The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition Info

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The ultimate guide to human-centered design

Even the smartest among us can feel inept
as we fail to figure out which light switch or oven burner to turn on,
or whether to push, pull, or slide a door.

The
fault, argues this ingenious -- even liberating -- book, lies not in
ourselves, but in product design that ignores the needs of users and the
principles of cognitive psychology. The problems range from ambiguous
and hidden controls to arbitrary relationships between controls and
functions, coupled with a lack of feedback or other assistance and
unreasonable demands on
memorization.

The Design of Everyday
Things
shows that good, usable design is possible. The rules are
simple: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple
function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints. The goal:
guide the user effortlessly to the right action on the right control at
the right time.
The Design of Everyday Things is a
powerful primer on how -- and why -- some products satisfy customers
while others only frustrate them.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition:

5

Mar 21, 2008

After reading this you will never look at any man-made object the same. You will question everything from doors to tea kettles to the most sophisticated computer program. The next time you fumble with an answering machine, web page, or light switch you will think back to the lessons from this book. It is almost liberating once you can see beyond the design of everyday things.

I highly recommend this book for anyone. You absolutely must read it if you will ever be in a position to create something After reading this you will never look at any man-made object the same. You will question everything from doors to tea kettles to the most sophisticated computer program. The next time you fumble with an answering machine, web page, or light switch you will think back to the lessons from this book. It is almost liberating once you can see beyond the design of everyday things.

I highly recommend this book for anyone. You absolutely must read it if you will ever be in a position to create something (i.e. software, a chair, a cardboard box). If you don't, I will curse your name every time I am forced to use your product! ...more
2

Jan 13, 2013

For a book that a lot of people rave about as being a 'bible of usability', I have to say it was one of the worst written and designed books I have ever been unfortunate enough to read.
1

Jan 22, 2015

Too general to be valuable. Too many sentences like this: "Each discipline has a different perspective of the relative importance of the many factors that make up a product."
5

Jun 18, 2010

This took me FOREVER to read - but it isn't the book's fault. It was me just picking it up at odd moments & it giving me a lot to think about each time. I don't design every day things, so had absolutely no need to read this book, but found it extremely interesting. If you have any part in designing anything, you MUST read this book.

Norman points out the obvious - things I took for granted - & made me think about them in an entirely new light. He breaks down the simplest devices into This took me FOREVER to read - but it isn't the book's fault. It was me just picking it up at odd moments & it giving me a lot to think about each time. I don't design every day things, so had absolutely no need to read this book, but found it extremely interesting. If you have any part in designing anything, you MUST read this book.

Norman points out the obvious - things I took for granted - & made me think about them in an entirely new light. He breaks down the simplest devices into their basic functions & features, then rebuilds them in a way that is both obvious & yet entirely new. He then points out places where the design elements are good & bad. He gets into the basic aspects of design that I never thought about such as aligning the number of controls with the number of functions. Best of all, he lays all of this out in an interesting manner with common examples as he delves deeper into the problems & solutions.

When you walk up to a door, how do you know how to deal with it? I never thought about it, just used it. Norman points out the clues I use, such as where the handles & hinges are located, as well as the conventions, such as pushing to go out of a commercial door, that I just KNOW & intuitively use. But what happens when designers fiddle around to make look pretty? Can anyone screw up something as mundane & venerable as a door? Unfortunately, yes indeedy!

He relates a funny story about getting stuck briefly in the foyer of a commercial building because of the 'modern' design of the doors. Hidden hinges, lots of glass, & handles that stretched across the entire center of the door gave no clue as to which way they opened. Couple that with one set of doors opening in the opposite direction from the others & a simple task - walking into a building without much thought (actually while thinking of other things, like the upcoming meeting) - became an irritating puzzle. Not a big deal? Actually, it is.

Norman pulls out some truly horrific numbers to make a great point on how important intuitive design is. The average person has something like 30,000 different instruction sets to remember on a regular basis. If each one of these took just a minute to remember, you'd spend several months learning them, assuming a 40 hour week devoted to the task! That we've absorbed these instructions & conventions over decades & are facing an increasing number of them on a daily basis makes it particularly irritating when they get redesigned into a problem.

Note: This book was published in the late 80's. While there are some desktop computing examples given, this book is pre-Internet. Think of how much additional information is required in the wake of that. (Think browsers, email, scams, viruses, ....)

While some of the examples are a bit dated, such as VCR's, they're not terrible. The multifunctional switches, confusing menus, & seemingly random options packed into those machines have carried over into their descendents in spades. Other examples, such as phone systems & stoves, are still so on target that it's absolutely infuriating. OK, phone systems are complicated, extremely proprietary & full of more options than ever, but do they HAVE to be so hard to use? I don't think so.

I know damn well that designers could do a much better job of laying out the controls for something as simple as a stove. They've had over a century & it's still a complete PITA to figure out which knob operates which burner. I can't walk up to any stove & put my hand on the correct knob. I have to read, sometimes even puzzle out symbols to figure out which is which. Even on my own simple stove, which we've had 5 years, I wind up reading to figure out the controls. OK, Marg usually cooks, but that's just STUPID design - one more minor irritation in a world filled with them, but one that could so easily be rectified with just a bit of thought!!! It's just infuriating.

While I was reading this book, a couple of examples of its relevance slapped me in the face.
- Steve Jobs died. Why was he so successful? Many people say that he was an inventor. WRONG. He rarely came up with anything truly new. His forte was in timing & design. Microsoft had a tablet for years before the iPad but their offering never made it. Why? Because the hardware couldn't support the overall expected functionality properly AND the user interface wasn't nearly as well designed as the iPad. Microsoft tried too early, designed it poorly, & FAILED themselves right out of the market.
- Amazon took the ebook market by storm. The Kindle wasn't the first ereader & it isn't really all that great hardware-wise, but it has a great interface that leverages a wonderful support system - all good design. It does one thing & does it really well.

Long review, but design is one of the most misunderstood & important concepts of our lives. I was completely shocked by my own ignorance about it. I still don't claim to be any expert, but it sure made me see the world in a different way.

Update 13May2019 Here's a new article by Norman. "I wrote the book on user-friendly design. What I see today horrifies me" with a subtitle: The world is designed against the elderly, writes Don Norman, 83-year-old author of the industry bible Design of Everyday Things and a former Apple VP.
https://www.fastcompany.com/90338379/...

It's a fact. I'm now in my 60s & he's right. We're a large segment of the population that isn't cool, but we have the money & time. Design for us! ...more
4

Jul 23, 2017

Whenever programmers ask other programmers for book suggestions, there's always some smartass that says something like "The Art of War" because of blah blah blah about corporate politics. Hoo boy you're clever, you suggested a non-programming book, way to not play by the rules. You really march to the beat of your own drum there, slick.

Similarly, I constantly see "The Design of Everyday Things" suggested in these kinds of conversations. I think it's supposed to give engineers great insights into Whenever programmers ask other programmers for book suggestions, there's always some smartass that says something like "The Art of War" because of blah blah blah about corporate politics. Hoo boy you're clever, you suggested a non-programming book, way to not play by the rules. You really march to the beat of your own drum there, slick.

Similarly, I constantly see "The Design of Everyday Things" suggested in these kinds of conversations. I think it's supposed to give engineers great insights into design and how humans interact with objects around them. This is supposed to change our outlook for the software we build for people.

Well, I don't think it did that at all. Really, the only thing to take away in that regard is "think about how people use your software". In other words, I think a great many UX-centered books are vastly superior in this regard.

That's not to say this book is bad. In fact, I imagine there are people reading my review right now thinking "who gives a shit that this guy is a software engineer?" Indeed, this book is great. Very enjoyable, and very informative. It made me think about every day objects I've never even given a second thought to. There's an entire section on sink faucets that blew my mind. But ultimately, the book is really about exactly what the title says it is, the design of everyday things and objects. There's some hinting at a greater, broader meaning than this, but it never comes to much.

Definitely a great read, worth it for sure, but don't buy into the "everyone who makes software should read this book" hype. ...more
2

Apr 15, 2011

Jeff Garzik gave me a copy of this back when he was building the Linux network stack in Home Park; I'd seen it praised by a few other people by that time as well (via the GT newsgroups, most likely). I was underwhelmed -- there were a few good case analyses (the oven UI I recall being particularly effective), but very little usable, general principles came out of the read. I went back in 2006, thinking I'd perhaps missed something, but didn't find much more. then again, i'm probably not the Jeff Garzik gave me a copy of this back when he was building the Linux network stack in Home Park; I'd seen it praised by a few other people by that time as well (via the GT newsgroups, most likely). I was underwhelmed -- there were a few good case analyses (the oven UI I recall being particularly effective), but very little usable, general principles came out of the read. I went back in 2006, thinking I'd perhaps missed something, but didn't find much more. then again, i'm probably not the target audience. this book seems to receive much play in computer science programs, but it's really much more of an industrial design text; its prevalence in CS programs evidences IMHO the sad state of HCI textbooks.

I'm still eagerly waiting for a single textbook which unifies theory and practice of effective, attractive UI design. Instead, we seem to have the "GUI metrics" crowd, fetishists assuming the existence of some spiritus mundi, just waiting for the right Gaussian to be fitted (thus giving rise to twin abominations, MacOSX and GNOME3); meanwhile the "design" crown speaks in riddles, playing a game where men throw ducks at baloons, and nothing is as it seems...but this is why, I suppose, I only write backends and libraries. ...more
0

Apr 15, 2008

Couldn't get in to it. Maybe I'll try again at a different time. On a side note, I found it odd that a book about user-centered design had line-broken right-justified headings and baffling use of italics.
3

Jan 02, 2017

This book is more for knowledge than for enjoyment. The writing is rather dry and textbook-like with many abstract/theoretical concepts and ideas. I feel like taking a short course in design, which is still quite helpful. Nevertheless, I was expecting more of "smart" designs, more fun and strange and inspiring stories, but Norman isn't there to entertain but to educate and so there are examples mostly to illustrate concepts and processes. Naturally I was a bit disappointed, but still in general This book is more for knowledge than for enjoyment. The writing is rather dry and textbook-like with many abstract/theoretical concepts and ideas. I feel like taking a short course in design, which is still quite helpful. Nevertheless, I was expecting more of "smart" designs, more fun and strange and inspiring stories, but Norman isn't there to entertain but to educate and so there are examples mostly to illustrate concepts and processes. Naturally I was a bit disappointed, but still in general a book is a good read. ...more
5

Jul 05, 2007

Have you ever stood in front of a door, or a microwave, absolutely flummoxed, because the damned thing gave you no clue whatsoever how to open it. If so (even, I venture to think, if not), you will enjoy this book. In clear, coruscating prose he exposes the miserable flaws in the design of everyday objects which conspire to make our lives less convenient, more miserable, and sometimes more dangerous.

The book is not just an exposé of the appalling laziness and hostility to consumers that is Have you ever stood in front of a door, or a microwave, absolutely flummoxed, because the damned thing gave you no clue whatsoever how to open it. If so (even, I venture to think, if not), you will enjoy this book. In clear, coruscating prose he exposes the miserable flaws in the design of everyday objects which conspire to make our lives less convenient, more miserable, and sometimes more dangerous.

The book is not just an exposé of the appalling laziness and hostility to consumers that is commonplace among designers(not just in the software industry, which is a story unto itself - see "The Lunatics are Running the Asylum") - it is also a clarion call to action. We need not live in a world where it appears that appliances conspire to make us feel like idiots. And when they do - when you can't figure out which button to push, or whether a door opens inward or outward - remember that you are not the one at fault. It is the lazy incompetent designer of the thing which is making you miserable who is deserving of scorn and ridicule.

Far too often, in a design world which favors form over function and usability, crimes against the user get rewarded with prizes and the acclaim of the design cognoscenti. People who presumably never have to struggle with the consequences of their own reckless disregard for the usability of the objects they design.

This book is an outraged and eloquent call for change. ...more
3

Dec 22, 2017

The Design of Everyday Things (DOET) is the story of doors, faucets and keyboards; it's the tale of rangetops and refrigerators. Donald Norman beckons the reader to look at the common objects they deal with every day in new and methodical ways. And he offers this central question; what makes an object well-designed as opposed to poorly-designed?

But on the question of design DOET, itself an everyday object, rates poorly. Norman's discussion of individual items proves inconsistent and rarely The Design of Everyday Things (DOET) is the story of doors, faucets and keyboards; it's the tale of rangetops and refrigerators. Donald Norman beckons the reader to look at the common objects they deal with every day in new and methodical ways. And he offers this central question; what makes an object well-designed as opposed to poorly-designed?

But on the question of design DOET, itself an everyday object, rates poorly. Norman's discussion of individual items proves inconsistent and rarely systematic; sometimes he includes examples of both good and bad design (such as when he analyzes doors), but oftentimes he only mentions the bad (such as when he talks about office phone systems.) He rarely offers suggestions for superior designs and organizes everything by psychological concepts that often prove vague or arcane; section headings include 'Memory is Knowledge in the Head' and 'Using Sound for Visibility.'

Even more fundamentally, explanatory pictures rarely occupy the same page as the text that references them, forcing the reader to page back and forth. That the typesetting for his book is so awkward feels especially glaring as that's the sort of basic design flaw DOET seeks to expose.

To Norman's credit, he shows passion for the subject and writes engagingly when he isn't listing psychological vocabulary words. And the subject of design is fascinating; relevant to everyone, applicable to all areas of life and endlessly detailed. And Norman routinely finds interesting digressions; applying design principles to Legos or charting every plausible game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

And I found myself agreeing with Norman's core philosophy. He argues that function should supersede features and usability is more important than aesthetics. He also takes the stance that if you can't figure out a gadget, it probably isn't your fault and he goes into detail about how common this sort of confusion is.

Norman takes a decidedly pro-humanity outlook in a book all about objects; just one more irony. After all, DOET is a poorly-designed study of design regarding a mundane subject that fascinates.

Edited 2/19/2019 ...more
5

Jul 10, 2010

Excellent piece of non-fiction. This book is a prescribed textbook for a course on computer interface design that I'm doing.

Once I really started reading it, I almost couldn't put it down - it was so interesting that it almost read like fiction - none of the dry dust usually found in conventional textbooks.

Very well and humorously presented, and a must for engineers, designers, manufacturers and inventors everywhere!
4

Jan 21, 2019

BLUF: A good-to-great primer on human-centered design, albeit one that's lighter on examples and political introspection than I'd hoped for.

Longer take:
I'll admit: since first hearing about "Norman doors" in college and then seeing the hilarious "second degree burn kettle" on the cover, I'd built up the idea in my head of this book being some sort of righteous crusade against poorly-designed objects. I looked forward to hours of chuckling along as he gave instances of abominably unusable BLUF: A good-to-great primer on human-centered design, albeit one that's lighter on examples and political introspection than I'd hoped for.

Longer take:
I'll admit: since first hearing about "Norman doors" in college and then seeing the hilarious "second degree burn kettle" on the cover, I'd built up the idea in my head of this book being some sort of righteous crusade against poorly-designed objects. I looked forward to hours of chuckling along as he gave instances of abominably unusable products, starting from the accidental and working his way towards the truly negligent or coercive, skewering each for our edification; by explaining the shortcomings of each example and walking through the process of improving it (if possible), the reader would come to a bottom-up understanding of the principles of HCD.

Fortunately, there are plenty of click-baity listicles to get my design schadenfreude fix, because this is definitely not that book.

First of all, Norman is only incidentally concerned with "objects" per se - the first chapter or two uses a fair number of them to ground the ideas of mappings and physical constraints, but the book as a whole is mostly concerned with the more intangible disciplines of user interface and process design. This actual makes for a more mind-expanding book, as the reader discovers the underlying analogy between the building blocks of physical and non-physical forms of design.

Secondly, contrary to the polemic I was expecting, Norman's voice is actually pretty neutral and empathetic throughout. Rather than casting blame, he investigates failures of design as a whole the same way he's investigated actual accidents: by seeking root causes in broken feedback loops and failures to account for human nature.

Despite a writing style that I'd call bland and curt (I think in the interest of sound neutral and accessible?), I blew through the first five chapters - solid material with exciting implications! However, DOET started to drag for me in the last two chapters ("Design Thinking" and "Design in the World of Business"), which felt less like popular non-fiction and more like a corporate self-help manual. Maybe it's just a problem of audience? The practical workplace material is probably interesting for current-or-aspiring designers themselves, but IMHO, it has far less to offer the casual reader. Worse, it brought to the foreground some ethical issues that the book had until then steered clear of, but without providing any satisfactory answers for.

As far as I can tell, DOET would like its readers to think that its central principles are apolitical: the reader is encouraged to pursue designs that are usable for a wide variety of users based on their size, ability level, and culture, but this is still viewed through the functional lens of creating the most effective products. What does "effective" mean though? I don't want to assume the worst in the author, but the text itself does little to contradict the idea that "effectiveness" is no more and no less than a means towards profitability. Case in point: it wasn't until Norman briefly touched on (and conspicuously failed to condemn) the strategy of planned obsolescence that it occurred to me just how limited in scope his idea of "human"-centered design really is.

Wouldn't a design philosophy that holistically factored in human needs and psychology favor durable, recyclable products with replaceable components rather than products we're forced to discard every year or two, polluting our environment for generations? Wouldn't a human-centered design philosophy content itself with products that served actual human needs, rather than preying on our insecurities to create new ones?

It's interesting to me that Norman used to be an executive at Apple, a company infamous for perfecting the art of planned obsolescence - does he fail to condemn the practice here because he doesn't want to burn any bridges, or because he and Apple are actually in alignment and he sees nothing wrong with it? I'd guess it's not too hard to find out where he stands if you really wanted to know, but within the scope of this book, his failure to take a stance on any political question related to design presents the reader with an unsavory question:

Are "humans" supposed to be the ultimate beneficiaries of Norman's "human-centered design", or are we just a demographic to be focus-grouped as a means of maximizing market penetration?

The Design of Everyday Things leaves it to other books to answer that question, apparently. ...more
1

Jun 06, 2010

This was written in a decade before authors learned how to write stimulating non-fiction.
4

Sep 18, 2011

A classic for a reason. The examples are dated, but if you still remember rotary dial telephones (maybe over 30 years of age?) you'll be fine with them. Since Norman more or less predicts iPhones and iPads in this book, I'd love to read an update chapter from him in the next edition.

The principles are still accurate and useful, and Norman makes a solid case for why my inability to get through doorways safely is actually the fault of the manufacturers. People using products are busy, they have A classic for a reason. The examples are dated, but if you still remember rotary dial telephones (maybe over 30 years of age?) you'll be fine with them. Since Norman more or less predicts iPhones and iPads in this book, I'd love to read an update chapter from him in the next edition.

The principles are still accurate and useful, and Norman makes a solid case for why my inability to get through doorways safely is actually the fault of the manufacturers. People using products are busy, they have their mind on other things, and they can't read the mind of the designer. Therefore, if you're in any way responsible for making a product for other people to use, it's worth your while to take a look at how to embed the knowledge of how to use it within the object itself.

Norman covers some of the techniques for this, but you can get that in many other user-experience and design books with more up-to-date examples. What I found most valuable was his way of taking a fresh look at everyday objects, really observing what happens when we use them and wanting to find a way to smooth that path. In future I'll be trying to do the same. ...more
4

Apr 29, 2014

DoeT isn't the world's best written book—Norman's style is too often kvetchy-casual, sounding more like a modern-day ranty blog post than a classic of academic design writing.

But that is only one way in which this book is ahead of its time. The observations and recommendations regarding usable design here hold to extremely well 25 years later; even though Norman's examples concern ancient phone systems and slide projectors, it all translates perfectly well to virtual touchscreen UIs of today. DoeT isn't the world's best written book—Norman's style is too often kvetchy-casual, sounding more like a modern-day ranty blog post than a classic of academic design writing.

But that is only one way in which this book is ahead of its time. The observations and recommendations regarding usable design here hold to extremely well 25 years later; even though Norman's examples concern ancient phone systems and slide projectors, it all translates perfectly well to virtual touchscreen UIs of today. And when he makes predictions about the future, he's eerily prescient. Watch him describe smartphones, the World Wide Web, Nest thermostats, and Siri… in 1988. Not only does he correctly predict future technology, he's better aware of its problems than today's designers.

That alone excuses the book's stylistic shortcomings and proves its undeniable worth. ...more
5

Aug 10, 2017

(5.0)

Can't believe I hadn't read this before.

There's a lot of wisdom in this book. I'd highly recommend for anyone pursuing a career in design, product, marketing, or tech, or anyone who just wants to build great products.

Internalize these ideas and put them into practice and you will create better products that will impact people's lives.
2

June 1, 2017

My friend suggested me this book as a "classic of design"... I have barely finished 47 pages. In few words: examples were interesting, as well as quotes from human psychology. But soon it got really boring. Instead of learning I soon started noticing that author was repeating himself. Not once, but ...Full Review
2

Oct 16, 2012

I got this as an audiobook, based on the fact that it falls within my usual taste for non fiction and because it's been referred to by many other books. In many ways, this is a classic book that inspired many people to think more seriously about design. At least, that's my impression, garnered from the unreasonably long introduction in which the author talks about how great and important his book is.

Confession time: I didn't finish the book. I got down to about the last hour and ten minutes and I got this as an audiobook, based on the fact that it falls within my usual taste for non fiction and because it's been referred to by many other books. In many ways, this is a classic book that inspired many people to think more seriously about design. At least, that's my impression, garnered from the unreasonably long introduction in which the author talks about how great and important his book is.

Confession time: I didn't finish the book. I got down to about the last hour and ten minutes and finally had enough. This book is boring. I spent most of my time listening to it trying to figure out why it was so boring. I like design. I like sociology. I like pop science. I like non-fiction. Why did this book make me drift off and not know what he'd said for ten to twenty minute chunks? I'm not exactly sure, but I've got some ideas.

First of all, the book references illustrations. Yes. In an audiobook. I went to my audible account to delete it, and saw that the pdf of the illustrations had thoughtfully been included in the download. So I looked at the illustrations, but they still weren't that great. They clarified some things that I didn't understand, but they didn't add a tremendous amount to the understanding of the text. If the book had been littered with illustrations, with "here's good" next to "here's bad", it might have helped, but then it wouldn't have been a good audiobook.

Secondly, the book had too much abstract descriptions and made-up words.Remember when you were in elementary school and they'd have a textbook that talked about, say, the natural resources of a country, and they'd have vocabulary words in bold that you had to remember for the test? But they were artificial, like "grasslands" meant something different from "savanna" which was different from "prairie" This book kinda did that, at least in the first chapters, like he was structuring this as a textbook to teach you principles of good design. His principles sort of made sense, but they had too few examples to elucidate them, and what anecdotes and examples he included often were completely off-topic.

The middle to second half of the book got especially off-topic, degenerating at times into a rant about how hard VCRs are to program and DOS computers are to use. Which brings me to my third point: this book is really dated. In some ways it's cool; he describes a smart phone decades before one existed. In other ways, it's not really relevant. He talks about frustrating faucets, for example, he derides motion-detecting faucets as difficult to use because they aren't obvious. Most people these days use motion-detecting faucets just fine. He talks about how awful computers are, but he's talking about a computer that anyone under the age of 25 has never seen. Even if it weren't for the overly-abstract, poorly described principles he wants people to learn from, the age of his observations makes this book not relevant.

I don't recommend this book. It's an interesting topic, but this book is poorly written and too dated to be useful. ...more
5

Feb 13, 2016

I think there is really only one gif to sum this book up properly:


This book, although the examples are dated (as listed in nearly every review), is quite fabulous. The original title was actually "The Psychology of Everyday Things" which was less friendly to the average person, but quite accurate.

Like I said in a previous update, I feel like this book should be required reading for any type of designer, but somehow I had missed it until now. Great detail about design methodologies, constraints, I think there is really only one gif to sum this book up properly:


This book, although the examples are dated (as listed in nearly every review), is quite fabulous. The original title was actually "The Psychology of Everyday Things" which was less friendly to the average person, but quite accurate.

Like I said in a previous update, I feel like this book should be required reading for any type of designer, but somehow I had missed it until now. Great detail about design methodologies, constraints, and psychology - but not too much to be overwhelming (in my opinion). The examples, while dated, were still quite excellent (assuming you were born pre-2000s but hey you can google things). Since I listened to the audiobook (on Hoopla) I missed out on the diagrams which is disappointing, so I think I recommend reading the actual book. (However, I quite enjoyed the narrator, Peter Berkrot.)

I think that the younger generations (like myself or maybe this is just applicable no matter the period in history) assume that older people or even people their own age who don't understand technology are dumb. I know I've felt that. While working in a game dev company, we often expressed how stupid our users were, because things seemed obvious to us. It was great to hear his thoughts on how it's not your fault you can't figure something out, it's the designer's. I think anyone who has ever made something needs to hear that. You made it, you have a mental model of how it works, of course it seems intuitive to you. He also goes into the difficulties designers face in getting to a good design and the struggle to keep a good design from being changed along the way.

I do think there were a few times he oversimplified things as far as challenges designers face, but overall he seemed to take a fair stance. It was especially fascinating to hear his "theories" on what computers would become (this was written in '88) and compare them to what HAS happened so far. He's often quite spot on, though I'm not sure how many of those things he helped MAKE happen. ;)

BLAH BLAH BLAH, IT'S GOOD. If you're a designer, a must read. If you aren't, it may be a little dense but still worth it if you're interested. Definitely will at least help you figure out how to look out for good design in the products you buy. ...more
3

Feb 16, 2019

This was alright.

This book came out around 1988 and was updated in 2002. That's not a problem through most of it. there are timeless principles here that will make any designer of consumer goods better at his job. These principles will also help the rest of us to be smarter consumers or just smarter people. I'm a man before I'm a consumer. A...man...I tell you!

It's little dry in places and there were points when it occurred to me that this book would really benefit from an update but if you take This was alright.

This book came out around 1988 and was updated in 2002. That's not a problem through most of it. there are timeless principles here that will make any designer of consumer goods better at his job. These principles will also help the rest of us to be smarter consumers or just smarter people. I'm a man before I'm a consumer. A...man...I tell you!

It's little dry in places and there were points when it occurred to me that this book would really benefit from an update but if you take it for what it is, it's worth your time. ...more
4

Aug 14, 2011

This book has several very important ideas:

* Even if you aren't professional designer, you still use design everywhere in your life, including how you design your house, your resume, a report, some code, etc.

* Design is all about focusing on people's needs and abilities. You may think you know what those are by the virtue of being a human, but you don't, as most human actions are unconscious. Therefore, to be a good designer, you need to learn some psychology.

* Good design is all about finding This book has several very important ideas:

* Even if you aren't professional designer, you still use design everywhere in your life, including how you design your house, your resume, a report, some code, etc.

* Design is all about focusing on people's needs and abilities. You may think you know what those are by the virtue of being a human, but you don't, as most human actions are unconscious. Therefore, to be a good designer, you need to learn some psychology.

* Good design is all about finding the root cause (not just the stated problem) and using an iterative process (there are no failures, just experiments).

* Many of the things we attribute to human error are actually caused by poor design. This is because humans make mistakes _all the time_ and a good design _must_ take this into account.

For these alone, it's worth reading. That said, the book feels a little unfocused and scatter brained. It frequently goes off on tangents, most of which are interesting, but not always relevant to the main points. The book is also repetitive, repeating the same message about bad design, constraints, and culture over and over again.


Some good quotes:

Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible, serving us without drawing attention to itself. Bad design, on the other hand, screams out its inadequacies, making itself very noticeable.

We are all designers in the sense that all of us deliberately design our lives, our rooms, and the way we do things. We can also design workarounds, ways of overcoming the flaws of existing devices.

Two of the most important characteristics of good design are discoverability and understanding. Discoverability: Is it possible to even figure out what actions are possible and where and how to perform them? Understanding: What does it all mean? How is the product supposed to be used? What do all the different controls and settings mean?

All artificial things are designed. Whether it is the layout of furniture in a room, the paths through a garden or forest, or the intricacies of an electronic device, some person or group of people had to decide upon the layout, operation, and mechanisms. Not all designed things involve physical structures. Services, lectures, rules and procedures, and the organizational structures of businesses and governments do not have physical mechanisms, but their rules of operation have to be designed, sometimes informally, sometimes precisely recorded and specified.

Human-centered design is a design philosophy. It means starting with a good understanding of people and the needs that the design is intended to meet. This understanding comes about primarily through observation, for people themselves are often unaware of their true needs, even unaware of the difficulties they are encountering. Getting the specification of the thing to be defined is one of the most difficult parts of the design, so much so that the HCD principle is to avoid specifying the problem as long as possible but instead to iterate upon repeated approximations. This is done through rapid tests of ideas, and after each test modifying the approach and the problem definition. The results can be products that truly meet the needs of people.

A conceptual model is an explanation, usually highly simplified, of how something works. It doesn’t have to be complete or even accurate as long as it is useful.

When people use something, they face two gulfs: the Gulf of Execution, where they try to figure out how it operates, and the Gulf of Evaluation, where they try to figure out what happened [...] The role of the designer is to help people bridge the two gulfs.

We bridge the Gulf of Execution through the use of signifiers, constraints, mappings, and a conceptual model. We bridge the Gulf of Evaluation through the use of feedback and a conceptual model.

Most of us start by believing we already understand both human behavior and the human mind. After all, we are all human: we have all lived with ourselves all of our lives, and we like to think we understand ourselves. But the truth is, we don’t. Most of human behavior is a result of subconscious processes. We are unaware of them.

When we speak, we often do not know what we are about to say until our conscious mind (the reflective part of the mind) hears ourselves uttering the words.

When we perform a well-learned action, all we have to do is think of the goal and the behavioral level handles all the details: the conscious mind has little or no awareness beyond creating the desire to act.

We need to remove the word failure from our vocabulary, replacing it instead with learning experience. To fail is to learn: we learn more from our failures than from our successes. With success, sure, we are pleased, but we often have no idea why we succeeded. With failure, it is often possible to figure out why, to ensure that it will never happen again.
Scientists know this. Scientists do experiments to learn how the world works. Sometimes their experiments work as expected, but often they don’t. Are these failures? No, they are learning experiences. Many of the most important scientific discoveries have come from these so-called failures.

Eliminate all error messages from electronic or computer systems. Instead, provide help and guidance.

Humans err continually; it is an intrinsic part of our nature. System design should take this into account.

Eliminate the term human error. Instead, talk about communication and interaction: what we call an error is usually bad communication or interaction. When people collaborate with one another, the word error is never used to characterize another person’s utterance. That’s because each person is trying to understand and respond to the other, and when something is not understood or seems inappropriate, it is questioned, clarified, and the collaboration continues. Why can’t the interaction between a person and a machine be thought of as collaboration?

Our strengths are in our flexibility and creativity, in coming up with solutions to novel problems. We are creative and imaginative, not mechanical and precise. Machines require precision and accuracy; people don’t. And we are particularly bad at providing precise and accurate inputs. So why are we always required to do so? Why do we put the requirements of machines above those of people?

Seven fundamental principles of design:
1. Discoverability. It is possible to determine what actions are possible and the current state of the device.
2. Feedback.There is full and continuous information about the results of actions and the current state of the product or service. After an action has been executed, it is easy to determine the new state.
3. Conceptual model. The design projects all the information needed to create a good conceptual model of the system, leading to understanding and a feeling of control. The conceptual model enhances both discoverability and evaluation of results.
4. Affordances. The proper affordances exist to make the desired actions possible.
5. Signifiers.Effective use of signifiers ensures discoverability and that the feedback is well communicated and intelligible.
6. Mappings. The relationship between controls and their actions follows the principles of good mapping, enhanced as much as possible through spatial layout and temporal contiguity.
7. Constraints. Providing physical, logical, semantic, and cultural constraints guides actions and eases interpretation.

Never criticize unless you have a better alternative.

When people err, change the system so that type of error will be reduced or eliminated. When complete elimination is not possible, redesign to reduce the impact.

When many people all have the same problem, shouldn’t another cause be found? If the system lets you make the error, it is badly designed. And if the system induces you to make the error, then it is really badly designed. When I turn on the wrong stove burner, it is not due to my lack of knowledge: it is due to poor mapping between controls and burners. Teaching me the relationship will not stop the error from recurring: redesigning the stove will.

Why do people err? Because the designs focus upon the requirements of the system and the machines, and not upon the requirements of people. Most machines require precise commands and guidance, forcing people to enter numerical information perfectly. But people aren’t very good at great precision. We frequently make errors when asked to type or write sequences of numbers or letters. This is well known: so why are machines still being designed that require such great precision, where pressing the wrong key can lead to horrendous results?

In many industries, the rules are written more with a goal toward legal compliance than with an understanding of the work requirements. As a result, if workers followed the rules, they couldn’t get their jobs done.

Good designers never start by trying to solve the problem given to them: they start by trying to understand what the real issues are.

Don Norman's Law of Product Development: The day a product development process starts, it is behind schedule and above budget.

Good designers are quick learners, for today they might be asked to design a camera; tomorrow, to design a transportation system or a company’s organizational structure. How can one person work across so many different domains? Because the fundamental principles of designing for people are the same across all domains. People are the same, and so the design principles are the same.

Every modern innovation, especially the ones that significantly change lives, takes multiple decades to move from concept to company success A rule of thumb is twenty years from first demonstrations in research laboratories to commercial product, and then a decade or two from first commercial release to widespread adoption. Except that actually, most innovations fail completely and never reach the public. ...more
5

Jan 26, 2014

A splendid book that I finally got around to reading, The Design of Everyday Things walks us through exactly what the title promises. Norman explores phones, doors, car keys, VCRs, water faucets, and signage, looking for principles that show how these work well or poorly.

Despite the author being a psychologist, the books is beautifully bereft of jargon. It reads like Asimov's nonfiction: accessible, brisk, pedagogically attuned, and often witty.

One nice assumption: that the user (you) is usually A splendid book that I finally got around to reading, The Design of Everyday Things walks us through exactly what the title promises. Norman explores phones, doors, car keys, VCRs, water faucets, and signage, looking for principles that show how these work well or poorly.

Despite the author being a psychologist, the books is beautifully bereft of jargon. It reads like Asimov's nonfiction: accessible, brisk, pedagogically attuned, and often witty.

One nice assumption: that the user (you) is usually right. When we run into problems with things, it's often because of poor design.

As someone who grows more obsessed with bad signage every year, I found this a very pleasant read.

Recommended for anyone working with design, with technology, with spaces. And fans of Edward Tufte. ...more
3

Apr 11, 2013

Sensible thinking, but does come across at times like an 80s observational comedy routine about motion sensitive taps.
4

Feb 06, 2012

(4.0) Some good stuff in here, though it's certainly dated

I'll be looking up some of his other books to see if he's as good at predicting and suggesting product improvements as he was back then.

I think he makes concrete some really common sense ways to approach and analyze designs of products that humans use. It's certainly entertaining to point out ridiculous products, interfaces etc., but that's kind of 'negative design': what not to do. That doesn't actually help you do it right. Fortunately, (4.0) Some good stuff in here, though it's certainly dated

I'll be looking up some of his other books to see if he's as good at predicting and suggesting product improvements as he was back then.

I think he makes concrete some really common sense ways to approach and analyze designs of products that humans use. It's certainly entertaining to point out ridiculous products, interfaces etc., but that's kind of 'negative design': what not to do. That doesn't actually help you do it right. Fortunately, he does spend a fair amount of time on how to do it right. So some good stuff to summarize:

* Make the controls/interactive elements visible: they won't used if they're not noticed
* Use cultural, intuitive clues to suggest the function of elements...e.g. choose materials, shapes, colors appropriately
* Try to make the interactive elements map to the functions they perform, particularly easy if there is some spatial component to what is controlled, arrange the elements in the same arrangement as their actions
* Think of the steps that will occur when a user interacts with a product:
-- user forms a goal
-- user translates the goal into smaller, more concrete 'intentions'
-- user enacts the intention as best he can
-- the system responds
-- the user tries to interpret the response
-- 'bugs' can occur anywhere in this chain, identifying the source can help identify the solution
* Make sure there's feedback when user does something. If the product's state has changed, make sure user can tell. Readable displays can be helpful here
* Users will make mistakes. Expect them and make them reversible, low impact
* If you need instructions for new user to operate, you're probably doing it wrong
* Try to use constraints to limit the wrong actions user can take
-- e.g. 3.5" floppy disks can only be inserted one way into drive (though they look square and top not much different from bottom)
-- cultural constraints can be used as well as physical constraints
* as last resort, turn to arbitrary standards (so even if something not intuitive, user only has to learn once and can apply to all similar devices)
-- e.g. QWERTY keyboard
* how to use technology best to improve products/processes:
-- simplify tasks, but leave them largely the same (don't automate away key steps that users will forget occur and can't troubleshoot when something's wrong)
-- make things visible that weren't visible before so state is easier to track
-- design for error, don't blame "human error" when unintuitive/broken interface leads to disaster (e.g. three mile island)

So I think a few of these can be explicit steps to take when evaluating a design:
* are the relevant features visible? is feedback visible?
* is it clear what the mapping is from interface to resulting actions?
* when user interacts with each control, is there appropriate feedback?
* can user identify when he's made an error? can he undo the error? are the 'human errors' ever catastrophic?
* are there constraints you can apply to reduce possibility of error?

He also made some cool predictions/product requests, which makes me want to read some of his more recent stuff:
* the windows/macintosh user interface would take off
* calendar/reminder book would be electronic and fit in your pocket (but didn't think they'd BE the phone...talked about connecting the calendar to the phone...but well on his way to asking for the smartphone)
* how big hypertext would get, mostly in the context of books/media...not sure he really thought of the Web as the logical extension though
* it also seems that his line of thinking was adopted into the types of user testing that i'm familiar with...let naive users play with the product with no guidance and see what sense they make of it. what mistakes do they make? when were they surprised by how the product behaved? why?

Only negative bits were that there was some material in the middle about theory of mind, memory, psychology of errors etc. that I didn't think was all that relevant. Interesting, perhaps, but a little out of place. ...more
2

May 21, 2014

I'm just going to be real. This book was incredibly boring. I picked it up because I was told it was a classic of the field and would be useful to have in my reading repertoire. And truthfully, the only reason I gave it two stars instead of one is because of the impact this book has clearly had on the design field. I'm sure at the time of its original release, this book was light years ahead of others in the way that it thought about design. I can definitely see how its concepts have become a I'm just going to be real. This book was incredibly boring. I picked it up because I was told it was a classic of the field and would be useful to have in my reading repertoire. And truthfully, the only reason I gave it two stars instead of one is because of the impact this book has clearly had on the design field. I'm sure at the time of its original release, this book was light years ahead of others in the way that it thought about design. I can definitely see how its concepts have become a main part of every design education.

But ultimately, I thought this book was too wordy. It said in hundreds of pages what, in my opinion, could probably have been said in less. A lot of it is very common sense, in that most people don't even really think about the concepts.

Altogether, probably still good that I read it. But I'd be lying if I said that I didn't skim a majority of it for the important bits. ...more

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