Book Review: The Design of Everyday Things
I make digital products, but a lot of my inspiration comes from product development in the industrial design world. I am a huge proponent of creativity in design, but I also believe in practicality, and this is a duality that I think can, and should, co-exist. I read The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman and it was eye-opening. He talks about the everyday frustrations behind things we touch and interact with every day, and — most interestingly — how we are psychologically hard-wired to blame ourselves for misuse. We think that just because we pull a door that needs to be pushed, we are the stupid ones. Not so. The door’s design has led us to believe that pulling it is the logical way to open it, so when we instinctively pull on it, it is because the door is poorly designed, and not because we are incapable of understanding how doors work. This is a wonderful book that makes a strong case for why it is crucial that designers understand people’s needs, why a clever and thoughtful design does so much in improving users’ lives.
The great thing about this book is that it has aged remarkably well, even if some of the products and case studies mentioned probably wouldn’t apply today (like the way telephone transfers work in his office). Plus, this book does not delve into interaction or web design too much, as that field hadn’t been as developed at the time. Still, I think we can take the learnings from the book and apply them to the web. The important points to remember are that we design for the user, not for ourselves, and that design error and human error are inextricably linked, so we must not forget our users are real people.