A Book Review of The Design of Everyday Things
The Design of Everyday Things is a best selling book by cognitive scientist and usability engineer Donald A Norman. Originally published in 1988 as “The Psychology of Everyday Things”, the emphasis of his book is on people, and how we, as human beings, interact with psychical objects.
Did you ever stand in front of a door, completely clueless on how to open it? Did you ever try to add someone to your list of contacts on the mobile phone, taking about 10 minutes to finally figure it out and blaming yourself for being clumsy? Then it is time to read a book about product design in the context of user experience.
In The Design of Everyday Things (or DOET), Donald Norman explores the fundamental design principles through human interactions with everyday things such as doors, telephones, light and power switches. Still feeling clumsy or is it the product? As Norman explains: “User error is really a problem of bad design.”.
True, some of the content in this book is rather dated. However, I believe that Donald Norman’s underlying design principles are still relevant and applicable to present day design. As he explains:
“Technology may change rapidly, but people change slowly. The principles, the examples, and the lessons of The Design of Everyday Things come from an understanding of people. They remain true forever.”
Maybe just a few fun examples: “Remote control of the home is a popular fantasy among technologists. Why not, they muse, call your home while you are driving and turn on the heat or air conditioning … ” or “Wouldn’t it be great if we all had small screens we could carry around?”. It was interesting to see how design has evolved over 25 years; I almost felt like a time traveler.
Donald A Norman wrote a very amusing and useful guidebook (and a classic) for the understanding of basic user-centric design in products. One of the many reasons why I have included The Design of Everyday Things in my online book collection. An absolute must read for every designer and I would highly recommend it to any product designer.
Although originally published in 1988, The Design of Everyday Things is still an excellent guidebook (and a classic) for the understanding of basic user-centric design in products, fixtures, software, and the everyday things that make up our world.
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