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Design of Everyday Things [Paperback]

Donald Norman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 1 1990
A popular, entertaining, and insightful analysis of why some products satisfy customers while others only frustrate them.
B & W photographs and illustrations throughout.

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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 and the desirability of good design, and raise your expectations about how things should be designed.


"This book is a joy -- fun and of the utmost importance." -- Tom Peters.

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"You would need an engineering degree from MIT to work this," someone once told me, shaking his head in puzzlement over his brand new digital watch. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must read for Designers/Programmers Aug. 20 2003
This book is important for two reasons: (a) it makes you realize that software design is not much different than any other kind of design, and (b) when you find it difficult to operate some device, it's really the designer's fault -- not yours!
The same ideas that have been used for years now in the design of simple things (e.g. doors), to complex stuff (e.g. nuclear reactor control panels) or even more complex stuff (VCRs :), can be applied to User Interface design. Even the design of a good internal interface (API) shares many properties with the design of successful everyday objects: it should have a clear purpose, it should be obvious to use, difficult to abuse, indicative of how it works, informative about its status -- in other words it should look and feel simple!
Carried away by features, aesthetics, technological innovations and the fact that from a designer's point of view everything look reasonable, we end up with difficult to use, error prone devices and tools. Design for usability should be a primary goal for all everyday objects, and that includes computer software.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars super interesting March 2 2004
By Miyoko
great for artists, designers, programmers, architects, actually pretty much anyone who has an interest in they way things work, creative process, and design.
This challenges the notion of lazy design, and goes against the issue of designing things the same way becuase that's the way it's always been done. Rewinds the design process and starts over. Shows design flubs and goes through the thought process and the intentions behind them. VERY interesting book, love the photographs and diagrams.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nice content, shame about the presentation Aug. 19 2003
Okay, the guy makes his points rather well. But there are a few things about this book that I found very frustrating.
He keeps jumping around between plain text and italics. Some headings are all in caps, some are not. Some headings are left justified, some right justified. I'm sure there's a meaningful structure to this in the author's own mind, but when you can only see two pages at a time it's impossible for the reader to see what that structure is. Big headings and smaller subheadings would be a better layout, with the anecdotes in a blockquote format rather than the off-putting italics. The author really needs to practice a bit of what he preaches.
Also, it could use an update. For example there's this paragraph that promises that within five years we'll have a handheld device that will allow us to keep track of appointments, take notes etc. 10 out of 10 for accurate prediction of the PDA, but it's time to update the text. Then the photos are pretty old as well. Makes it look like the book hasn't changed since the early 80s and left me wondering if he's aware of the design of modern everyday things or the fact that computer users are better educated now than they used to be, or if he knows that user interfaces have improved at all.
I think that the original title, the Psychology of Everyday Things would have been a more accurate title for the book since a lot of time is spent describing the minute details of human thought. Maybe a subtitle would be in order, something like "What designers need to know about the psychology of consumers."
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5.0 out of 5 stars The classic text on ergonomics July 19 2003
Don Norman's POET (this book was initially called Psychology of Everyday Things) is a required text in many human-machine interaction programs around the world for a good reason: it is a wonderfully accessible (to novices), yet comprehensive primer on ergonomics covering topics ranging from conceptual models and mappings to memory and errors.
Don applies a plethora of cognitive psychology principles to explain why some devices just don't work well for us, humans, while others--those designed with the human in mind--do. If you are a student of human-computer interaction you can easily apply Norman's concepts in designing more usable GUI's. In fact, I have used this book as a foundation for the first chapter of my own web interface design book, at Paul gokin dot com, in which I have applied many of Norman's design principle to web GUI design.
What makes this book special, however, is that Norman supports his points with vivid real world examples, transforming what could be a dull, scholarly treatise into a page-turner. In fact it is the examples that had stayed with me for years after I put the book down.
Regardless of what your design challenge is, if you're designing it to be used by a human, this book is a must read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Do you get frustrated when using common objects? Nov. 24 2002
I read this book because I saw the author on TechTV and because I thought it sounded interesting. Please excuse the colloquial form of this review because I feel it gives the most insight about the book! I started reading this book and found it quite interesting. Although some topics were a little "over my head" so to speak I think I am able to convey the general nature of the book. It talks about different aspects that are critical to good usability in design. It often used bad examples of design to show how they could have been created better. In its thorough explanation of the spatial relation of objects to their buttons I found it interesting that light switches could be arranged so that there wouldn't be a mystery as to what light they turned on. It also talked about how usability is often given up to other details such as manufacturability and aesthetics. It is a comprehensive resource for information regarding the design of products or systems that are easy to use. The pictures are somewhat outdated as mentioned in an other review. Also color pictures would have been nice although they drive publication costs to a higher price. Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the inner workings of products and the philosophy behind the usability of these products!
-9th Grade Student (2002)-
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Design of Everyday Things
Norman has written a great 'big picture' book on design. It deals with the concepts of design through example, and in no specific way. Read more
Published 22 months ago by glen cochrane
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading
The book is an interesting concept, however, it's title doesn't directly correspond to its content. The text presents itself as a rant, criticizing every bad design the author has... Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2011 by sonikin
5.0 out of 5 stars They don't call them gurus for nothing
There isn't much to say other than this is a must read for anyone working on product design and development! It's a breeze to read through.
Published on June 17 2010 by VeroM
5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless classic.
Worth reading for anybody who wants a primer on the subject of usability, or who simply enjoys well-written anecdotes and evidence on the topic of design.
Published on Oct. 7 2009 by Allen Pike
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Overview of Design Fundamentals
Although I only read about half of this book, what I did read was quite good. This book presents some interesting insight into the design of everyday things, and provides amusing... Read more
Published on May 5 2009 by Eric Boyer
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Argument for Usability, But Misses the Application
"The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald A. Norman is said to be one of those great usability books. I bought mine at a major usability conference, believing the hype. Read more
Published on May 25 2007 by A.Trendl HungarianBookstore.com
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, thought provocing, though a bit "lost"
I enjoyed this book - don't get me wrong. But I find presenting ideas one after the other, without constantly linking them, not very helpful. Read more
Published on Sept. 7 2006 by Rommil Santiago
5.0 out of 5 stars See The Psychology of Everyday Things
Take a look at the The Psychology of Everyday Things (the hardcover edition of this book). They changed the title for the paperback edition.
Published on June 24 2004 by rk
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind altering book.
If you design anything you will want to read this book. Even if you don't design what physically appears to a persons eye you want to read this. Read more
Published on April 10 2004 by Paco
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and Interesting Book
I'll make this quick. Even though this book was read for a college class, I actually enjoyed reading it. Read more
Published on Jan. 31 2004 by Jackson Stephens
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