The Design Of Everyday Things Book Summary By Donald A. Norman

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"The Design of Everyday Things" by Don Norman gives an in-depth look at the cognitive psychology behind good design and why products should be designed to meet users' needs.

It covers the various barriers that can prevent a product from being well-designed, as well as how to reduce errors and make sure users have a positive experience with their technology.

The author also explains how to make sure users and tech mesh together properly.

In short, this book is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in learning more about good design and creating products that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Book Name: The Design of Everyday Things (The cognitive psychology of good design)

Author(s): Donald A. Norman

Rating: 4.4/5

Reading Time: 17 Minutes

Categories: Creativity

Author Bio

The Design of Everyday Things was written by none other than Donald Norman, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego.

He's an acclaimed author in the field, having written several bestselling books such as Emotional Design and Living with Complexity which have been highly praised.

Donald Norman is knowledgeable in the area of Cognitive Science and has a wealth of experience writing on the topics covered in The Design of Everyday Things.

It's no wonder that this book is seen by many as one of the most significant works on how design can improve our lives.

It's truly a must-have for anyone interested in better understanding our environment and it's usability!

Intelligent Design: How Smart Design Makes Complex Products Easier To Use

The Design of Everyday Things is an intriguing book that explores the secrets behind good design.

From simple products like a remote control to complex systems, good design should always be the aim.

The author takes us on a journey to understand why bad design can cause confusion and frustrations, and how it can lead to costly accidents and fatalities.

The book will teach you how to find the root cause of any problem – no matter how complicated – by working through it step-by-step.

You’ll also find out how intelligent design principles can help users easily and intuitively grasp new products, and reveal why fixing small design errors can make a huge difference, ultimately saving precious lives.

Using The Design of Everyday Things as your guide, you’ll learn what makes up effective and efficient design, helping you analyse existing products for potential areas for improvement and creating new products with clever intuitive designs tailored for success.

The Dangers Of Rapidly Advancing Technology: Why Bad Design Is So Common

Products that are difficult to use or understanding are the direct result of bad design, rather than us being ‘too stupid’ to make use of the technology.

Take for example, a modern TV remote – with so many buttons and functions, it can often be hard to fathom how to get everything working properly.

It’s easy to think that we’re simply not intelligent enough to make sense of our household appliances – but really, it’s because somebody neglected the relationship between users and technology when designing these products.

It’s this lack of consideration in the development process which leads us down a path of confusing and impractical user interfaces; from cell phones with their ever-changing features, to TVs with seemingly endless buttons on their remotes.

The rapid advancement of technology is making it increasingly challenging for designers to make new products that are still simple enough for everyday users.

That’s why it’s important that design thinking always takes into account how both humans and technology interact together in order for us all to get the most out of our devices.

By doing this, bad designs become a thing of the past, leaving only easy-to-use technology which gets people where they need go as quickly as possible.

The Need For Clear Signs And Clues: How Poor Design Can Be Frustrating For Consumers

When you buy a product, a well-designed one should teach its users how to use it.

Not only should the product be easy to figure out without needing to refer to the instruction manual, but it should also be user- and learner-friendly.

This means that when people pick up a new piece of technology – whether it’s a computer program or something as simple as a lawn mower – they won’t need to spend too much time learning how to use it before they can get started.

Take, for example, the humble door.

Most people have no problem with this; if there is a handle and hinges in plain sight then we understand that we need to turn the handle and push or pull accordingly.

However, if there are no signs on the door or any obvious way of telling which side the hinges are on (e.g., if it’s a glass door) then even this simple task can become difficult – resulting in embarrassing scenarios like one of the author’s friends getting stuck between two glass doors!

Good design doesn’t just mean making things visually pleasing; it means providing clear indications for how someone should interact with it.

This is what makes products reliable and user-friendly – provided users are given clues regarding how they should manipulate an object and use its features correctly, they’re more likely to understand and quickly learn how something works.

According To The Author, Product Design Must Take Users’ Psychology Into Account

Designing a product, such as a washing machine, requires thought beyond just the product itself.

The designer needs to consider how human psychology intertwines with the design process when creating a successful product.

The author of The Design of Everyday Things notes that users engage with a product on three different psychological levels: the visceral, behavior and reflective.

At the visceral level, which corresponds to an unconscious behavior like breathing or digesting, users activate the machine with quick press of a button.

Then at the behavioral level, conscious reactions can be used to select options or interpret results from the cycle.

Finally at the reflective level, higher cognitive functions are taken into account for complex problem solving.

It is essential for industries such as product design to take into account all aspects of human psychology when creating products – from providing many options at the reflective level, simple and quick cycles selection at the behavioral level, and making it easy to activate buttons at the visceral level – so that your users find success in using your washed-up products!

The Key To Solving Problems Is Finding The Root Cause With Design Thinking

The Design of Everyday Things shows us the key to fixing bad design is to find out what the “root cause” of the problem is.

Rather than just blaming a user when something goes wrong with a product, we need to dig deeper in order to prevent future mistakes from happening.

Take the example of flight controls from airplanes.

For a while, they used a confusing system where the button to increase or decrease velocity looked similar to the button to increase or decrease the angle of descent / ascent.

This led many pilots unknowingly making mistakes thinking they were doing one thing when in fact, they were doing another.

This was not an error made by the pilots but it was an error related to design and human cognition that needed addressed.

The solution? Changing up their appearance so there wouldn’t be anymore confusion on what buttons do what.

And that’s exactly what happened!

When fixing any and all design problems, it’s paramount that you identify the true root cause of the problem instead of slapping on a Band-Aid solution (that won’t fix anything).

In order to do this effectively, Design Thinking is our go-to method; a process involving open inquiry and analysis which helps diagnose issues rapidly and accurately pinpoint deeper underlying causes behind errors.

At Toyota, for instance, their team practice what’s known as The Five Whys; whereby they keep asking why until they reach a point where there are no more questions left – all issues have been resolved and they can go back feeling sure that they’ve identified each and every root cause that posed potential problems before.

The Power Of Constraints: How Rules, Clues And Limits Make Life Easier

Good design uses product constraints to help users understand the product.

This is especially true when it comes to self-assembly products, like those made by IKEA.

By providing physical and cultural clues and limits, designers can direct users to the right action, increasing ease of use and helping them get the most out of their purchase.

For example, when putting together IKEA furniture, you’ll notice different nuts and bolts that all fit into equal-sized holes that have only one place each bit can go into.

That makes it easier to assemble, as well as directing the user towards one specific action – something that physical constraints do very well.

Cultural constraints are also helpful in this respect; we all know that to screw in a screw you turn it one direction to tighten, and another to loosen – but without this shared knowledge amongst communities it would be far harder for us to use a screwdriver!

Lastly, product constraints can also serve as reminders about certain functions we may take for granted or forget about; for example if you’re saving a document on your computer are reminded by your system’s ‘Save before closing?’ constraint not to forget about saving what you’ve worked so hard on.

Overall good design should always involve product constraints in order to assist users in getting the most out of their purchase with as little hassle as possible.

The Importance Of Feedback In Design: How To Communicate With Your Users

Well-designed products can effectively communicate with users to answer their questions and help them navigate complex interfaces.

The most important part of this communication comes in the form of feedback.

This feedback lets the user know whether the product is functioning properly or not, such as knowing if a device is on or off.

For example, when setting an alarm on a smartphone, the phone should show some kind of visual feedback that confirms it has been set successfully.

Without this signal, users might accidentally turn on their own alarms!

Likewise, a home security system should provide users with a signal that clearly communicates if it’s active or not so people don’t leave their houses unprotected or mistakenly set off their own alarm.

In summary: good design provides clear and useful feedback which is essential in letting users understand how to use a device while protecting them from any costly mistakes.

The Power Of Human-Centred Design: How To Create Products That People Love To Use

In order to bring technology and people closer together, design needs to be human-centered.

We’ve seen amazing advances in technology over the years, but unfortunately, this progress often leaves behind peoples’ needs and abilities when it comes to the design of products.

Designers shouldn’t just try to create something new at the expense of forgetting who’ll end up using it in the end: us, humans!

To really make sure a design is suitable for its users, there should be a four step process that starts with understanding and observing how people interact with the product.

Then ideas can be generated on how to make the user interface simpler if that’s an issue – or any other problem related to using the product.

Once ideas have been proposed, those should be put into prototypes for testing on real people.

This way, designers can sohuld then observe their usage behaviour to check if any problems persist or wrinkle out any unexpected issues that may arise.

Only after it has passed testing can it be considered suitable for release.

If designers remember that success is found in designing with people instead of just for them, they’ll achieve much better results when creating new products – being able to bring technology and people closer together than ever before!

The Key To Creating A Successful Product Is Inner-Department Cooperation And Patience

Successful products require both patience and cooperation between marketers and designers in order to come to fruition.

Take, for example, the touch screens found on smart phones.

Although these have been around since the 1980s, they didn’t start becoming widely used until much later due to disagreements between marketing and design departments.

Designers wanted a product that was highly usable, resulting in a high price point.

Marketers, on the other hand, focused more on quantity, wanting an inexpensive touch screen that was still easy to use.

This is where experiencing setbacks and taking time comes into play; without patience from both parties involved, this technology wouldn’t be as successful as it is today.

It’s also important to remember Norman’s Law: no product will be released without going over-budget or behind schedule at least once during its production timeline.

To avoid total delay of release dates due to unforeseen issues, you need to plan ahead with some extra flexibility built in.

The author shares a story of his experience with a Christmas release slated for four weeks away – way too short of a timeframe based on past trends – but the project still didn’t make it out of production before going on vacation…

setting it back months from its original intended launch date.

It just goes to show that being understanding and considering every possibility when planning for success is key!

Wrap Up

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman is a book that provides actionable advice and key insights on human-centered design.

The main message throughout the book is to create products adapted to users’ needs and desires by understanding how people interact with them.

The main takeaway from this book includes giving manufacturers feedback when you encounter an issue with a product, so improvements can be made in the future, and always digging until you hit the root cause of an issue so that it can be properly addressed.

Overall, this book is filled with wisdom about design processes for creating effective products for users, making it a must-have for any budding designer or innovator interested in understanding the basics of good design.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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