Core UI and UX Principles from 2000 Remain Valid 18 Years Later

2000 was a great year to be alive, especially as a Gen X-er! That’s when my favorite comic, X-Men, finally hit the big screen, I finished my first full year as an entrepreneur, and my second child was born.


Since the turn of the millennium, seven more X-Men movies were produced, the business I started had a wild 12-year run that ended with a career change in 2011, and my little baby girl graduated from high school (just last week actually).

A lot has changed, but one thing hasn’t – we still don’t want to think, at least not as a customer, software user, or web surfer.

“Don’t Make Me Think!”

Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

That brilliant advice from Steve Krug was first published in 2000 but it’s just as relevant today.

The principles Steve so plainly laid out still whisper in my ear, guiding my website, ad, & even packaging design strategies.

Someone recently asked me to list the Customer Journey Mapping books that helped shape my methodology.

Although it isn’t a Customer Journey Mapping book per sé, this is the one that ignited a passion within me for incremental intentionality, split-testing, and obsessing over the Customer Experience. 

I had been dabbling with Journey Mapping for a few years by the time this book came out but it confirmed that CJM was worth investing my career in. So I resolved to master it.

Fast Forward 18 Years

Nothing happened overnight but 18 years later, I can now say that I’ve successfully implemented comprehensive Journey Mapping strategies in 5 sectors, I’ve trained many teams to use it, and I’ve been honored to blog and speak as a Subject Matter Expert (most recently at the Social Shake Up Show) in an effort to recruit more converts.

In 2000, Steve Krug nudged me in the right direction and although I’ve come a long way since then, I wouldn’t say I’ve achieved the goal I set out to accomplish – I haven’t mastered Journey Mapping.

But I’m not sure anyone can. It’s more like an ongoing pursuit because customer behavior changes as fast as (maybe faster than) technology evolves.

There’s always more to learn, more to test, and more to optimize in our quest to create better customer experiences.

The Attention Span of a Goldfish

Attention Span of a Goldfish is much longer than social media browsingThe primary lesson of Krug’s book is made obvious by the title he chose – don’t make people think.

This is even more true today because of changes in human nature. Studies show that back in 2000, the average human attention span was 12 seconds. Today is it 8.

Combine our declining attention span with the increasing speed of newsfeeds and the ability to ignore content with a quick swipe or flip of the thumb, and one could argue that it is much more important today that we keep clutter from making people think.

The cost to capture attention is at an all-time high! Many have learned this critical lesson but I’m surprised to still stumble across sites daily that haven’t heeded the 18-year-old warning.

JC Penney’s Example

Take JC Penney for example. First, let me disclose that I, my wife, my kids (even the 18-year-old I mentioned earlier), my parents, and extended family all LOVE Penney’s.  We want them to survive the retail apocalypse but their website is an indication that they still have a few things to learn from Steve’s 18-year-old guidebook.

Check out their homepage (as of earlier today) and notice the clutter of competing CTA’s. Where is your eye supposed to land? There’s no clear hierarchy, balance, or flow.

JCP Cluttered Website Confuses the Eye

Six CTA’s shout for attention just in the first inch of the site:

  1. “Shop the Store Ad. See Details.”
  2. “Search Products”
  3. “Sign In”
  4. “Track My Orders”
  5. “Shop Departments”
  6. “Find a Store Near You”

JC Penney is making people think too much. Too many decisions + too little clarity = high bounce rate. Thankfully, other retail sites have caught on through the years. Check out these three positive examples.

Three Positive Examples

Zappos website is a model for clean, clear layout and CTA

Notice how clean Zappos’ website is. The eye has a logical flow and you know what they want you to do. Their main CTA is within the bar inviting you to “Search for shoes, clothes, etc.”

Well done!

REI sets the bar for clarity in UI

REI is also simple, clean, and clear. What do they want you to do as a customer? One of two things: “Search for great gear & clothing” or browse by hovering over their navigation categories.

Here’s one last positive example.

Patagonia is one of the best examples of clean, concise, and compelling website design

Patagonia cuts right to the chase. They want you to “Shop” so they put that CTA at the first place your eye lands and when your cursor hovers over it, a clear path to browse opens up. Or you can search in the nearby field.

It Isn’t Complicated

It’s no surprise that these three companies are killing it at e-commerce while other, more traditional retailers, struggle to keep up.

Steve Krug’s counsel wasn’t complicated in 2000 and it isn’t complex today. Neither is Customer Journey Mapping. Some are intimidated by it but it’s simply a matter of applying common sense in an incremental, logical order.

Make it clear where you want your customer to do next in their journey with your brand and then split-test until your optimizations enable you to surpass your goals.

Let me be clear about the next step I’d like you to take with me – I’d love it if you would subscribe to my blog so you can find easy-to-understand-and-apply tips about improving your Customer’s Experiences.

GoldfishI want to sincerely thank you for giving me more attention than any goldfish did today. And thanks, Steve Krug, for inspiring me to obsess over customers!


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