Don’t Make Me Think Notes – Part 1 – Usability + Self-Evident UI

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability is an incredible book to help user interface designers create systems that make users delighted. While intended for web and mobile developers, there are countless concepts all game developers will want to know. Here are my notes:

What is Usability?

A person of below average ability and experience can figure out how to use the thing to accomplish something without it being more trouble than it’s worth. Here are the things worth thinking about:

  • Delightful – Is it enjoyable or fun?
  • Useful – Does it do something that people need done?
  • Desirable – Do people want it?
  • Effective – Does it get the job done?
  • Efficient – Does it do it with a reasonable amount of time and effort?
  • Learnable – Can people figure out how to use it?
  • Memorable – Do they have to relearn it each time they use it?

Since I love these concepts so much, I’ve taken the liberty to arrange these in a mnemonic to help us remember them:


Chapter 1 – The number 1 goal: Self-Evident UI

Self-Evidence – “Don’t Make Me Think” – i.e., make the user think as little as possible when interacting with a user interface.

When creating a UI, your job is to get rid of the question marks in people’s thoughts.

  • “Where do I start? Are these the same thing? Why did they put this here? Can I click that? Why did they call it that?”
  • Every question mark the user thinks adds cognitive load.

What makes us think?

  • Names of things. e.g., “Jobs” more obvious than “Employment Opportunities” more obvious than “Job-o-Rama.”
  • Can I click on that? e.g., Button vs. Link vs. plain text.
  • Puzzling over how to do things

If you can’t make it self-evident, at least make it self-explanatory. Use color, shape, size, well-chosen names, words to require as little thought as possible.

Why is this important?

  • To keep the customer thrilled and wanting to continue using our app!
  • Puzzling over things taps from our enthusiasm, energy, and time. Users should be using this energy to be more immersed in our world.
  • To waste less time and keep people happier in the world in general.

If you loved reading this, I highly recommend buying the book to get more detailed information. It’s less than $30 on Kindle! You may also want to check out my other book recommendations.

Read Part 2 Here

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