The Design of Every Day Things

by Don Norman

I’m just getting around to reading this book and it’s probably one I should have picked up a long time ago. You can purchase it on Kindle as well if you have one of those.

So far it’s been a very interesting read. What makes you design what you design? Do you ever think of the end user? Could your grandma use it? Those are a few of my thoughts when I design. I have friends who have disabilities that don’t allow them to use everyday objects very well. I also have friends that will walk into glass doors, myself probably included. It’s something I have often wondered if it was ‘just me’ or if the fault lay within the ‘design’. Here’s one of my experiences…

I walked out of the women’s toilet. Next on my agenda is to wash my hands. Very simple task. I looked at the sink to turn on the tap, after having put that funny gloopy soap stuff on my hands, I found out that there wasn’t a hot or cold switch. The tap was there but there was no way of turning it on. No clear instructions stuck onto the mirrors of the ladies bathroom. And I wasn’t the only one looking at the woman next to me to see if they could figure out how it all worked.

At first I thought it was one of those automatic sensors. Stick your hands underneath the tap, maybe it’ll do something. Nothing happened. The actual control was by my foot. You stepped on it to turn the water on.

Maybe this is common in other parts of the world? I haven’t travelled much, but this was my one of many encounters when something has been odd/weird. Once I figured the whole thing out, it was easy. But I had to think. Maybe it was just me, but I looked as blank as the women standing next to me as they were trying to shake the gloop off their hands if they couldn’t find out where the water came from. The poor mother standing next to me.

So, this book so far had made me think of how I design for other people. Reactions to my design. How can I get rid of instructions on how to use my design. Is it simple? Is it clear? Does the symbol/icon translate outside my own country? Will the colours I use effect the outcome? Could I show it to the person next to me and they will understand it within a glimpse? Where could I improve it? There’s always room for improving something. Check out Sarah Parmenter for talks on usability. I attended the New Adventures In Web Design Conference last year, and it was great to be reminded of some of the things that help us make choices.

To listen to most of the New Adventures In Web Design talks from last year, visit http://2011.newadventuresconf.com/audio/

I like showing things to other people to see their initial reactions. Observation is fun. Just look at these guys tapping stuff and exploring.