HOME   |  


FEBRUARY 6, 2010   

Don Norman and usable design

I went to Don Norman's website yesterday when writing about the buttons on my radio. Norman is a personal hero of mine since his book The Psychology of Everyday Things (now titled The Design of Everyday Things) introduced me to the concept of affordance.

Since then I've considered him the guru of usable design. It was distressing to find several usability problems with his website. I planned on talking about that today. But never mind. He's got so much to say that's worth knowing I'm going to recommend a couple of his books instead.

Curved loop metal door handleAffordances

Simply stated, an affordance is what an object's appearance suggests about how to use it.

When you see the handle at right you'd grab it and pull it toward you, right? It looks like you should grab and pull it. Yet I'll bet you've seen handles like this, pulled them—unsuccessfully—and only then noticed the sign saying "PUSH".

Norman's comment that turned on a light bulb in my brain:

Somehow, when a device as simple as a door has to come with an instruction manual—even a one-word manual—than it is a failure, poorly designed.

More here: Affordances and Design.
Much more in Norman's enjoyable book, The Design of Everyday Things.


More recently Norman has been looking into how our emotions figure in, leading to the book Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. Our relationship with things has to do with more than just how they work. As with most relationships, it gets complicated. This book will help you understand why you love some kitchen utensils and hate others. And much more.

Watch Don Norman on 3 Ways Design Makes You Happy: "That's my new life: it's all about fun."

So maybe I'll complain about his website another time. For now I want to say if you're a designer, are interested in design, or just wonder why modern appliances are so darn hard to operate, you should spend a little time with Don Norman. You'll be glad you did.

Top   |      |    AddThis Social Bookmark Button



Cuyahoga to Colorado


2007 April-December

2008 January-December

2009 January-November

Video icon Video  Audio Audio