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The Design of Everyday Things

The cognitive psychology of good design

By Donald A. Norman
15-minute read
Audio available
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

This book explores the cognitive psychology of good design and what makes a product that responds to users’ needs. The author develops the common barriers to good design, how to reduce and fix errors, and how to bring users and technology closer together.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“The Design of Everyday Things forever changed the way I look at products, human errors – and even doors. I walk through life with so much more awareness for the design that surrounds us, and as a Product Manager these blinks let me quickly revisit concepts that help me create great User Experiences. Must read not just for designers, but everybody.”

– Eveline, Product Manager at Blinkist

  • Designers, product managers, distributors, creators and manufacturers
  • Anyone who teaches design or other disciplines requiring creativity and inventiveness from their employees

Donald Norman is Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego. His other books include the best-selling Emotional Design and Living with Complexity.

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The Design of Everyday Things

By Donald A. Norman
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
Synopsis

This book explores the cognitive psychology of good design and what makes a product that responds to users’ needs. The author develops the common barriers to good design, how to reduce and fix errors, and how to bring users and technology closer together.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“The Design of Everyday Things forever changed the way I look at products, human errors – and even doors. I walk through life with so much more awareness for the design that surrounds us, and as a Product Manager these blinks let me quickly revisit concepts that help me create great User Experiences. Must read not just for designers, but everybody.”

– Eveline, Product Manager at Blinkist

Key idea 1 of 9

Products that are difficult to use or understand are the result of faulty design – not stupid users.

Have you ever found it impossible to get a new device working, like the remote control of a new TV set? If so, you’re not alone. Many people have difficulties using seemingly simple everyday products and often believe that they themselves are the problem. In actuality, the problem is bad design.

Bad design is the result of neglecting the relation between users and technology; good design brings technology and people together.

Imagine a TV remote. It’s capable of connecting and controlling all the devices – DVD players, satellites, game consoles, etc. – that are part of a home entertainment system. But in an effort to connect to so many devices, designers cram remotes full of confusing buttons and options – which makes them hard for people to use.

And although people may think that they’re too stupid to use a simple TV remote, the real culprit is the bad design that fails to connect the user and the technology.

So why does bad design happen?

In the modern world, one of the main causes of bad design is the incredibly rapid development of technology.

Take the way that cell phones have changed over the past fifteen years. They transitioned from touch pads to touch screens, and their main function is no longer just to make phone calls: now it includes texting, taking pictures, e-mailing, etc. While it’s convenient to have everything on one device, it also makes those devices prone to becoming overly complicated.

The ever-changing and developing nature of technology make it harder than ever for designers to make new products that are still easy to use. That’s why designers must always keep in mind that no matter how revolutionary a technology is, if it’s difficult or impossible to use, it will be useless to the consumer.

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