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The Design of Everyday Things

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  23,096 ratings  ·  1,746 reviews
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 an ...more
Kindle Edition, Revised and Expanded Edition, 370 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Basic Books (first published 1988)
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Lynn Ellen This book is in the public domain and you can easily get free PDF copies online. I use it often when teaching Design Technology at the IBDP level.…moreThis book is in the public domain and you can easily get free PDF copies online. I use it often when teaching Design Technology at the IBDP level.
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Andrew Eggenberger Tap on “Book Details,” then “Editions.” From there you can switch to the revised and updated edition.

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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  23,096 ratings  ·  1,746 reviews


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David
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading this you will never look at any man-made object the same. You will question everything from doors to tea kettles to the most sophisticated computer program. The next time you fumble with an answering machine, web page, or light switch you will think back to the lessons from this book. It is almost liberating once you can see beyond the design of everyday things.

I highly recommend this book for anyone. You absolutely must read it if you will ever be in a position to crea
...more
Philip Mcallister
For a book that a lot of people rave about as being a 'bible of usability', I have to say it was one of the worst written and designed books I have ever been unfortunate enough to read.
Jessica E
Jan 22, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Too general to be valuable. Too many sentences like this: "Each discipline has a different perspective of the relative importance of the many factors that make up a product."
Jim
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This took me FOREVER to read - but it isn't the book's fault. It was me just picking it up at odd moments & it giving me a lot to think about each time. I don't design every day things, so had absolutely no need to read this book, but found it extremely interesting. If you have any part in designing anything, you MUST read this book.

Norman points out the obvious - things I took for granted - & made me think about them in an entirely new light. He breaks down the simplest devices into t
...more
Rod Hilton
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Whenever programmers ask other programmers for book suggestions, there's always some smartass that says something like "The Art of War" because of blah blah blah about corporate politics. Hoo boy you're clever, you suggested a non-programming book, way to not play by the rules. You really march to the beat of your own drum there, slick.

Similarly, I constantly see "The Design of Everyday Things" suggested in these kinds of conversations. I think it's supposed to give engineers great i
...more
Nick Black
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Jeff Garzik
Jeff Garzik gave me a copy of this back when he was building the Linux network stack in Home Park; I'd seen it praised by a few other people by that time as well (via the GT newsgroups, most likely). I was underwhelmed -- there were a few good case analyses (the oven UI I recall being particularly effective), but very little usable, general principles came out of the read. I went back in 2006, thinking I'd perhaps missed something, but didn't find much more. then again, i'm probably not the targ ...more
Jessica
Couldn't get in to it. Maybe I'll try again at a different time. On a side note, I found it odd that a book about user-centered design had line-broken right-justified headings and baffling use of italics.
Tam
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
This book is more for knowledge than for enjoyment. The writing is rather dry and textbook-like with many abstract/theoretical concepts and ideas. I feel like taking a short course in design, which is still quite helpful. Nevertheless, I was expecting more of "smart" designs, more fun and strange and inspiring stories, but Norman isn't there to entertain but to educate and so there are examples mostly to illustrate concepts and processes. Naturally I was a bit disappointed, but still in general ...more
David
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever stood in front of a door, or a microwave, absolutely flummoxed, because the damned thing gave you no clue whatsoever how to open it. If so (even, I venture to think, if not), you will enjoy this book. In clear, coruscating prose he exposes the miserable flaws in the design of everyday objects which conspire to make our lives less convenient, more miserable, and sometimes more dangerous.

The book is not just an exposé of the appalling laziness and hostility to consumers t
...more
Joe
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
The Design of Everyday Things (DOET) is the story of doors, faucets and keyboards; it's the tale of rangetops and refrigerators. Donald Norman beckons the reader to look at the common objects they deal with every day in new and methodical ways. And he offers this central question; what makes an object well-designed as opposed to poorly-designed?

But on the question of design DOET, itself an everyday object, rates poorly. Norman's discussion of individual items proves inconsistent and rarely systematic; som()
...more
Traveller
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent piece of non-fiction. This book is a prescribed textbook for a course on computer interface design that I'm doing.

Once I really started reading it, I almost couldn't put it down - it was so interesting that it almost read like fiction - none of the dry dust usually found in conventional textbooks.

Very well and humorously presented, and a must for engineers, designers, manufacturers and inventors everywhere!
David Bjelland
BLUF: A good-to-great primer on human-centered design, albeit one that's lighter on examples and political introspection than I'd hoped for.

Longer take:
I'll admit: since first hearing about "Norman doors" in college and then seeing the hilarious "second degree burn kettle" on the cover, I'd built up the idea in my head of this book being some sort of righteous crusade against poorly-designed objects. I looked forward to hours of chuckling along as he gave instances of abominably unusable
...more
Laura
Jun 06, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was written in a decade before authors learned how to write stimulating non-fiction.
Kater Cheek
I got this as an audiobook, based on the fact that it falls within my usual taste for non fiction and because it's been referred to by many other books. In many ways, this is a classic book that inspired many people to think more seriously about design. At least, that's my impression, garnered from the unreasonably long introduction in which the author talks about how great and important his book is.

Confession time: I didn't finish the book. I got down to about the last hour and ten
...more
Stringy
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic for a reason. The examples are dated, but if you still remember rotary dial telephones (maybe over 30 years of age?) you'll be fine with them. Since Norman more or less predicts iPhones and iPads in this book, I'd love to read an update chapter from him in the next edition.

The principles are still accurate and useful, and Norman makes a solid case for why my inability to get through doorways safely is actually the fault of the manufacturers. People using products are busy, they have t
...more
Neven
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
DoeT isn't the world's best written book—Norman's style is too often kvetchy-casual, sounding more like a modern-day ranty blog post than a classic of academic design writing.

But that is only one way in which this book is ahead of its time. The observations and recommendations regarding usable design here hold to extremely well 25 years later; even though Norman's examples concern ancient phone systems and slide projectors, it all translates perfectly well to virtual touchscreen UIs of today. A
...more
Brian Rosenblat
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
(5.0)

Can't believe I hadn't read this before.

There's a lot of wisdom in this book. I'd highly recommend for anyone pursuing a career in design, product, marketing, or tech, or anyone who just wants to build great products.

Internalize these ideas and put them into practice and you will create better products that will impact people's lives.
Katie
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think there is really only one gif to sum this book up properly:


This book, although the examples are dated (as listed in nearly every review), is quite fabulous. The original title was actually "The Psychology of Everyday Things" which was less friendly to the average person, but quite accurate.

Like I said in a previous update, I feel like this book should be required reading for any type of designer, but somehow I had missed it un
...more
Thomas
This was alright.

This book came out around 1988 and was updated in 2002. That's not a problem through most of it. there are timeless principles here that will make any designer of consumer goods better at his job. These principles will also help the rest of us to be smarter consumers or just smarter people. I'm a man before I'm a consumer. A...man...I tell you!

It's little dry in places and there were points when it occurred to me that this book would really benefit from a
...more
Yevgeniy Brikman
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has several very important ideas:

* Even if you aren't professional designer, you still use design everywhere in your life, including how you design your house, your resume, a report, some code, etc.

* Design is all about focusing on people's needs and abilities. You may think you know what those are by the virtue of being a human, but you don't, as most human actions are unconscious. Therefore, to be a good designer, you need to learn some psychology.

...more
Bryan Alexander
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: design, technology
A splendid book that I finally got around to reading, The Design of Everyday Things walks us through exactly what the title promises. Norman explores phones, doors, car keys, VCRs, water faucets, and signage, looking for principles that show how these work well or poorly.

Despite the author being a psychologist, the books is beautifully bereft of jargon. It reads like Asimov's nonfiction: accessible, brisk, pedagogically attuned, and often witty.

One nice assumption: that the use
...more
Rob Adey
Sensible thinking, but does come across at times like an 80s observational comedy routine about motion sensitive taps.
Brian
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Michael Economy
(4.0) Some good stuff in here, though it's certainly dated

I'll be looking up some of his other books to see if he's as good at predicting and suggesting product improvements as he was back then.

I think he makes concrete some really common sense ways to approach and analyze designs of products that humans use. It's certainly entertaining to point out ridiculous products, interfaces etc., but that's kind of 'negative design': what not to do. That doesn't actually help you d
...more
Lacey
May 21, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, design
I'm just going to be real. This book was incredibly boring. I picked it up because I was told it was a classic of the field and would be useful to have in my reading repertoire. And truthfully, the only reason I gave it two stars instead of one is because of the impact this book has clearly had on the design field. I'm sure at the time of its original release, this book was light years ahead of others in the way that it thought about design. I can definitely see how its concepts have become a ma ...more
Eduardo Rocha
Apr 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is amazing. You'll never look at another door or faucet in the sameway.
If you take anything from this book, it is these 7 principles of making a difficult design task an easy one.

1. Use both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head.
2. Simplify the structure of tasks.
3. Make things visible: bridge the gulfs of Execution and Evaluation.
4. Get the mappings right.
5. Exploit the power of constraints, both natural and artificial.
6. Desi
...more
Tracey
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: craft, non-fiction
The main question in my mind after listening to this audiobook is easily enough answered: How old IS this book, anyhow? In the introduction the author talks about how the book isn't dated. Well, it was originally published in 1988. One of the pieces of technology most discussed is the videocassette recorder. The VCR. The computers being discussed are about a step beyond the ones that were capable of adding three numbers together using a bank of systems that would fill a room.

Some of the book is releva
...more
Jacob Mclaws
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: design
This a required read for anyone who wants to design things for humans to use, but it was more like a textbook than I hoped when I picked it up. Lots of design vocabulary and lots of fairly common-sense principles. Don Norman is definitely one of the early design thinkers and this is where he talks about it all.

Big takeaways:
Signifiers and feedback are key in designing something. The user needs to be able to quickly understand what it can do (affordances) and get immediate and appropriate feedb
...more
Jon
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: designers, computer scientists, engineers
The book introduces basic psychological concepts from areas such as cognitive psychology and ties them into usability and design.

Even though the book feels a bit outdated (they talk about rotary phones and old sewing machines), all the principles covered in the book still apply today.

Even though the book was written with things in mind that most of us won't necessarily use anymore (such as the problem of threading a projector), the principles are still useful to know when
...more
Andreea
Jul 11, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I usually do not let books un-finished, but this one is mediocre, especially if you have some basic psychology concepts
Maciej Kuczyński
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: purchased
I've been wanting to read this book for years now, but I was always discouraged by the seemingly complicated language that the book uses. And I was kinda right – the book reads more like a textbook than a pop-science book. Which is fine, just... It was kinda painful to go through. 😅 Don't get me wrong – the knowledge and ideas contained in "The Design of Everyday Things" are great, but you have to focus hard.
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Donald Arthur Norman is a professor emeritus of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego and a Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern University, where he also co-directs the dual degree MBA + Engineering degree program between the Kellogg school and Northwestern Engineering. Norman is on numerous company advisory boards, including the editorial board of Encyclopædia Bri ...more
“Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.” 47 likes
“Principles of design:
1. Use both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head.
2. Simplify the structure of tasks.
3. Make things visible: bridge gulfs between Execution and Evaluation.
4. Get the mappings right.
5. Exploit the power of constraints.
6. Design for error.
7. When all else fails, standardize.”
34 likes
More quotes…