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A Slight Challenge To "Don't Make Me Think"

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#1 Adrian


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Posted 29 November 2006 - 12:52 PM

Kathy Sierra has quickly become a favourite read recently. Some thought provoking posts making you rethink quite what you are actually trying to achieve.

Cognitive Seduction and the "peekaboo" law is along the same lines.

The concluding paragraph gives a bit of an overview of the idea of the post

Whether you're trying to get someone's attention, keep their attention, motivate them to stick with something, or help them to learn more deeply and retain what they've learned, leave something for their brain to resolve. Do something to turn their brain on.

As I was thinking about it after reading, I felt it does kind of conflict with the idea of making a site work so well, you don't have to think about it.

The visitor might achieve the particular goal that one time, but have you eprked their interest? Is there mroe to discover, to find out?
If people aren't engaging their brain when they visit, are they going to rmemeber you afterwards?
Are they going to find some of the cool other stuff you have? Or have you made it so easy for them to do their one little thing that they don't notice anything else.....

I guess this also comes under the Captology discussions that we've had a couple of discussions about here as well, and another recent, well linked post by Kathy teams up with it a bit. Dilbert and the zone of mediocrity

#2 bwelford


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Posted 29 November 2006 - 02:12 PM

Another post in the same vein is the post, You Will Read This Post, from Andy Nulman's Blog about Surprise. The Blog's title is 'Pow! Right Between The Eyes'. Andy Nulman was the co-founder and CEO of the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal among many other accomplishments.

#3 rmccarley


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Posted 29 November 2006 - 02:29 PM

As I was thinking about it after reading, I felt it does kind of conflict with the idea of making a site work so well, you don't have to think about it.

Well that depends - are you trying to get them to think about your site or what your site can do?

For example, when I grab a shovel I know how it works so well I don't have to think about it. But where to dig, how deep, when to dig, etc - the actual utilization of the shovel requires some thought.

A website should be the same. People instantly know how to use it, but what they will use it for and how often may make them think.

Today I picked up a service from IceRocket that provides real-time stats on your blog. It took about 3 minutes to set up. An hour later I'm looking at the stats and deciding this is very cool. How will I put this info to best use? How often should I check on progress? Should I implement this on client sites?

What I didn't think about was how do I get this damn thing to work? Or where is the link for...? My thoughts are inline with the purpose of the site. I have a favorable image of a service I'd never heard of 10 hours ago. And I'm telling others about it. All because they didn't make me think!

At least not about the "wrong stuff" and I think that is the key.

BTW I seem to have a pretty big following in Germany I didn't know about... :)

#4 DCrx


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Posted 29 November 2006 - 02:44 PM

Krug's "Don't Make Me Think" is good. And fits in nicely with "Wisdom of Crowds" and "Blink."

However, it isn't the whole picture. People think and many like to think. However, people resent thinking about those things they shouldn't have to think about. In other words, a lot of what the average user resents is thinking about the developer's implementation model.

You can see this in games -- and Neilsen has noted the paradox. Games are easy to start, but difficult to master. People will put in tons more time figuring out a game than a work app. Paradoxically, I found it useful to relate user game play to regular apps. For example, applying the idea of a "level editor" to ACT! (Sceduling software). It allowed the user to customize the layout of the ACT screens with almost no input from me.

The same goes for shopping and buying behaviors. Make the shopping experience more fun, and users will spend more. This is quite different from getting to a product page, ordering, and leaving. (Task efficiency)

The "Blink/Don't Make Me Think" books are right -- for what they describe. If you didn't think on the job, you'd be fired. The entire concept of high value knowledge work is bound to the idea of productvie use of thought. In such a world, the worst sin a developer can commit is forcing the user to think about how the implementation model works. That is a sign the developer didn't do proper interaction design work, instead using the user as a crutch to make their flawed implementation work. This is closely coupled to the blame the user, RTFM mindset.

Users found "help" unhelpful. Rename it "tips" or "hints' and users will read. It is far to easy to extrapolate people don't want to think. Interaction design is about getting into the shoes of the user and finding what they want to think about, as well as what they don't.

It's the same problem as with anything. Overapplied, the don't-make-me-think camp goes just as wrong as the develpers who shuck their obligation of thinking about the user mental model.

To be fair, for decades the role of the programmer has been to protect the CPU from the user. With more powerful processors, perspective has to shift from the CPU to the user. And, despite protestations to the contrary, it largely hasn't happened.

Edited by DCrx, 04 December 2006 - 07:06 AM.

#5 AbleReach


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Posted 30 November 2006 - 07:44 AM

Oh, wow. More articles that I must must read!

Sometimes you want people to look around, to browse and imagine and ask for help. :-)

Ammon and Egol share some nice insights here:
Can poor usability increase conversions?

#6 Adrian


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Posted 30 November 2006 - 07:58 AM

Good points all, and yeah, that's the kind of pespective I was thinking of it from Liz, and Bill's occasional comments about how he likes seeing different navigation sometimes, that isn't maybe all that obvious.

There's a balance between making something easy enough to intially get into, but that tempts you to look deeper by engaging you.

I love the exmaple of the computer games DCrx, I've played a few in my time, and seen the conflict amoung other gamers between having something that entertains for a long time, but requires some patience and learning to get to grips with it properly, compared to the pick up and play people who just want to run around doing stuff easily.

One particular MMO removed a lot of complexity just over a year ago, citing the idea that they were hoping it would encourage more people to play.
In doing so though, they annoyed many of their existing players who liked the complexity, the challenges to overcome, and suddenly found this new version of a game some of them had been playing for 2 years was boring and unfulfilling.

#7 A.N.Onym


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Posted 30 November 2006 - 08:00 AM

I guess, as Randall said, "Don't make me think" and 'leave space for a thought' can happy co-exist together. "KISS" applies to how something works: which links to click, where to look, how to fill in forms, etc. While 'leave food for thought' comes from content: is this the only solution available? will it be useful for me? and others.

#8 rmccarley


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Posted 01 December 2006 - 04:13 AM

True story... and only a little off-topic :)

Yesterday I went to Borders to get a book for my wife as a surprise present for no good reason because I'm like that. Then I thought I'd pick up Don't Make Me Think as I've read all about it and several snippets of it but not the actual tome itself.

So I go to the Business Development/Management section. Lot's of books including some that seem to be the right catagory like the above-mentioned Blink. Not there.

Maybe web development? Wow... lot's of choices and lot's of subcatagories, too. Too many for my feeble mind to sort through.

Off I run (baby in hand, mind you) to the Information Desk! Empty.


Wait, they have the little computer guides... type in the title of the book... wait a moment... yes! They have the book! And it is "in stock" at the very location I am at! Success!

I find the location the book is supposed to be at (Web Development/General). Not there!

I look around for an employee to help and see the time. Gotta go.

Sorry Borders, while you did a great job encouraging me to think of new titles to add to my collection you made me work to hard to find them. Unfortunately I noticed organization was lacking across the board. When something says "alpha by..." I tend to think that means A, B, C, D, E... not Y, S, K, Q, M... but maybe I learned a different alphabet than your employees? Maybe time is an issue - since all of your employees can be found at the check-out but nowhere else that may be a problem. This is the second Borders I've been to in the last two weeks with the same experience.

Really, hire some friggin' employees. Yes, they cost money. But you just stop losing business. Any idea what it would take to get me into another Borders when Barns & Noble are everywhere? Plus that internet thing looks like it may catch on...

#9 radiorental


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Posted 04 December 2006 - 02:39 PM

My favourite quote of the week found in this article; Is user-centred design working?

"Jakob Nielsen's stuff should be removed from the galaxy. All his rules lure people into a feeling that you can just get these rules and get it right."


I dont think UCD is at fault, its a reliance on learned principles, statistical analysis and what have you. Web2.0 is proving that you can avoid the costs, run with your gut instincts and fix the niggles later.


#10 DCrx


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Posted 04 December 2006 - 03:04 PM

Interesting related article on butonless "destination elevators."

We’re building taller buildings, tall enough with enough people and floors to alter the system dynamics of elevator cars. This requires novel solutions. Rethinking the standard interaction makes sense. Currently, the rider has to make two decisions/interactions. 1. Up or Down? Push the right button. 2. Which floor? Push the right button. Shortening this to one decision helps the elevator software budget cars better, but we’re still monkeys of habit. We’ll learn, but like any other adjustment, there will be some awkward hesitation.

--History of the Button

There is usability and then there is habituation. If you don't have a reason, do not violate user habituation. However, in this case taller buildings are forcing a different interaction behavior. And the behavior takes a little getting used to, but doesn't seem to be a barrier.

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