Don Norman The Design of Everyday Things

In the late 1980s, we started working on trying to make our computer systems better to use, there’s been a long tradition of psychologists, human factor experts, ergonomics, trying to make life better, trying to make all the devices we use easier to use, whether to tractor or automobile or an airplane. Computers, though, were new, especially in the home. And in the nineteen eighties, the first home computers were coming out and they were, well, pretty bad. So I was already studying the way we use computers and I was also studying aviation safety in the way airplanes were designed for safety. And then I took a year sabbatical in England and I discovered I couldn’t open the doors. I couldn’t work the water faucets, water taps, they call them, or I would not figure out the light switches. And so in a fit of frenzy, I sat down and wrote the psychology of everyday things, which later became the design of everyday things. The principles in that book apply to almost anything are fundamental principles, things like discoverability and feedback, affordance and mapping constraints, conceptual models. They apply, they still exist. That’s why the book has survived so long, because thank goodness I didn’t talk about computers in the book. I talked about doors and water faucets and light switches and they haven’t changed computers.

The same problems exist with the computers of the 1980s are very different than the computers of today. I’m amazed by its success and how popular it has become. I’m really surprised and amazed and pleased people tell me it’s changed their lives and wow, that’s really nice for an author to hear.

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