How many times have you pulled on a door when you should have pushed? You felt like an idiot right?
How often do you step into a new shower and scald yourself with hot water because you didn't correctly anticipate the sensitivity of the dial? Ouch!
Or are you like me in that you constantly fumble with the gang of 4 light switches in your living room, trying to figure out which one operates which light? Frustrating right? This is worse for me because I designed all of the switching for my house.
You probably blamed yourself in all of these situations. But you were wrong. Don Norman would call this poor design. And that is what The Design of Everyday Things is about. The design of some of the most simplest things such as a door to the more technical and extreme such as the dashboard of an airplane.
As is the case in the airplane, the design of these everyday things can be extremely important and have disastrous effects if not thoughtfully considered.
Norman analyzes these different design blunders and really digs deep into the psychology of how we think and act. Norman's analysis is very thorough and he outlines alternate ways to address some of the most basic design problems.
The following excerpts will give you a little taste of The Design of Everyday Things.
On the metric system: "Today, over two centuries have passed since the metric system was developed by the French in the 1790s, yet three countries still resist its use: the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar. Even Great Britain has mostly switched, so the only major country left that uses the older English system of units is the United states. Why haven't we switched?"
On the failure of investigating disasters such as a plane crash: "The tendency to stop seeking reasons as soon as a human error has been found is widespread."
Questioning how doctors are allowed to work on little sleep: "Most professions that involve the risk of death or injury (like a pilot) have similar regulations about drinking, sleep and drugs. But everyday jobs do not have these restrictions. Hospitals often require their staff to go without sleep for durations that far exceed the safety requirements of airlines. Why? Would you be happy having a sleep-deprived physician operating on you? Why is sleep deprivation considered dangerous in one situation and ignored in another?"
So I hate to say that I had a beef with this book, because I really enjoyed it, but......It was very long.
And at times a little boring for my taste . It read like a text book to me.
The folks in the architecture book club had a hard time with it. Even the dude that only read 6 pages thought it was too long.
Final Wrap Up
Although this book was a little long and slow for my taste, I think it is a wonderful resource. One that computer programmers, industrial designers, graphic designers and architects should have in their library.
I feel like I have some new tools in my designer tool belt after reading The Design of Everyday Things.
Buy the Book
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