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The Psychology Of Everyday Things Hardcover – June 13, 1988


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Frequently Bought Together

The Psychology Of Everyday Things + The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition + Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
Price for all three: $50.16

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (June 13, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465067093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465067091
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

With the many recent advances in technology, it seems, there has followed a diminution of quality. Electronic books have several advantages over their print counterparts, for instance. But for the time being, they're hard to use and unattractive to boot. Computers, which are supposed to make our lives easier, are commonly sources of frustration and wasted time. Movies are wondrously chock-a-block with special effects--but someone forgot the story. And so on.

Donald Norman, a retired professor of cognitive science, is bothered to no end by the fact that grappling with unfriendly objects now takes up so many of our hours. Over the course of several books, of which The Psychology of Everyday Things was the first, he has railed against bad design. He scrutinizes a range of artifacts that are supposed to make our daily living a little easier, and he finds most of them wanting. Why, he asks, does a door need instructions that say "push" or "pull"? A well-designed object, he argues, is self-explanatory. But well-designed objects are increasingly rare, for the present culture places a higher value on aesthetics than utility, even with such items as cordless screwdrivers, dresser drawers, and kitchen cabinets. In their concern for creating "art," many designers don't seem to consider what people actually do with things. Such disregard, Norman suggests, leads to few objects being standardized: think of all the different kinds of unsynchronized clocks that lurk in microwave ovens, VCRs, coffee makers, and the like--and of all the different kinds of batteries needed to drive them. Why, he wonders, must we reset all those clocks whenever the power goes off? Some designer somewhere, he ventures, ought to develop a master clock that communicates with all other electric clocks in a home--one that, when reset, synchronizes its slave units.

You don't need to be especially interested in technological matters to enjoy Norman's arguments. The book's underlying question is aimed at a global audience: will the design of everyday things improve? If this entertaining and, yes, well-designed book changes even a few minds, perhaps it will. --Gregory McNamee

From Library Journal

Anybody who has ever complained that "they don't make things like they used to" will immediately connect with this book. Norman's thesis is that when designers fail to understand the processes by which devices work, they create unworkable technology. Director of the Institute for Cognitive Sciences at University of California, San Diego, the author examines the psychological processes needed in operating and comprehending devices. Examples include doors you don't know whether to push or pull and VCRs you can't figure out how to program. Written in a readable, anecdotal, sometimes breezy style, the book's scholarly sophistication is almost transparent. Gregg Sapp, Idaho State Univ. Lib., Pocatello
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

I ended up reading the other book and sending this one back, but I would recommend either.
Jared Vorkavich
The Psychology of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman is a book that gives an interesting treatment of usability and design of everything from doors to computers.
Philip R. Heath
Essential reading for Designers, Programmers, Engineers, Architects and a lot more besides.
NMoffatt@aol.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Karl Reinsch on June 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Same book as the paperback "The Design of Everyday Things". Just as good a book under either title. (You'll find more reviews of it under the other title.)
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Karl E. Boggs on March 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A fun book that might open your eyes to things usually taken for granted. My copy of the book was actually bound with the spine on the opposite side of the book which was a bit awkward but was a lesson in the spirit of the book. (I have never seen another copy bound the same way, so it might have been an accident.) I return to the book whenever I think I am stuck in habitual thinking about objects and processes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Philip R. Heath TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Psychology of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman is a book that gives an interesting treatment of usability and design of everything from doors to computers. Over seven chapters and 217 pages (of core content), Norman lays out a very logical and technical treatment of the subject. I am a software development professional, and I choose this book to look for higher level principles that I could apply in my line of work. This has been done very successfully in the realm of design patterns in software that have their conceptual root in architectural patterns.

Norman gives a number of illustrations based on who people have difficulties using doors of varying styles. Who has not had a mishap of trying to pull a "push" door or push a "pull" door? While giving the reader something that they can relate to, Norman outlines the factors that distinguish good designs from poor ones. He talks about the visible queues that objectives give users as to the proper use in addition to feedback that the user has accomplished their goal in using objects. Some examples are a bit dated (given that the book was published 20 years ago) such as the difficulties of slide projectors and VCRs. However the principles that he relates transcend time and apply as much today as they did 20, 40, and 100 years ago. It is also interesting that he calls for things yet invented that are now in existence such as the PDA/smartphone and CDs that contain the artist and song information for display on your radio. At the end, I got a bit of a laugh from his trepidation about the issues that would come from being able to search the world's collection of hypertext documents. However, the early days of the internet did prove his fears correct. We take Google's work for granted.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Sauro on September 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the seminal works in the field of User Centered Design...Norman wrote this book well before the Windows operating system was as familiar as the Golden Arches which only reinforces the idea that certain basic usability principles transcend all forms of objects-from glass doors to Windows Explorer.
Norman does a great job of describing why and how we successfully and unsuccessfully use everyday objects with relevant anecdotes. His stories are usually accompanied with lists of principles that explain good design and account for human behavior. For example, the fundamental principals of designing for people are to: Provide a good conceptual model, make controls visible and to constantly provide feedback to the user.
So how does one employ good user-centered design? Norman recapitulates his points at the end of the book by listing the seven UCD principles for transforming difficult tasks into easy ones:
1. Use both knowledge in the world and in the head
2. Simplify the structure of tasks
3. Make things visible
4. Get the mappings right
5. Exploit the powers of constraints Natural & Artificial
6. Design for Error
7. When all else fails, standardize
It's mandatory reading for any usability software engineer but also an interesting and well written book for anyone who's ever pushed a "pull door" or scalded themselves in the shower (which is all of us).
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This was my first human factors type book, and I very much enjoyed it. As a software engineer, this book was very helpful in putting a structure to ideas that I had thought of as common sense. Ideas such as giving the user visual cues as to function, providing feedback, and presenting the user with a clear conceptual model are a few of the ideas which are outlined in this book. While any one of these might be thought of as obvious once illustrated, the book provides a framework for design by listing them and making it clear what the tradeoffs are. With many real world examples to illustrate his points, as well as to amuse the reader, I found this book very clear and easy to read. The next time that I sit down to design a user interface I'll have a much clearer and organized approach to both design and to evaluate the design that I've created.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 20, 1997
Format: Hardcover
...so don't buy them both.

Anyway, should be required reading in high school by all humans in who build or use designed things.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Justo S. on June 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is not a book on Psychology, nor it is written just for designers. Every person who read this book will find interesting information and will recognize some own experiences trying to make some devices work, and I do not mean complex ones, but as simple as a light switch.
Actually, as the title reads, the book deals with "everyday things," though there are some parts that use examples like a nuclear plant or a cockpit.
Of course, we do not need to read this book to use such things, but you would enjoy reading it.
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