How to properly analyze your product design and make the right changes – the master talk with Steve Krug

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Steve Krug is a UX consultant for companies with 25 years of experience, among whose clients were such technology companies as Apple,,, and NPR. You may also know Steve as the author of “Don’t Make Me Think”, one of the best books on usability and UX design for digital products. You will hear his valuable vision and recommendations on developing a digital product.

Steve stumbled through a couple of careers, before ending up in UI / UX design and usability. He was a typesetter for 10 years, then a tech writer for 10 years.

“I've always been basically a UX researcher. So I focused on doing usability testing and talking to users, then giving feedback to developers, designers, and product managers about what people were going to find confusing or difficult about their products and what they should improve.”

“I realized that basically every significant advance in my career has come from what we call nepotism. It means getting a job from friends or relatives. And the downside of it is sometimes having people who are worse for the job.”

How do I break into this exciting field? My recommendation is to have friends who are smarter and more aggressive than you are, and they will get really good jobs, and then they will hire you.

Steve's book “Don’t Make Me Think”, first published in 2000, is the top five books recommended for UI/UX designers. Now Steve returns with a fresh perspective to reexamine the principles that made the book a classic–with updated examples and a new chapter on mobile usability.

“One thing that changed a lot is designing the homepage. In the old days, people entered a website through a homepage. But now everybody uses Google, they may jump right to a page, landing page, that's four levels down a website. But, anyway, when they want some context, they look for the homepage link.”

User-centered design would ever be a major line item in budgets. People who have not had a usability test of their product, they don't understand the actual value of it.

Do a usability test of your competitors’ products.

By testing the competitors, you're not making anybody within your company look bad, you're making the competitors look bad. But it has the same effect that people watching it will say, “Oh, what does our stuff do if we do this?”

Stakeholders are not very good, like most of us, at putting ourselves in other people's shoes. They have tunnel vision; they already understand what's wrong, and what needs to be fixed. If you're watching a usability test, then you understand this person doesn't think at all the same way I do about this.

Doing this enterprise, you have to believe that it's unique, and you get caught up in that. It's good up to a point, but it's not good when it makes you blind to reality.

“You may have a working product, however, the design is out-of-date. To improve it or not to touch it? Users hate change that doesn't make their life better, but makes them relearn everything that they knew.You have to make it clear to them what the value is. People, who have succeeded, set up a forum beforehand, announced in advance they're working on a new version of things, and allow people access to some portions of it and giving them a chance to comment on it in a forum.”

Users don't hate change. They hate you.

“I don't know all 10 Jacob Nilson heuristics by heart. I agree with all of them. But if you give me a list of 20, I can check off the 10 that were actually on Jacob's list. So I can recognize them. I can't necessarily recall them.”

“To work in this field you should be capable of reasonable empathy, the main characteristic requirement, having an interest in how people think. I really like a good explanation. I like people who can make something clear, that's a valuable attribute. I think if you find UX interesting, if you've been exposed to UX, and you think that it seems an interesting thing to do, then you're qualified.”

“The most interesting challenge I faced was a difficult client, too opinionated.”

Good design must be expensive, but so there are good, very good people out there who are not charging that much. It can be so hard to tell whether somebody's a good designer or not until you're working with him.

Why is a good plumber so expensive? Why are good carpenters so expensive? Why is a good surgeon expensive? Why do good music concerts cost so much? Because they're in greater demand.

The main reason why I wrote it was so I could raise my consulting rates. I'd been consulting for 10 years, having a very happy client base, but I wasn’t known outside.”