Kevin Feng

-- CS student, creative technologist

The Design of Everyday Things

By Donald A. Norman

Although the some of the technology mentioned is hilariously out of date, the design principles covered by Norman are certainly not. A couple resonated with me:

1) “It doesn’t matter that you may have used the device a hundred times successfully - it is the one time you got embarrassed that will come to mind.” The user will remember the design flaws much more clearly than design strengths, so even if a product is well-designed, it will not be truly delightful to the user unless all facets of the product are thoroughly user tested.

2) The importance of designing while keeping in mind what the user already knows and is familiar with. “We make decisions based upon what is in our memory; memory is biased toward overgeneralization and overregulation of the commonplace and overemphasis on the discrepant.” This includes following natural mappings between intentions/actions, actions/resulting effects, and visible info/interpreted information.

I also enjoyed Norman’s breakdown of each design through anecdotes; it’s an engaging and intuitive narrative that does a great job of putting the reader in the perspective of products' users rather than designers. Norman makes a distinction between needs of users and needs designers assume from users, which I appreciated. I found that this is not only a book that talks about good and bad design, but also uses its narrative style to guide readers into adapting a thoughtful, user-centered analysis to design problems.


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