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The Design of Everyday Things Paperback – February 1, 1990
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Anyone who designs anything to be used by humans--from physical objects to computer programs to conceptual tools--must read this book, and it is an equally tremendous read for anyone who has to use anything created by another human. It could forever change how you experience and interact with your physical surroundings, open your eyes to the perversity of bad design and the desirability of good design, and raise your expectations about how things should be designed.
"This book is a joy -- fun and of the utmost importance." -- Tom Peters. -- Review
...makes a strong case for the needlessness of badly conceived and badly designed everyday objects...[T]his book may herald the beginning of a change in user habits and expectations, a change that manufacturers would be obliged to respond to. Button pushers of the world, unite. -- Los Angeles Times
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Top Customer Reviews
The author pushes a design paradigm that can be summarized as follows:
1. Make interaction simple, visible, and intuitive
2. Give users feedback to determine if their actions have produced the desired effect
3. Make mistakes easily correctable or entirely avoidable
4. Force interaction when necessary (ie only make a cartridge one-way insertable)
5. Simplify and standardize operation
Those design principles are, by and large, timeless. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this thesis. Unfortunately, the book is simply a product of its time. Perhaps a 2010's-era update would help fix this issue.
The book itself provided great perspective and challenges the reader to look at everyday things from a good/bad design point of view. Norman also gives design guidelines (e.g., natural mappings, visibility, feedback etc) that the reader can focus on an implement when designing.
The book was not so good in terms of organization and consistency. Ironically the book is about good design, but the layout is lacking. First level headings are in Initial caps and aligned right, while second level headings are in all caps and aligned left. Third level headings are also all caps (with smaller font size) and aligned left. In general, I believe all caps are thought to be "bigger" and should be the first level headings and second level headings should use initial caps and third level should use initial caps and italics. I think this, at least now, is a typical cultural convention as well. If I saw only an outline of the book with all the different headings, I think the organization could be improved.
In terms of consistency, throughout the book he talks about design principles, things to keep in mind, and evaluates items back to his ideal design elements. However, that list isn't described consistently. In the 2002 preface (p.xi) the list of design principles include: conceptual models, feedback, constraints, and affordances. On p.4 Norman introduces the principle of visibility. On p.23 Norman introduces the principle of mapping. Visibility and mapping are related to conceptual models, but should not be identified as a "principle" or should have been included in the list of principles on p.xi. Norman defines his credo on p.36 for errors, which is great, but, in my opinion, should be included as a design principle. Throughout the book Norman gives examples and relates the design to the principles he's outlined, but only to some of them and not all.
To improve this read, I would recommend: (1) revise the organization and layout; a good and "symetrical" outline would greatly improve readability and would better convey the "conceptual model" of Norman's message, (2) revise the formatting of the heading levels, (3) formulate a complete list of design principles at the beginning of the book, (4) for each example, evaluate the design with respect to all of the design principles, not just some of them
The main message I got out of it is that a good design should serve men and allow us to use that object in the most natural and "human" and intuitive way without having to look at a manual!
I also learned a lot about psychology; I know I will go back to this book from time to time.