The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

If you build things for a living that have an interface, whether it be physical or software, this book is required reading. Originally published in 1988, The Design of Everyday Things sets the standard for how we should approach design. Norman uses real life examples of where designs excel and fall down. He then explains what makes the core tenets of what make designs great. Those seven tenets go like this:

  1. Use both knowledge in the world and in the head
  2. Simplify the structure of tasks
  3. Make things visible
  4. Get the mappings right
  5. Exploit the powers of constraints
  6. Design for Error
  7. When all else fails, standardize
His real world examples blew my mind. The most interesting is the car which he argues is a great interface and I can’t help but agree. Think how about all of the controls on your dashboard each with clear roles that they play, you often need to interface with them while doing a much more important and complicated task which is driving. We can instantly think of instances where these rules were broken and you had a bad experience. I remember in an old car of mine where treble and bass level and panning controls were massively complicated and clearly broke rules 2, 3 and 4. When things break these design tenets we get frustrated and worse our customers and users get frustrated. This book challenges you to rethink focus on more simple interfaces and build things people enjoy using.

The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition

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