conversation you get much more efficient copy.

Chapter 6 - Street Signs and Breadcrumbs 

This chapter discusses user psychology and the transition from real world thinking to digital world thinking in regard to finding your way around a website. He raise the similarities between wandering round a mall looking for a product and using a website in the same way. In both there are paths and directions you take and you know to take these from signs and asking for help. This works the same way online by way of navigation and search engines.


He talks about the hierarchy of navigation the same way you use shop signs:

Mall sign
Shop sign
Isle sign
Shelf sign
Product name

Equates to:

Website name
Navigation Bar
Sub sub category
Product list
Product name

Consumers use this type of thinking to find what they are looking for. If they can't find what they are looking because something in the chain doesn't make sense or is missing for they get frustrated. 


Search is just like asking a shop assistant for help and getting them to take you straight to the product.

Users use these two methods of searching in three ways; stubborn nav searching, straight to the search engine or a mixture of the two. If any of these ways of searching isn't finding what your looking for you have the back up of the other. However, if both fail the user will leave.

He mentions that there are key differences from the real world:

There's no sense of scale - we have no idea how big the site is, whether it's a 10 page site or a 1000 page site. You've no idea what's on the next page.
No sense of direction - there is no concept of up and down left and right, this means we are unaware of where we are. 
No sense of location - we cannot get a sense of our surrounding, for example without bookmarks it would be very difficult to take shortcuts come back to something you were looking at.

Due to the lack of orientation two things become very important, homepage because it is a fixed point and the back button allowing us to quickly retrace our steps.

However, because there is no sense of physical space, getting from one place to another requires little to no effort and therefore has no consequences. This makes searching significantly easier to do for longer.

In this regard, there are some overlooked benefits of navigation:

It gives us something to hold on to and allows us a fixed point to go back to.
It reveals content, giving us an idea of what we can expect to find on the site
It gives us a starting point and tells us how to use a site
If done well, it creates a good impression allowing the user to feel confident about browsing and potentially 

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