The design of everyday things

The design of everyday things

--------- The design of everyday things, Don Norman ---------

--------- Notes and extracts, April 2016 ---------
-Summary: This is a classic, must read, book for human-centred design. It will provide a reminder of the core principles to designers and human factors specialists. Also, it will help engineers who are working in the area, but have no knowledge of human factors. If you like the extracts, please buy the book; there are several sections with introductory psychology info that I haven't included, due to my psychology background.
-Why is it important?: It will facilitate deeper understanding of human factors issues and provide the framework for a truly cross-functional product development. 
-Rating: 8/10
-Reading time: ~15 minutes
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--------- Chapter 1 ---------

-If I were placed in the cockpit of a modern jet airliner, my inability to perform well would neither surprise nor bother me. But why should I have trouble with doors and light switches, water faucets and stoves?

-The design of the door should indicate how to work it without any need for signs, certainly without any need for trial and error.

-Two of the most important characteristics of good design are discoverability and understanding.

-Discoverability: Is it possible to even figure out what actions are possible and where and how to perform them? Understanding: What does it all mean? How is the product supposed to be used? What do all the different controls and settings mean?

-In the best of cases, the products should also be delightful and enjoyable, which means that not only must the requirements of engineering, manufacturing, and ergonomics be satisfied, but attention must be paid to the entire experience, which means the aesthetics of form and the quality of interaction.

-most of the problems come from a complete lack of understanding of the design principles necessary for effective human machine interaction. Why this deficiency? Because much of the design is done by engineers who are experts in technology but limited in their understanding of people. ìWe are people ourselves,î they think, ìso we understand people.î But in fact, we humans are amazingly complex. Those who have not studied human behavior often think it is pretty simple. Engineers, moreover, make the mistake of thinking that logical explanation is sufficient: ìIf only people would read the instructions,î they say, ìeverything would be all right.î

-The solution is human-centered design (HCD), an approach that puts human needs, capabilities, and behavior first, then designs to accommodate those needs, capabilities, and ways of behaving.

-Good design starts with an understanding of psychology and technology. Good design requires good communication, especially from machine to person, indicating what actions are possible, what is happening, and what is about to happen.

-Human-centered design is a design philosophy. It means starting with a good understanding of people and the needs that the design is intended to meet.

-The philosophy and procedures of HCD add deep consideration and study of human needs to the design process, whatever the product or service, whatever the major focus.

-Discoverability results from appropriate application of five fundamental psychological concepts covered in the next few chapters: affordances, signifiers,constraints, mappings, and feedback. But there is a sixth principle, perhaps most important of all: the conceptual model of the system.

-Affordances determine what actions are possible. Signifiers communicate where the action should take place.

-Mapping is an important concept in the design and layout of controls and displays. When the mapping uses spatial correspondence between the layout of the controls and the devices being controlled, it is easy to determine how to use them. In steering a car, we rotate the steering wheel clockwise to cause the car to turn right: the top of the wheel moves in the same direction as the car.

-It doesnít matter whether the (these) conceptual models are accurate: what matters is that they provide a clear way of remembering and understanding the mappings. The relationship between a control and its results is easiest to learn wherever there is an understandable mapping between the controls, the actions, and the intended result.

-Feedback must be immediate: even a delay of a tenth of a second can be disconcerting. If the delay is too long, people often give up, going off to do other activities.

-Poor feedback can be worse than no feedback at all, because it is distracting, uninformative, and in many cases irritating and anxiety-provoking. Too much feedback can be even more annoying than too little.

-A conceptual model is an explanation, usually highly simplified, of how something works. It doesnít have to be complete or even accurate as long as it is useful.

-Mental models, as the name implies, are the conceptual models in peopleís minds that represent their understanding of how things work.

-People create mental models of themselves, others, the environment, and the things with which they interact. These are conceptual models formed through experience, training, and instruction. These models serve as guides to help achieve our goals and in understanding the world. I call the combined information available to us the system image.

-Technology offers the potential to make life easier and more enjoyable; each new technology provides increased benefits. At the same time, added complexities increase our difficulty and frustration with technology.

-The same technology that simplifies life by providing more functions in each device also complicates life by making the device harder to learn, harder to use. This is the paradox of technology and the challenge for the designer.

-Design requires the cooperative efforts of multiple disciplines. The number of different disciplines required to produce a successful product is staggering. Great design requires great designers, but that isnít enough: it also requires great management...

-Each discipline has a different perspective of the relative importance of the many factors that make up a product. One discipline argues that it must be usable and understandable, another that it must be attractive, yet another that it has to be affordable. Moreover, the device has to be reliable, be able to be manufactured and serviced. It must be distinguishable from competing products and superior in critical dimensions such as price, reliability, appearance, and the functions it provides. Finally, people have to actually purchase it. It doesnít matter how good a product is if, in the end, nobody uses it.

--------- Chapter 2 ---------

-People are innately disposed to look for causes of events, to form explanations and stories. That is one reason storytelling is such a persuasive medium. Stories resonate with our experiences and provide examples of new instances. From our experiences and the stories of others we tend to form generalizations about the way people behave and things work.

-The phenomenon called learned helplessness might help explain the self-blame. It refers to the situation in which people experience repeated failure at a task. As a result, they decide that the task cannot be done, at least not by them: they are helpless.

-We need to remove the word failure from our vocabulary, replacing it instead with learning experience. To fail is to learn: we learn more from our failures than from our successes. With success, sure, we are pleased, but we often have no idea why we succeeded. With failure, it is often possible to figure out why, to ensure that it will never happen again.

-The seven-stage model of the action cycle can be a valuable design tool: 1. What do I want to accomplish? 2. What are the alternative action sequences? 3. What action can I do now? 4. How do I do it? 5. What happened? 6. What does it mean? 7. Is this okay? Have I accomplished my goal?

--------- Chapter 3 ---------

-In the real, practical world, we donít need absolute truth: approximate models work just fine.

-Here are three levels of mapping, arranged in decreasing effectiveness as memory aids: ï Best mapping: Controls are mounted directly on the item to be controlled. ï Second-best mapping: Controls are as close as possible to the object to be controlled. ï Third-best mapping: Controls are arranged in the same spatial configuration as the objects to be controlled.

--------- Chapter 4 ---------

-There are four classes of constraintsóphysical, cultural, semantic, and logicalóseem to be universal, appearing in a wide variety of situations. Constraints are powerful clues, limiting the set of possible actions. The thoughtful use of constraints in design lets people readily determine the proper course of action, even in a novel situation.

-Skeuomorphic is the technical term for incorporating old, familiar ideas into new technologies, even though they no longer play a functional role.

--------- Chapter 5 ---------

-Most industrial accidents are caused by human error: estimates range between 75 and 95 percent. How is it that so many people are so incompetent? Answer: They arenít. Itís a design problem.

-Physical limitations are well understood by designers; mental limitations are greatly misunderstood.

-We put people in boring environments with nothing to do for hours on end, until suddenly they must respond quickly and accurately. Or we subject them to complex, high-workload environments, where they are continually interrupted while having to do multiple tasks simultaneously. Then we wonder why there is failure.

-Root cause analysis is intended to determine the underlying cause of an incident, not the proximate cause. The Japanese have long followed a procedure for getting at root causes that they call the ìFive Whys,î originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and used by the Toyota Motor Company as part of the Toyota Production System for improving quality.

-Checklists are powerful tools, proven to increase the accuracy of behavior and to reduce error, particularly slips and memory lapses.

-Airplanes fly quite high: over 10 km (6 miles) above the earth, so even if the plane were to start falling, the pilots might have several minutes to respond. Moreover, pilots are extremely well trained. When automation fails in an automobile, the person might have only a fraction of a second to avoid an accident. This would be extremely difficult even for the most expert driver, and most drivers are not well trained. 

--------- Chapter 6 ---------

-In the university, professors make up artificial problems. In the real world, the problems do not come in nice, neat packages. They have to be discovered. It is all too easy to see only the surface problems and never dig deeper to address the real issues.

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

-The key emphasis of this book is the importance of developing products that fit the needs and capabilities of people. Design can be driven by many different concerns. Sometimes it is driven by technology, sometimes by competitive pressures or by aesthetics.

-Designers resist the temptation to jump immediately to a solution for the stated problem. Instead, they first spend time determining what basic, fundamental (root) issue needs to be addressed. They donít try to search for a solution until they have determined the real problem, and even then, instead of solving that problem, they stop to consider a wide range of potential solutions. Only then will they finally converge upon their proposal. This process is called design thinking.

-There are four different activities in the human-centered design process 1. Observation 2. Idea generation (ideation) 3. Prototyping 4. Testing These four activities are iterated; that is, they are repeated over and over, with each cycle yielding more insights and getting closer to the desired solution.

-The day a product development process starts, it is behind schedule and above budget.

--------- Chapter 7 ---------

- There are two major forms of product innovation: one follows a natural, slow evolutionary process; the other is achieved through radical new development. In general, people tend to think of innovation as being radical, major changes, whereas the most common and powerful form of it is actually small and incremental.

UX for lean Startups

UX for lean Startups