All that comes with 'Common Sense'

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In the introduction of his text Don't Make Me Think: Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug makes the statement:

 "The good news is that much of what I do is just common sense...Like a lot of common sense, though, it's not necessarily obvious until after someone's pointed it out to you."(p. 5)

Too true.  I the majority of the ideas presented in Krug's intro-ch.3 can be summarized in this statement.  After all, the mantra presented in Ch. 1, the "golden rule" of web usability (and aptly the title of his book) is "Don't make me think."  This idea, all about eliminating the questions from web users' minds before they have time to form is common sense; its common sense to design something that is as easy to use as possible.  This is often what we want as web users.  However, this idea sometimes gets pushed to the back as we start to design web pages.  Krug says this is true for all web designers, but I think it is especially true for new web designers...like me!  My head is so filled with content ideas and basic web writing principles that is difficult to remember what I actually act like and look for when I'm using the web.

The major ideas of ch. 2 are also common sense ideas.  The first, "We don't read pages, we scan them," is very similar to what Kilian presented in Writing for the Web 3.0 (p. 22).  We scan pages, so we need "chunked" text and clear presentation of orientation, information and action.

The other two ideas were new, that is, the idea that web users "satisfice" and that web users "muddle through." (p. 24, 26) Again, common sense ideas that weren't so clear until they were pointed out.  I may have thought I picked the optimal choice when I was using a page, but looking back on it I usually click on the first, and most closely related option.  And I always muddle through things; if something works for me, I do it, regardless of whether that's fulfilling the site's official "mission" or "goal."  Why wouldn't we, after all?

Together, I think all these common sense ideas came together to form the common sense approach to design presented in Ch. 4.  Krug says:

"Faced the fact that your users are whizzing by, there are five important things you can do to make sure they see- and understand-as much of your site as possible:

Create a clear visual hierarchy

Take advantage of conventions

Break pages up into clearly defined areas

Make it obvious what's clickable

Minimize noise." (p. 31)

There were two things I noticed about these design guidelines.  The first is that they applied to the critiques I got about my own website on Friday.  Most of the comments my partner and I got fell into one of these five categories.  Second, these guidelines loosely paralleled the guidelines for designing print communication materials; that is, contrast, proximity, repetition and alignment.  Because of the similarity between these two sets of guidelines, I realized the web was more like a communication document than an actual work of literature.  I know we've been building on this idea for a while, but this connection really made me grasp the idea.  It really solidified the idea of just how briefly users really spend looking at and reading websites; truly a lot faster than I imagined originally.

 

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