Kater Cheek's Reviews > The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
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it was ok

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 minutes and finally had enough. This book is boring. I spent most of my time listening to it trying to figure out why it was so boring. I like design. I like sociology. I like pop science. I like non-fiction. Why did this book make me drift off and not know what he'd said for ten to twenty minute chunks? I'm not exactly sure, but I've got some ideas.

First of all, the book references illustrations. Yes. In an audiobook. I went to my audible account to delete it, and saw that the pdf of the illustrations had thoughtfully been included in the download. So I looked at the illustrations, but they still weren't that great. They clarified some things that I didn't understand, but they didn't add a tremendous amount to the understanding of the text. If the book had been littered with illustrations, with "here's good" next to "here's bad", it might have helped, but then it wouldn't have been a good audiobook.

Secondly, the book had too much abstract descriptions and made-up words.Remember when you were in elementary school and they'd have a textbook that talked about, say, the natural resources of a country, and they'd have vocabulary words in bold that you had to remember for the test? But they were artificial, like "grasslands" meant something different from "savanna" which was different from "prairie" This book kinda did that, at least in the first chapters, like he was structuring this as a textbook to teach you principles of good design. His principles sort of made sense, but they had too few examples to elucidate them, and what anecdotes and examples he included often were completely off-topic.

The middle to second half of the book got especially off-topic, degenerating at times into a rant about how hard VCRs are to program and DOS computers are to use. Which brings me to my third point: this book is really dated. In some ways it's cool; he describes a smart phone decades before one existed. In other ways, it's not really relevant. He talks about frustrating faucets, for example, he derides motion-detecting faucets as difficult to use because they aren't obvious. Most people these days use motion-detecting faucets just fine. He talks about how awful computers are, but he's talking about a computer that anyone under the age of 25 has never seen. Even if it weren't for the overly-abstract, poorly described principles he wants people to learn from, the age of his observations makes this book not relevant.

I don't recommend this book. It's an interesting topic, but this book is poorly written and too dated to be useful.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 16, 2012 – Shelved
October 16, 2012 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Rafał (new)

Rafał Rejzerewicz Agreed. Plain boring. I had to abandon it as well...


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