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on March 2, 2004
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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on 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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on November 1, 2001
While many parts of this book are somewhat dated it makes one wonder why some of the very poor design fundamentals pointed out in the book continue today. Why is it that you still find new buildings going up with a pull bar on a door that needs to be pushed to be opened? I even encountered a sliding door last week that had a vertical pull bar. How would a person know by looking at the door that it should be slid instead of pulled? Of course, you don't know and that is the sort of thing that is covered in this book. There is really no reason not to make things much easier to use except poor design.
How relevant is this book? I became exposed to it as required reading for computer engineering studies. Maybe the next generation of designers will be able to think ahead about things and design them better. Heaven knows it won't hurt Microsoft to have someone who understands a user interface better.
So, is it of value to people other than designers? I think so. For one thing it has changed the way that I look at things and when choosing a purchase I look at design considerations. After all, why shouldn't I pick the one that is better designed on the outside? Maybe that reflects a better design on the inside. I've even found that I think of things I learned in this book when doing something around the house such as adding a set of doors to enclose my bookcase or when I enclosed my porch. It has affected a lot of things that I do not to mention it is simply a delightful read and written in a very easy style.
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on August 4, 2000
Although this book is a product of the 1980's, its essential premise is not dated nor obsolete. Dr. Norman vividly illustrates the good and bad of design, and provides an excellent guidebook for the understanding of basic user-centric design in products, fixtures, software, and the everyday things that make up our world.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the design and creation of software, architecture, or consumer products. You will find some dated, quaint information within its pages, such as the descriptions of the "computer notepad" and hypertext (both of which came to fruition with Palm Computers and the Web), but, as a whole, the book is a collection of relevant, interesting material. It is an excellent starting point for the study of design.
For those interested in additional study on software and user interface design (programmers, such as I), I recommend Alan Cooper's books on user interface design, and ANY of Jakob Nielsen's books. In addition, the Edward Tufte trilogy on visual representations is extremely good, although not software-specific.
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on May 9, 2000
Let me start by acknowledging that the book is not perfect. The end notes are annoying and Norman can have a tendancy to ramble and I guess that not everyone would find that charming. However, I assert that the strengths of the book more than make up for its weaknesses-- it is an important book, and one that anyone engaged in designing things for other people should read.
The central point is simple-- the needs of the user are different from the needs of the designer. The designer might want everyone's actions with his system to be precise, the user might need to have a "good enough" range of precision approximation. The designer wants to make the knobs the same so they look good together, the user wants to be able to tell quickly which knob applies to which function. It's a basic concept that can't (particularly on the Internet today) be repeated often enough.
Norman looks at the kinds of errors people make in usage and discusses how designers can plan to prevent these kind of errors. He discusses some of the basic things that users find valuable and walks the reader through some classic (and often funny, because so recognizable) design errors.
The writing is clean and (with the exception of the aforementioned rambling) very clear. Norman's voice is full of humor and a real passion for the subject, and that voice is conveyed very well by the book.
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on April 27, 2000
Have you ever been taking a shower in a hotel room, having no clue how to adjust the water temperature? Are your refrigerator cooling 24 hours/day because you never figured out the panels of buttons? Donald A. Norman takes a look at all those frustrating user experiences in a very funny and insightful manner, but instead of just pointing out all the stupidities, he also uses his knowledge of human psychology to explain exactly why so many user interfaces are so troublesome. This book is not about software design, but is nevertheless extremely useful for anybody involved in the development of software since Mr. Norman focusses his attention on topics which are fundamental for any kind of user interface (wheter in the form of door handles or advanced airplane controlling software applications). The design of the book itself is fairly boring with dull black and white photographs, simple line drawings and a general bad layout. In spite of this being a book on design, it is however not that important, since Mr. Norman delivers his message in a very elegant and witty manner. Therefore this book get 5 stars of 5 possible.
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on September 18, 1999
I care a lot about writing good software. Most software is bad - hard to use, confusing and downright irritating. This book takes a look at all sorts of real world objects and then takes the magic step of INCLUDING SOFTWARE! Yes, folks, software can be designed for obvious ease-of-use just like door handles and water fawcets! See the world through a user's eyes, forget that there is anything special about software products and suddenly the door is open to designing software that is a pleasure to use by the majority of users - users who are neither complete beginners or hardened experts - users like the rest of us. Why should a software product demand "computer literacy" of its users when a door handle or toaster needs no special knowledge? The author's advice to vote with your dollars is sound. Only ever buy things that were designed for usability and designed well. Send flowers to the rare individuals that get it right. Send stinking weeds to the makers of things that suck!
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on May 17, 1996
As a computer software engineer, I have found two books that should be required reading for all developers. One is The Mythical Man-Month, Fred Brooks' classic study on project management. The other is this work by Donald Norman, the father of user-centered design. Through a series of simple yet powerful examples, Norman examines why some products are a pleasure to use while others lead to frustration and anxiety. The book uses objects as simple as refrigerators and faucets to explain how conceptual models, feedback, and physical and cultural constraints come together to produce a product design that is intuitive and comfortable to use. A subject that in less capable hands could be dry and academic instead comes alive under Norman's vivid style and entertaining anecdotes. This is a brilliant work, an absolutely essential reference, and a book that I find myself reading again and again
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on December 14, 1999
In general, computer software is abominably designed. But I find most books on user interface design frustrating: they assume that if the designer just follows certain specific rules, the product will automatically be "user-friendly." It doesn't work that way, folks: even if your menus are short and your use of color is discreet, the product may still be utterly unusable.
Norman puts the focus right where it belongs: on the USER. What is this person trying to do with the product? What is his/her level of knowledge? How can the design of the product facilitate what the user wants to do, instead of getting in the way? This is a philosophy of design, rather than a set of rules. But the software designer (or any designer) who absorbs this philosophy will turn out far better products than someone who merely buys a book of rules and follows them blindly.
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on December 30, 1999
As a designer of e-commerce systems, I constantly face the challenge of designing easy-to-use solutions. Until I read this book, I never understood how people inherently understand how to use something. I will be able to instantly apply the knowledge in this book to my work. Reviewers who criticize the book for being to simplistic, dated, or not involving technology are missing the point. It doesn't matter whether a design is for something physical or a computer interface. The point is that a user should be able to figure out how to use a new item with minimal instruction. This book explains how people figure things out, and how to incorporate design elements to lead users in the right direction and to help them to recover from slips/mistakes. Excellent book.
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