Monday, June 24, 2013

Thinking of Page 48 in the Second Edition of Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think

I'm reading Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think: A common sense approach to web usability, which is a good resource for anyone thinking about course design, chunking, and a minimalist approach to content development. For one, in its own design it provides several good examples of chunking and minimalist content. It's one of those books that models what it preaches, so when you read it you're also experiencing its principles in use.

 The idea behind the title is that people go to the web to find information that helps them perform tasks, and the best sites help users find what they need with the least possible effort. According to Krug, one way to chunk effectively is to get rid of half of the words on each page and then get rid of half of what's left. He's only half kidding about the second round of cuts, and his point is that people skim Web content, check out what seems close to what they're looking for, and don't read word for word until they find what they need.

When it comes to finding what users are looking for, most words just get in their way. From the content-development point of view, it's easier to chunk less content than more content. Therefore, he says cut all welcome messages and self-promoting "happy talk" as he calls it. Also, and this is the more vital concern for instructional designers, Krug says: "instructions must die."
"Your objective should always be to eliminate instructions entirely by making everything self-explanatory, or as close to is as possible. When instructions are absolutely necessary, cut them back to the bare minimum." 
Then Krug provides an example of instructions that he prunes from 103 words to 41, one benefit of which is to illustrate how much happy talk and how many instructions we tend to write without realizing how pointless they are. The example is on page 48 of the second edition, and if you only have time to read 1 page of the book, that's a good one. Krug is writing about Web usability, not instructional design, but the advice is as important to instructional design as it is to Web usability. Instructors have to give instructions, so getting into the habit of cutting instructions back to the bare minimum is a worthy goal, and page 48 shows you how to reach it.

Nice page.