Omit needless words (Krug) — DAY 29

Fifth chapter of Steve Krug’s Don’t make me think!, Omit needless words talks about the ability of not writing. According to Krug’s third usability rule, you should always: “Get rid of half of the words on each page, then get rid of the half of what’s left”. Doing this, you will probably end up with a concise and strong text for your users.

This very short chapter talks about how to avoid creating unnecessary words, paragraphs and sentences, based on the assumption that you never draw extra lines in a drawing, or add extra/unnecessary parts in a machine. It really makes sense, and I really liked this comparison.

The author wants to make sure that designers don’t fill their pages with unnecessary words only to take up space. Even though this could sounds like an aesthetic tip, it actually brings important benefits to the layout and, specially, to the usability, as it:

  • Reduces the level of noise in the page
  • Highlights the useful content by making it prominent
  • Makes the page shorter, helping the user on scanning

The book exemplifies two widely adopted sources of needless text: the happy talk, and instructions. The first one is related to all kinds of introductory paragraphs that are self-congratulatory, promotional, or with no useful information. It’s about paragraphs that say how great a company is, instead of saying what makes them great. The second one is also useless, as a website should be self-explanatory by default. Instructions are hardly ever read by users, therefore should be avoided. When it is strictly required, the website should provide the minimum information needed (brief), which should be placed exactly where the user will need it (timely), and should be formatted to be noted (unavoidable).

Example of how to eliminate useless words — Source: Don’t make me think (Pg. 52)

Sometimes it can be really hard to get rid of your text, but most of the times it is a really necessary pain. It will increase your user’s satisfaction and help your main information to stand out. The author gives the example above on how to get rid of unnecessary text, and, as you can see, he gets rid of 60% of the words. It’s all about practice, but you can do it as well!


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