A book that changed my life: Don’t Make Me Think

This month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival asks a deceptively simple question: What one book has most influenced my professional life?

I didn’t have to think too hard about this one — it’s Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug.

Why this book? It’s ostensibly a book about web design, but Krug exposes a fundamental truth for any communicator: If you are trying to implant an idea in someone’s brain or get them to do something, you have to understand what they experience, and make it as easy as possible for them do what you want.

And when you look hard at what they experience, you find:

  • They are busy and distracted and don’t care about you nearly as much as you do.
  • They don’t read much.
  • You can learn a lot from honestly observing people.

These are underlying principles that good communicators and marketers know like they know breathing, but for me, this book stands out for two reasons.

First, if you need a refresher, it’s really refreshing! It’s fun and easy to read, partly because Krug follows his own advice throughout the book. And I love his optimism in the face of constraints: If people blow by your lovingly crafted home page like they would speed past a billboard, his solution is, “Design a great billboard!”

Second, because of those qualities, it’s a great book to recommend to others — I’m responsible for at least a dozen copies being bought (you’re welcome, Steve!). It’s accessible and painless and a good way to get people thinking about user-centered anything.

So if it’s not on your shelf, do add it, and I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone who has already read it.

Update: Eve over at Beaconfire picked this as her book to write about, too! Brilliant. :)