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What I've Learned in the 21st Century - Steve Krug


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In a presentation from New Rider's Voices That Matter Conference (April 2009), Steve Krug explains what he's learned since he wrote Don't Make Me Think way back in 2000.

Published in: Technology, Design
  • Really great Steve.
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  • A great talk, Steve - attendees' session evaluations were very strong.

    Folks can find more presentations from the Voices That Matter: Web Design Conference at

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What I've Learned in the 21st Century - Steve Krug

  1. 1. What I Have Learned So Far in the 21st Century Steve Krug Voices That Matter: Web Design Conference San Francisco April 29, 2009
  2. 2. © 2001 Steve Krug
  3. 3. It’s been nine years <ul><li>… since I first wrote DMMT </li></ul><ul><li>As this timeline shows: </li></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  4. 4. © 2001 Steve Krug
  5. 5. People often ask me… <ul><li>OK. People sometimes ask me… </li></ul><ul><li>OK. In nine years, two people have asked me… </li></ul><ul><li>“ Things have changed since you wrote your book. What have you learned in the meantime?” </li></ul><ul><li>Thought I’d try to figure it out </li></ul><ul><li>OK. Things I’ve learned in the 21 st century: </li></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  6. 6. #1 <ul><li>Filling out college financial aid forms is as much work (and as much fun) as doing your taxes </li></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  7. 7. © 2001 Steve Krug
  8. 8. #2 <ul><li>Even a small amount of Zoloft ® can make life seem much more manageable </li></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  9. 9. #3 <ul><li>“ Economy class syndrome” is not an urban myth </li></ul><ul><li>Always get up and walk around on long flights </li></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  10. 10. © 2001 Steve Krug Our family vacation in Paris, April 2006
  11. 11. © 2001 Steve Krug
  12. 12. © 2001 Steve Krug
  13. 13. © 2001 Steve Krug
  14. 14. © 2001 Steve Krug Detail view of my left lung
  15. 15. Public service announcement <ul><li>Two tips </li></ul><ul><li>Get up and walk once an hour on long flights </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Almost impossible to do nowadays </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If you stand up, flight attendants glare at you </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What works: walk standing in place in the airplane bathroom </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If you feel sick on a Friday, don’t wait until Monday to call your HMO </li></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  16. 16. © 2001 Steve Krug TMI! WTMI!! TMI! No mas!
  17. 17. #4 <ul><li>Wikipedia actually works </li></ul><ul><li>My candidate for “Most valuable social app” </li></ul><ul><li>I was a late adopter </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Google made me do it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I didn’t use it until Google began returning Wikipedia pages as first result for my queries </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Would not have believed a wiki approach could work </li></ul><ul><ul><li>14%-17% of all people are either plain evil or at least “bad actors” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evil often trumps good </li></ul></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  18. 18. <ul><li>The Kubla Khan can butt in line; The biggest brute can take what's mine; When heavyweights break wind, that's fine; No matter what a judge might say, The drunken driver has the right of way. Excerpted from: The Drunken Driver Has the Right Of Way by Ethan Coen (of the Coen Brothers) </li></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  19. 19. © 2001 Steve Krug
  20. 20. #5 <ul><li>Mindmapping is my most valuable tool </li></ul><ul><li>Much better than just outlining, for reasons that remain a mystery </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Probably the combination of visual and verbal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Plus super-easy re-arranging/juggling of thoughts </li></ul></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  21. 21. © 2001 Steve Krug
  22. 22. © 2001 Steve Krug
  23. 23. Oh, wait… <ul><li>You probably wanted to know what I’ve learned about usability </li></ul><ul><li>Warning: I’ve only learned a few things </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I’m a slow learner </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Remember: I only had three “laws” in DMMT </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I couldn’t find much to add to the Second Edition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Jakob Nielsen’s great explanation: Usability is much more about human nature than technology. Technology changes quickly; human nature very slowly. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>None of them start with “Don’t make me…” </li></ul></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  24. 24. #1 <ul><li>Even in the age of The Internets, it’s possible to do something public (like write a book) and not get flamed on a regular basis </li></ul><ul><li>I was braced for incoming fire; almost none appeared </li></ul><ul><li>My son is still outraged by one review: </li></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  25. 25. © 2001 Steve Krug
  26. 26. #2 <ul><li>User testing really does always work </li></ul><ul><li>I thought this was true before, but now I really know it is </li></ul><ul><li>I’ve done a lot of live demo tests </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Take a URL from someone in the audience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Grab a volunteer as test participant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make up a task </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do a 15 minute test </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Out of 20 in three years, I’ve had only one where the site “owner” wasn’t blown away </li></ul><ul><li>All you have to do is do it; it just works </li></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  27. 27. #3 <ul><li>If people need to notice something, you have to be “louder” than you’d like </li></ul><ul><li>On the Web, users miss most design subtleties most of the time </li></ul><ul><li>Designers love subtle visual effects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Things like hairline rules and tiny, low-contrast type are hallmarks of sophisticated design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They work in print </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Best in show; not so good in the field </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Amazon has taken this to heart </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Spot the two things on the following page that Amazon needs to be sure you notice: </li></ul></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  28. 30. © 2001 Steve Krug Original site
  29. 31. © 2001 Steve Krug My redesign to ensure that people see the navigation bar
  30. 32. #4 <ul><li>Written reports for usability tests are largely a waste of time </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unless you’re doing quantitative testing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>I don't do them anymore </li></ul><ul><li>Do a live presentation of results instead </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I use/love GoToMeeting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stakeholder questions/qualms/quibbles can be asked and answered in real time </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No endless follow-up email threads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No 1-2 week lag time between test and report </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I recommend debriefing the same day as testing </li></ul></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  31. 33. #5 <ul><li>Focus (relentlessly, ruthlessly) on the most important problems </li></ul><ul><li>Nobody has time or resources to fix all/most/more than a few usability problems </li></ul><ul><li>It’s very easy to find more problems than you can fix </li></ul><ul><li>It’s tempting to make the easier fixes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The harder-to-fix, more serious problems often linger </li></ul></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  32. 34. #5 <ul><li>I recommend only tackling 3-5 most important problems observed in each round of testing </li></ul><ul><li>Can work on more only after those are fixed </li></ul><ul><li>The profoundly-low-hanging-fruit exception: You can take on additional “quick fixes” only if they </li></ul><ul><ul><li>… can be fixed by one person </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>… in less than 15 minutes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>… without getting anyone else’s approval </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g., fix a typo, or change the name of a button </li></ul></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  33. 35. #6 <ul><li>When fixing usability problems (as in life), do the least you can do </li></ul><ul><li>Temptation is to overhaul things; do a redesign </li></ul><ul><li>Instead, make the smallest change you think might fix the observed problem </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tweak, don’t redesign </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t break anything while you do it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Test the changes (“Tweak, but verify”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If first tweak doesn’t fix the problem, consider trying a stronger version of the tweak before redesigning/rethinking/reinventing </li></ul></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  34. 36. #7 <ul><li>Stats are finally worth something </li></ul><ul><li>Used to be that expensive web analytics projects produced accuracy of ±50% </li></ul><ul><li>Free Google Analytics is a game changer </li></ul><ul><li>Free a/b testing (Google Web Optimizer) will hold my feet to the fire (thankfully) </li></ul><ul><li>We experts can't just mouth off with impunity any more </li></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  35. 37. Thanks for all the fish <ul><li>Feedback, gripes go to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Shameless Self-promotion Department </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Join Lou Rosenfeld and I in London for our day-long workshops May 20-21 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>© 2001 Steve Krug
  36. 38. © 2009 Steve Krug