Book Review: Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug
The book Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug puts out a simple, elegant way of thinking about usability in app and web design. Instead of leaning on prescriptive mandates telling you what is or is not user friendly, Krug gives out easy-to-follow guidelines for anyone on a product team.
A common usability misconception that is discussed is number of clicks. It is a common idea that a procedure or task can be made easier and get higher user acceptance simply by bringing the number of user interactions required down (for example, making something that takes 7 clicks down to 5 clicks). Instead, Krug's suggestion is that users may be better served through more interactions as long as each interaction is obvious and the result is predictable. Interactions that are difficult to understand frustrate users, reduce their trust in the product or company, and increase the chance of the user giving up completely.
Why is this relevant for documentation writers? Product documentation is both part of a product as well as a product in itself. When designing documentation systems, the usability is incredibly important. Users generally only reach for the documentation when they are unable to complete a task. Unable to find the information they need through scanning, page navigation, or search, users will give up on the documentation and will likely call customer support or may give up on the product entirely.
When designing documentation solutions, it is therefore extremely important to ensure information in your documentation is easy to find. Navigation should be on every page, in predicable places. Search should be in a prominent location and visible on every page. And finally, breadcrumbs or other mechanisms should be used to give the user context to where they currently are in the content's hierarchy.
In general, I would recommend Don't Make Me Think to anyone who has any input or stake in product design, including product managers, designers, technical writers, developers, and testers. User experience is still becoming more and more important to the success of a product, and it requires a way of thinking that requires empathy for and continuous learning of user needs, rather than a technical by-the-numbers approach.