Insider Interview: Steve Krug (Part 1)
Steve Krug is the author of Don’t Make Me Think and Rocket Surgery Made Easy. His books are based on the 20+ years he’s spent as a usability consultant for a wide variety of clients like Apple, Bloomberg.com, Lexus.com, NPR, and many others.
Steve recently joined us to talk about the latest version of his book, Don't Make Me Think.
- Get an exclusive sneak peek from his new book by clicking here.
- Listen to the first part of the interview in its entirety by clicking the "play" button on the video below, or read snippets from the interview (selected by Steve himself) in the following section.
Could you tell us why, after 14 years, did you decide that it was time to revisit your book? [00:52]
I did a second edition about six years ago, and the candid story about that is all over the place. Basically, I did it because I could get a new contract. I didn’t think there was that much that had changed. I read through it again, and thought, “This is still all pretty much what I’d say, and still pretty much all true.”
Here it is now, another six or seven years later, and as I describe in the introduction to the new edition, it’s no surprise to anybody that things have changed a lot lately. [laughs] .
For the people who have read previous editions of Don’t Make Me Think, what do you think is the most important takeaway from this new edition? [3:24]
I think out of the top 20 takeaways, like 16 of them are still the same top takeaways from the first edition, because even though the technology changes really fast, the basic usability issues don’t change that fast.
...even though the technology changes really fast, the basic usability issues don’t change that fast.
But on the other hand there are a bunch of new things happening and a lot of them relate to mobile where there really are different considerations for usability, given that mobile just fell out of the sky like a piano and landed on us.
I guess one of the key takeaways for mobile is to have an understanding of exactly how many tradeoffs you’re dealing with. Particularly where people are compelled to come up with a one‑size‑fits‑all design, I think they need to be aware that there are always going to be tradeoffs and that you can make whatever tradeoffs you want as long as you’re continually going in and making sure that you haven’t messed up the usability.
Is there anything aside from just how fast mobile’s been progressing that really inspired you to devote a section of this to your new book? [8:13]
I did do a little bit of user research. [laughs] I would ask people, particularly whenever they asked me if I was going to do a new edition, "What would you want in it?" They’d think about it and they’d say, “Maybe new examples. And mobile.”
We know you’re a bit of a perfectionist. Was there anything in particular that was really difficult for you to cut from the book that we’re not seeing in this particular edition? [9:58]
One was I felt a little bad about not having a section with the heading “If you love Amazon so much, why don’t you marry it?” because that was one of my favorite headings.
But that section was focused on tabs and obviously Amazon hasn’t used tabs for 10 years now. I actually think I’m going to do a blog post, the title of which would be, “If you still love Amazon so much, why don’t you marry it?” and talk about the other things that I think Amazon does incredibly well.
Could you tell the listeners how they could keep track of what you’re doing and how they can follow you online? [13:25]
I actually have a blog and I always say I’m going to start writing more on my blog, but I think this time around I probably will, because I have so much stuff left over in my head that there wasn’t room or time enough to do in the book.
What parts of websites are still consistently bad, or at least still consistently need improvement, and what should people be doing to address them? [15:37]
Part of doing the new edition of the book meant going out and looking at a lot of stuff.
What surprised me was—and this is where I’m going to get in trouble—that I was disappointed that in some ways stuff was just falling apart, I find, rather than getting better. I was disappointed by a lot of what I saw, and it was hard to find really good examples of things done well
...I was disappointed that in some ways stuff was just falling apart, I find, rather than getting better.I attribute some of it to the fact that people are so busy refitting new storm windows for mobile, and trying things out, but we’ll see.
How can people use your book to get their managers or teammates to buy in? [29:20]
What I usually recommend is if people aren’t doing usability work where you are, do a skunkworks thing and put on a usability test. Just say, "All right, we’re going to do a usability test of our competitors. So next Thursday we’re going to have two people come in and they’re going to use two of our competitor’s sites to try and do the same thing they would do on our site, and everybody’s invited and we’re going to have really good snacks," because you know how much I tout the value of good snacks.
Then just do it, and the nice thing about it is people will come and watch because everybody wants to know how your competitors are doing. Everybody assumes that you’re doing OK, but they really want to know how your competitors are doing.
You made us wait about four years between Rocket Surgery Made Easy and your latest edition of Don’t Make Me Think. Are there any books in the works, and what can we expect it to be about? [33:54]
I suppose I should do an update of Rocket Surgery just to encompass mobile testing, because mobile testing wasn’t a thing when I wrote it. I put some of that in the testing chapter in this new edition, including Brundlefly, my mobile testing camera cobbled together from a book light and a webcam.
I love the ’90s sci‑fi reference of Brundlefly. That movie [The Fly] scared me as a kid.
(Editor's Note: Cronenberg's The Fly was released in 1986 - there goes our Sci-Fi credibility.)
I just watched it the other day and it scared me. Cronenberg at his best. It was really creepy. Plus what’s‑her‑name, was so gorgeous at the time. What is her name? She was married to Jeff Goldblum at the time.
I can’t think of her name either.
See now, if only we had a way to look that up.
What’s the best way for us to be able to get your new book? [37:21]
The best way for me [laughs] is to go to Sensible.com and go to the page for Don’t Make Me Think, and click on one of the links there that are going to make me an extra dollar from Amazon Associates. If you feel like taking an extra two clicks and doing me a favor, then that’s always nice. It’s available in Kindle on Amazon and it’s available in the other e‑book formats and PDF at the Peachpit.com site. There are links for all of those on the book page at my site.
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- What Steve thinks is the offline (real world) product with the best usability
- His tip for the #1 thing to keep in mind with moderated and unmoderated testing
- Whether or not he has changed his mind on the ideal number of testers for a study
- and more!
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