The Design of Everyday Things Summary – March 2022

Author: Don Norman

Short Summary
The Design of Everyday Things (1988) blames the designers for designing products that humans are unable to use or understand the purpose. According to the author Don Norman, designers should prioritize the ease of users while designing their products and also use the principles of cognitive psychology.
the design of everyday things summary

Detailed Summary

In The Design of Everyday Things summary the importance of the design of products and described it in the light of cognitive psychology is highlighted.

In his book, he makes us realize that so many disciplines are involved in the creation of everyday objects. If the users can use the products easily and understand them without any difficulty, then the product is considered perfect. Actually, the author wants to imply that those products are difficult to use by the users, it’s not their fault that they lack intelligence or they are dumb but it’s the designer’s fault.

Moreover, the author says that the designers should focus on the users and their problems while designing any product. Basically, the product should be human-centered.

The Design of Everyday Things Key Points

Human psychology and evaluation of our everyday actions

Earlier we talked about human-centered design and its importance. So, the author has connected it with human psychology. The author Norman investigates human psychology and how we choose and assess our activities to motivate the concept of human-centered design. He delves into conscious and subconscious thinking. Finally, he delves into our emotions and how we feel when things go well versus when they don’t.

According to the author, keep asking “why?” to the user and don’t make any assumptions. This will assist you in determining a user’s genuine pain points, which may differ significantly from what they initially stated. Secondly, you should never blame users if they won’t be able to use your product efficiently. It will be more like you are blaming someone else for your mistakes.

This is a four-step procedure. For starters, you can’t judge how effectively a thing works for people unless you observe them using it. This is why the first thing you should do is do a control-room study to see how people are using it and what problems they are having. The next stage is to come up with solutions to these issues. Thirdly, develop a prototype that addresses these issues. Make certain that this prototype solves the issues rather than creating new ones. Finally, put the prototype through its paces in a controlled environment.

Interaction’s Fundamental Principle

We typically search for natural indications when dealing with a product to grasp what it does, how it operates, and what activities are feasible. It’s known as discoverability. Discoverability is based on five psychological principles:

  • Affordances:

Designers should employ common cues while creating the user experience so that users may choose from visible affordance and complete the required task. When we see a chair, we think of being able to sit in it, or a staircase that can be used to ascend or descend, or an on-off switch that can be used to turn on or off any electrical item. It’s all about forming connections through the acquisition of information while viewing anything in our environment

  • Signifiers:

Signifiers are features that aid in determining where the action will occur or not. They can be any type of signal, including signs, labels, and drawings.

  •  Mapping:

Mapping refers to the relationship between two groups of objects. The steering wheel makes a map of the direction while driving a car. When mapping, grouping, and proximity are crucial elements to remember.

  •  Feedback:

The phrase itself promotes the concept. When utilizing any product, the lack of feedback creates irritation. It also has a significant impact on a website’s conversion rate. All activities must be verified.

  •  Conceptual Models:

 A conceptual model is a simplified representation of how something functions. The file, folder, or icon on the computer screen aids in the creation of a mental model of the documents and folders contained within that computer. Depending on the person or even the society, the conceptual model can change.

Use of constraints

The author has emphasized the use of constraints to assist users. Constraints are limitations that dictate how a product should be used. To better understand this, we can take an example of the housewares store IKEA has a history of selling products that are difficult to assemble at home. However, they have grown relatively easy in recent years. It takes a little work, but you can usually get your own dresser up and running in an hour or two.

This is due in part to IKEA’s usage of what is known as limitations. Constraints are limitations that dictate how a product should be used. IKEA provides different-sized nuts and bolts that only fit into a single equal-sized hole, which is an example of a physical restriction. Because each but can only go to one location, assembly is much easier.

Another technique to assist customers is to use cultural references. Using cultural restrictions is another method to assist customers. Almost every screw you could ever buy tightens by turning right and loosens by rotating left, as an example. We may take this for granted, but consider how much easier it is to use a screwdriver when you know which direction to turn it in all the time. Another example of a constraint is the fact that most operating systems and apps now prompt you to save a document before exiting it. Only if they haven’t already saved your work for you by accident. Even if you don’t utilize the feature, being reminded every time is preferable to wasting hours of labor because you forgot to push “save.”

Who would I recommend The Design of Everyday Things Summary to?

The Design of Everyday Things summary is recommended to a UI/UX designer who is responsible for product development and especially meeting the user requirements. Moreover, anyone who considered themselves dumb while dealing with tricky products needs to read this book and understand that it’s not their fault but the fault of a product designer.