Week 4 – Reading Reflection

In his book, The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman explores our relationship with everyday objects and how the very fundamental concepts of design influence this relationship. He mentions how people tend to blame themselves when they can’t get the hang of an everyday object, the working of which is supposed to be easy to figure out. For example, when freshmen just arrived on campus, even figuring out how the various doors on campus worked was a challenge. When should we push, and when should we pull? It took some time to finally figure it out, but when we hadn’t, even the act of opening and closing doors made some feel inadequate. Norman says that this tendency to feel inadequate for not operating something simple correctly is misguided. Most of the time, it is poor design at fault, and not the user. This leads him into talking about the central theme of the chapter: design flaws in everyday objects are often responsible for user difficulties.

Norman says that merely making something work is not enough; the designer needs to think of the user’s psychology while curating the design. He discusses the importance of designing objects that are intuitive and easy to use without requiring extensive instructions or training. He suggests that design should follow from mental models that simply present what the object should accomplish. He also recommends objects being conversational – they should be able to correct the user and provide feedback on their actions so the user can better understand how to interact with the object effectively.

Personally, I agree with Norman’s view. There is no need to over-complicate what can be done using simple sequences. Design should always be user-centered, perhaps with the exception of objects that are more artistic than functional.

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