week8.reading – Attractive Things Work Better & Her Code Got Humans on the Moon

Attractive Things Work Better – Donald A. Norman

In this preview of Don Norman’s forthcoming book, Norman writes about the implications of pleasurable and attractive design on human interaction and functionality with certain elements. His first example of the three types of teapots concisely demonstrates different balances of the two main aspects of an object’s design and functionality. Whilst some objects might have a ‘negative affect’, (negative visual response to an object being unattractive), they might still be completely functional. Nevertheless, Norman’s research suggests that these negative responses can “make simple tasks more difficult” and, conversely, with a positive ‘affect’ “difficult tasks more simple.”

By the end of the article, I have mostly agreed with Norman, however, I believe that there are a few considerations he did not mention. For the most part, I agree that if an object is ‘attractive’ and equally functional, it is far better and more understandable than one that is ‘unattractive’ yet equally functional; this idea can stem back to the previous reading of the Design of Everyday Things. Nevertheless, what Norman did not mention is that in certain circumstances, humans prefer a challenging design. For instance, physical puzzles can come in many shapes and forms but are usually confusing to humans at first sight, which could be considered ‘unattractive.’ Nevertheless, most people would prefer to attempt the challenge of solving the said puzzle and try to work through the solution. Of course, these things are designed to be difficult, but they might contain a simple solution. This would support the idea that a challenging design can complicate the tasks at hand, however, depending on the context, I believe that this could be beneficial and even pleasurable to us humans.

Her Code Got Humans on the Moon – Robert McMillan

In this WIRED article, McMillan writes about Margaret Hamilton, the woman who wrote code for the first-ever Apollo mission, which brought humans to the moon. In the article, numerous quotes from Hamilton are given, describing her experience in creating the highly sophisticated program and how she managed to do it.

I found it highly interesting learning that a young mother, working for MIT, was able to accomplish and build such a significant part of the world’s history, and it just goes to show that you can do anything you put your mind and heart to. Due to the widespread stereotypes about ‘men ruling the tech industry,’ it is refreshing and intriguing to learn that women played a much more significant role than most of us realize in the creation of the so-called “tech-run world” that we live in. The article also emphasizes the importance of error prevention, which was a significant issue on the Apollo 8 mission when all the navigation files were deleted due to the program P01 being launched. This instance reminded me of a video I recently saw which described why Japanese cars are considered more reliable than German cars. It is because Japanese engineers consider all cases and expect that the users won’t follow every instruction by law, where as German engineers construct cars that will work perfectly well if used as intended, but can quickly break if misused. Similarly, as a programmer and software engineer, I believe it is important for programmers to consider all cases, however as we know by the frequent bugs and crashes we experience, we all make mistakes.

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