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User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play
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User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,794 ratings  ·  203 reviews
An alternate cover edition can be found here.

In User Friendly, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant reveal the untold story of a paradigm that quietly rules our modern lives: the assumption that machines should anticipate what we need. Spanning over a century of sweeping changes, from women's rights to the Great Depression to World War II to the rise of the digital era, this b
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published November 19th 2019 by MCD
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Puty Yes, in the 'Humanity' chapter. It mentions about how considering the need of someone with disability is not only about being inclusive but also about…moreYes, in the 'Humanity' chapter. It mentions about how considering the need of someone with disability is not only about being inclusive but also about serving everyone else better.(less)

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Peter Tillman
The book opens with a recounting of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear power-plant accident, where an initially small failure turned into a disaster that destroyed the plant -- because the control room was so poorly designed that the operators could never figure out what went wrong! The control room had 1100 dials and 600 alarms [!!], haphazardly laid out. The plant’s basic engineering was sound, and it was in the process of shutting itself down in the fail-safe response its designers had intend ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Designs of physical products, online interactions, and real-world experiences is a lot more interesting and backed by an intriguing history than you may think. Most of us understand that things like Apple products have a lot of design built into them, but have we ever thought about the levels and varieties of design thinking that go into Disney theme parks, the radar system of a WWII-era battleship, the handle of a vegetable peeler, and the control room of a nuclear reactor? These are just a few ...more
Mike Rapp
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have been a user experience designer for years and this book made so many things click into place. If you have any role in product design, this should be required reading.
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have this five stars based on the number of Post Its I used and anecdotes I related to my husband. Great stories about why Three Mile Island melted, planes crash and Walt Disney. We take good design based on psychology for granted. After reading this book you will be more aware of how design affects you every day.
The chapter on self-driving cars is weak and dated. Maybe for the paperback version he can cut this chapter and replace it with one on the USS John McCain, which crashed due to poor d
Andrey Goder
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it
This book covers several disparate topics, which unfortunately were not combined in the most cohesive way. Part of it is a history of UX/design, which is interesting, but is not presented linearly which can make it hard to follow. My favorite part was the discussion of the development of industrial design of physical objects and how it significantly influenced digital design. Additionally it includes a description of more recent ideas in design, such as improvements in driver-assist technology i ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
User Friendly is a super compelling look at the history and foundations of UX. I like how the story threads together many parts of that history-- as far back as WWII. I think we so often think of technology as this fast-paced thing that we can't ever hold on to or understand. User friendliness is something that will always be related to technology and so getting a moment to step back and learn its origins is really insightful. I like that for the most part that history is told with a human lens, ...more
Josh Leong
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
User friendly is well written, incredibly engaging, and should be required reading for individuals who seek to or currently practice user experience design. Because product design is ultimately a trade based discipline that in some sense accepts many other disciplines to it, one of its biggest missing pieces is a strong connection to the stories that built it, and a common narrative to bring it together. As the field of User Experience is still evolving rapidly, it makes the hidden stories of wh ...more
Joe Brown
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book, very well written. The author does an excellent job of elucidating how design is so much more than aesthetics—it’s a sub-language, a user-guide built into everything we interact with. We rarely know to look at it, but our minds see it. A book rarely changes the way you see the world, but if you let it, this one can.
Jamie Smith
Oct 04, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: societies
“For men to perform better than machines, they didn’t need to be trained more; rather, the machine needed to be crafted around them so that they needed to be trained less. And so, whereas twenty years ago, buying a cutting-edge VCR or TV meant also getting a thick instruction manual with which to decipher all its newfangled capabilities, we now expect to be able to pick up some of the most complex machines ever made – our smartphones – and be able to do anything we want, without ever having been ...more
Esther Espeland
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read this bc I work at a design school lmao but I really enjoyed it! Not at all something I thought about before but it was well researched and written and I learned a lot! And it had a social conscience tg tech companies are evil and I shan’t read anything that won’t recognize them as such!
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
One of the best parts of my job involves observing my family's behavior, then redesigning our environment to match our natural behavior with a desired outcome.

It turns out this is an entire field of study. #careeroptions

In seriousness, this book was fascinating. It discussed how the design of an object can affect its user's experience of that little piece of the world; it raised ethical and philosophical questions about how design does and should affect the tools that we use. I had to burn thro
Phil Costa
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really insightful book about how designers approach their tasks and about the broader questions of how designs affect the way we see the possibilities and the world. I felt like the first 2/3 of the book (about the historical evolution of user experience and design choices for things like nuclear power plants and airplanes) was stronger than the end sections (about the like button), but that may be the luxury of a longer perspective. Regardless, definitely worth a read if you're interested in pr ...more
Jun 11, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read that many books about design and UX but I can say that this book is a great starting point. It chronologically explains the history of industrial design. It amazes me how 'user-friendliness' was not commonly thought of until the 1980s, that a nuclear plant accident couldn't be mitigated well because it wasn't 'user-friendly'.

This book also explains the socio-economics aspects of industrial design history ("The idea that America could only copy the heritage of the Old World was ove
Ned Frederick
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
When I first plugged into the user-centered way of thinking about product design, it was four decades ago and I was struggling to understand functional design as it applied to footwear. This was at a time when Industrial Designers, for the first time, were being recruited by my company, to make sneakers more functional. Before that time, coaches, enthusiasts and tinkerers collaborated with traditional footwear stylists to "design" sneakers that would work better for the athletes that wore them. ...more
Meera Sapra
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a most excellent book that I would put next to Don Norman's Design of Everyday Things. The authors talk about the history of human-centered design through several relevant concepts and real-world examples. I love how the author bring together so many powerful stories to explain the concept of user-friendliness, how it evolved over time, and what trends they predict for the future. This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the field of design. ...more
Chris Irwin
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow-this was an amazing read! As an industry leader, it's hard to find technology books which thread practical storytelling, complex topical paradigms and new and unheard historical perspectives. This book does all of it. For students, new or lifelong, I highly recommend reading this over the boilerplate practicum of yesteryear. It's as fresh and relevant as anything out there! ...more
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An excellent dive into the organic story of user experience design. For designers and non-designers alike, "User Friendly" informs the reader on the usage and cultural differences in design throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. Highly informative if you want to know more about design, question the design of everyday things, want to think about the future of design, expand your perspective of how the world reacts and implements design into their lives. ...more
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Awesome history of design and design thinking coupled with a nuanced perspective of the promise and perils of designing digital products in the modern world. A must read for anyone wanting to think strategically about what it means to design something well and with purpose.
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Despite the relative newness of the practice of 'user-friendly' design, most of the writing and discussion about it has treated it as an ahistorical subject, with universal, unquestioned, and unchanging principles and practices.

This book, intended for a general audience but satisfying for practitioners as well, is a welcome deviation from this norm. It offers a clear, insightful survey of how user experience design has been shaped by, and also helps to shape, the historical, cultural, and econo
Ed Bernard
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Unfortunately, my audiobook loan expired before I finished this book, but I got far enough along that I got the gist. It’s a review of the recent history of “user friendly” design and it highlights its points with great, richly reported examples. For example, as an example of NON user friendliness, it tells the story of 3 Mile Island, where the nuclear disaster really resulted from technicians not really understanding what the instruments reported as the situation deteriorated. Another example i ...more
Jun 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf
Lol I started reading this book for one of my assignments and I knew I had to stop when I read this:

“To take one simple example, we have expectations of how a book “works”: It has pages of information, laid out one after the other in a sequence; to get more information, you turn the page. One key to the enduring success of the touchscreen Amazon Kindle lies in how well it has remapped that mental model; just as you turn a page in a book, you “turn” a page by swiping at an e-book.”

Maybe Kuang doe
Grant Baker
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written, thoughtfully researched

Creating new products is difficult, especially when considering how to make them user friendly. This book looks back on the history of design to show the evolution of user friendly design. While I didn’t agree with all the authors’ conclusions not their assessment of personas, I still highly recommend this book to any designer or design-minded business person.
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The synthesis and examples that went into this book to drive home the different sections was incredible. Being a UX practitioner (specifically in research) this book gave me so many additional perspectives into the world we are truly creating and engaging with. I think it would be very useful for people to read this book and understand how the technologies they use everyday shape their world and behavior.

Well done!
Jun 01, 2021 rated it it was ok
A few good points, but largely a mess in serious need of an editor. Would be more straightforward to just read about Henry Dreyfuss and Donald Norman since this book is just referring back to them every two pages.

Particularly ironic that the author praised the Inuit CEO for using design principles to make tax preparation easy when Inuit is one of the companies who has lobbied to keep taxes as complicated as possible so that people need their services.
Daniel Brown
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well written with relevant examples and clear thinking.

Mr Kuang isn't afraid to go deep and philosophical and his book is the better for it.

I've gotten so used to reading "Business Books" that are basically just repackaging of the same obvious thoughts that it was refreshing to read a work by someone that has obviously put a lot of original thought in to their thesis.
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought the part where the automated car should be treated as a horse and has to give the driver feed back and gradually take the reigns is somehting to think about/ and how user friendly UX and UI ones that make using the thing more intuitive is something super important in reducing error
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, design, work, tech
Great overview and history of design, especially in the last 100 years in America. I think this would be an interesting read for all, especially to folks who enjoy well designed products. It gets a bit too biographical at points, but the pace is pretty well kept and the chapters are well organized.
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very readable and interesting book about the history of design and its effects on our lives. A little bit too in awe of tech giants like Apple and Facebook but balanced with some criticism.
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great refresher for current UX designers and overview for someone interested in UX!
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
There was a lot in the book and some hood history but everything was disorganized. I couldn’t find the path of the book. It felt like it jumped around which made it hard to follow at points.
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“Whether we’re communicating with a human or a machine, the goal is to create a shared understanding of the world. That’s the point behind both the rules governing polite conversation and how a user-friendly machine should work.” 2 likes
“Perhaps you’re reading this book with your phone by your side, checking your email whenever your attention drifts, tapping text messages to a friend. You sit at the end of a long line of inventions that might never have existed but for people with disabilities: the keyboard on your phone, the telecommunications lines it connects with, the inner workings of email. In 1808, Pellegrino Turri built the first typewriter so that his blind lover, Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano, could write letters more legibly. In 1872, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone to support his work helping the deaf. And in 1972, Vint Cerf programmed the first email protocols for the nascent internet. He believed fervently in the power of electronic letters, because electronic messaging was the best way to communicate with his wife, who was deaf, while he was at work.” 2 likes
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