The Design of Everyday Things Summary 2023 - Deepstash

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The Design of Everyday Things Summary

About The Design of Everyday Things Book

Design doesn't have to complicated, which is why this guide to human-centered design shows that usability is just as important as aesthetics.
Even the smartest among us can feel inept as we fail to figure out which light switch or oven burner to turn on, or whether to push, pull, or slide a door.
The fault, argues this ingenious -- even liberating -- book, lies not in ourselves, but in product design that ignores the needs of users and the principles of cognitive psychology. The problems range from ambiguous and hidden controls to arbitrary relationships between controls and functions, coupled with a lack of feedback or other assistance and unreasonable demands on memorization.
The Design of Everyday Things shows that good, usable design is possible. The rules are simple: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints. The goal: guide the user effortlessly to the right action on the right control at the right time.
The Design of Everyday Things
is a powerful primer on how -- and why -- some products satisfy customers while others only frustrate them.

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The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

4.8/5 (2996 reviews)

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Types of Errors in Design

Types of Errors in Design

There are 2 types of errors:

  • slips (a person intends to do an action and ends up doing something else). Can be: action-based(correct action applied to the wrong object), memory-lapse (forgetting)
  • mistakes (wrong goal or wrong plan formed). Can be: rule-based(correct diagnose, wrong action), knowledge-based(incorrect diagnose), memory-lapse (failing due to distraction)


The 3 Levels of Processing that inform the 3 Stages of Action

The 3 Levels of Processing that inform the 3 Stages of Action

There are 3 levels of processing that inform the action a user does:

  • visceral (lowest level, correlated with calm and anxiety). Actions: perform and perceive.
  • behavioural (middle level, correlated with expectations and emotions). Actions: specify and interpret.
  • reflective (highest level, correlated with satisfaction). Actions: plan and compare.


The fundamental concepts of Interaction

Affordances - the relationship between the properties of an object and the capabilities of an agent

Signifiers - an indicator that communicates appropriate behaviour to a person

Constraints - impediments of using a system

Mappings - the relationship between the elements of two sets of things

Feedback - communication of the results of an action

Conceptual model - explanation of how something works


2 Important Characteristics Of Good Design

2 Important Characteristics Of Good Design

  1. Discoverability - figure out which actions are possible and where and how to perform them
  2. Understanding - how is the product supposed to be used and what all the different controls and settings mean


Areas Of Design

Areas Of Design

  • Industrial design - emphasize form and material; optimize function, value, and appearance of products and systems for the benefit of both user and manufacturer.
  • Interaction design - emphasize understandability and usability; how people interact with technology and draws upon principles of psychology, design, art, and emotion.
  • Experience design - emphasize emotional impact and focused on quality and enjoyment of the total experience.


Human-centered Design

Good understanding of people is key. Designs should match the needs and capabilities of the people for whom they are intended. The philosophy of human-centeted design focuses on repeated approximations and avoids specifying the problem as long as possible when it comes to defining the specifications of design.


This book was a classic and took me about a month to complete haha


The designer of everyday things must take into account the whole experience of the person using the product or service, not just the product itself.



Make Things Visible

Make Things Visible

Good design should make it clear what actions are possible and what the current state of the system is.


Provide Feedback

Provide Feedback

Users should be informed of the results of their actions and the system's current state.


What is bad design

When external signifiers - signs - have to be added to something as simple as a door, it indicates bad design.


Principles of design

1. Use both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head.

2. Simplify the structure of tasks.

3. Make things visible: bridge gulfs between Execution and Evaluation.

4. Get the mapping right.

5. Exploit the power of constraints.

6. Design for error.

7. When all else fails, standardize.


How good designers solve problems

Good designers never start by trying to solve the problem given to them: they start by trying to understand what the real issues are. 


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