Paul Reinheimer's Reviews > The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
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Jan 02, 11

Read in January, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 1

This is a fantastic book.

The first thing you'll be told, and come to understand, while reading The Design of Everyday Things is that much of the time when you use something wrong, it's not your fault. Those doors that you pulled when you should have pushed, that can opener that never works quite right, they weren't designed properly. As you get over your new found sense of self-satisfaction you'll be carefully guided through the process of how we interpret objects and assume how they're used, and how designers can either embrace their users, or ignore them (to their own, and everyone else's) detriment.

I find many books that concentrate on usability to be full of things that I knew, but had left the forefront of my mind. This book was in fact full of things I didn't know, but made sense once I'd read them (and a few times forced me to question wether I'd been paying attention in life to not have realized that already). The Design of Everyday Things also touches on why many items are designed poorly, even when more usable designs are known. Key reasons include "style" (think of those plate glass doors with no indicator of where to push), or cost (many public institutions and large companies select products solely based on cost (ignoring the higher costs of bad usability in the long term)).

I think the world would be a better, easier to use place if everyone read this book.
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message 1: by Shannon (new)

Shannon I like being absolved of fault. Sounds like a good read; have any good suggestions for web application usability books?


Paul Reinheimer I've always like Jakob Nielson's first book, the second one is more up to date but it didn't hit me as hard.

This book doesn't speak specifically to web development, but it deals with the essentials of design. Looking at how people solve problems, and understanding that, fundamentally will help anywhere. So it wont tell you to make your links blue because that's a standard (though a fading one), it will tell you that when the mapping between the action and the interface is imperfect, following a standard is a great idea.

I plan on waiting a week or three, then re-reading the book taking notes, hopefully to build myself some worksheets to use when I'm approaching a new problem.


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