This enjoyable and illuminating book by Don Norman focuses on the design of everyday objects. Since we create custom software that centres around our users, this book was an opportunity for us to take a step back and ask questions about our own practices. The general idea is to guide the user to perform the right action at the right time without taking up too much time. Although the first edition of the book was released in 1988 under its former title The Psychology of Everyday Things, it’s still very relevant today. The examples it provides are telling—if not comical. Better yet, the lessons can be applied to several fields, including information technology.
Some key points from The Design of Everyday Things
- Locked out: Don Norman’s greatest fear is coming across a “Norman door”—an object that is too confusing or complex to use. It’s so important to integrate an intuitive aspect into the design: users will feel smarter if they’re able to do things on their own without a large sign telling them to “push to open.”
- The three levels of design: The author’s vision of everything related to design has three levels. First, there’s the visceral level, which has to do with the perceptible qualities of an object and how it makes the user feel. Next is the behavioural level, which has to do with the pleasure and effectiveness of use. Last, the reflective level looks at the rationalization and intellectualization of a product.
- The Five Whys: Design Thinking methodology is the most effective way to get to the bottom of things and truly understand the source of a problem. In his book, Don Norman explains how the automotive giant Toyota keeps asking “why” five times, even after the problem has been resolved. This helps them to identify more subtle errors and truly understand all the difficulties related to their product.
“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.” “Two of the most important characteristics of good design are discoverability and understanding.” “User-centered design means working with your users all throughout the project.”