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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2012
Norman has written a great 'big picture' book on design. It deals with the concepts of design through example, and in no specific way. The ideas can be applied to any type of design, and he explains the logic behind such examples and ideas so that they make sense.

The book is clearly illustrated, and quite interesting to read, I think because so many of the examples are simple things, everyday things, and things that have come and gone throughout many readers' pop-culture life spans. It doesn't seem to me a book merely for designers, but for anyone. It's full of logical advice on the topic of creating things. Design is like rhetoric or syntax...anything we create has to be created in some way. And the way has a quality...knowing about 'big picture' design can help raise that quality.
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on August 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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on November 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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on November 23, 2001
Previously titled as "The Psychology of Everyday Things", another title for this book might well have been "The Usability of Everyday Things." Norman successfully helps designers think through some of the usability issues associated with their designs. As someone who attempts to design easy-to-use software, the issues raised in this book are very helpful.
According to Norman, "clever" or "unique" designs may often win awards, but these same designs may often be difficult to use. Usability needs to receive greater attention when designers are hard at work, but design considerations are frequently driven by appearance and price. I think Norman's book would be interesting reading for consumers as well as designers, especially since consumers often purchase items based on appearance and price rather than usability.
Some may find the examples used in the book to be a bit dated, but the principles behind the examples clearly still apply. The only area of the book that I think needs careful reading is in the discussion of how memory and the human mind work. Though very interesting, there is much in this section that is simply theoretical and needs to be taken as such. It would be interesting to read some more recent information in this area to see how the theories have shifted in the last decade.
Regardless of these issues, the principles enumerated in the book will prove very helpful to those in any industry who are responsible for the design of everyday things.
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on December 20, 1999
I agree with another reviewer who said that he found the material rather dated. It is.
However, I found some of that dated material fascinating -- the author's discussion of hypertext systems before the Web ever existed, the author's predictions/descriptions of handheld computers before the Palm organizers ever existed, etc.
Also, many of the "boring everyday examples" that another reviewer hated (such as doors, legos, stoves, faucets, and so on) were exactly what I needed. For example, a discussion of an ice cream menu helped me immensely with a corporate Web site I maintain. That's because the author went into detail about "decision trees" and how people handle lists of information.
In chapter 5, the discussion about the differences between "slips" and "mistakes" (which I thought were the same) will help me build better user interfaces, because I now know why people have problems with some interfaces, and how to resolve those problems.
I had also never heard of "forcing functions." I've used forcing functions, but I didn't know I was using them, and I didn't have the concepts clear enough to make them effective.
In summary, the book is dated but good. Couple this book with a book like "Information Architecture For The World Wide Web" or "Web Site Usability" and an average Web designer could become an excellent Web designer.
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on February 25, 1999
The contents of this books are absolutely excellent as many previous readers said. It should be a must-read for every engineer and every engineering student as well as their bosses. But I found this book seems not organized well enough. The key principles should be highlighted more. The design of subtitles is confusing or at least helpless for readers to construct a clear structure of the contents. Sometimes in the later chapters, the concepts echo the key principles, but it's hard for a reader to remember those principles since it never helps readers to construct a clear concept structure. You have to either read this book fast and keep your brain clear, or take notes. You need to organize the book by yourself. This is why I only give a 4-stars.
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on June 16, 2000
I had to read this book for a course. However once I started it, I wanted to read it. All those oddball things like pushing the wrong side of doors, not knowing whether to push or pull, that we all do and blame ourselves, are not our fault. Something in the design led to our incorrect behavior. This is a fundamental concept of Human Factors and Don Norman captured it perfectly. A must read for Human Factors engineers and an interesting read for the rest of the world. I'm buying more of his books.
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on October 2, 2000
While this book does not specifically address lean manufacturing or lean production techniques, it offers great insight into design basics. From paperclips to production systems, from software to sandwiches, and from machines to manufacturing plans, this book will make you think of the 'whys' of design, which drive the 'hows' and 'whats'. You will enjoy this 'quick read', and come away with some concepts which will change how you approach design projects in the future.
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on May 5, 2009
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 examples. I would recommend this book to engineers, designers, manufacturers, and pretty much anyone that is involved in the design process of any product. Some of the material is common sense, but after reading it from this book it just seems to sink in better.
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