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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Summary of the Book The Design of Everyday Things Written By Mister Donald A. Norman

Chapter one address the mindset of how we interact with common elements.  The author, Mr. Norman, starts by discussing how doors are used and how they can be misused.  Frustration can occur when there are no visible signals that the user is accustomed to.  He then talks about the concepts of discoverability and understanding attributing to the complexity of modern devices.  Discoverability is about how actions are to be performed and understanding deals with interpreting what the conditions mean.  There should be an inherent naturalness in believing what you see.  There is not too much more to comprehend or decipher from design is what I think he is trying to advocate.  That is until we encounter a difference.  This critique introduces affordances and signifiers to the reader as what actions are possible and what might indicate how to accomplish it.  This relegates explanation for some situations while others are to be understood before any action is taken.  Conceptual and mental models feed into our idea of the system image.  Mr. Norman reiterates the importance of visibility and mapping before closing the chapter on feedback and a soliloquy about designing things well as more difficult than you would think.  The acceptance of technology faces a testing battle in its early stages.  Then through maturity and feasibly user spread ideas, good design becomes widespread and easier to manage.
                Chapter two begins with an anecdote about his landlady.  This evolves to a discussion on user error and whether it is partially due to design.  There is an allegory of two gulfs for people with new technology.  The first is for execution of figuring something out and the second is what happens as evaluation.  Bridging the gap between the gulfs are the seven stages of action which is, ironically, talked about in different sections.  Determining the goal as discoverability, planning for feedback, specifying the concept, affording the performance, perceiving the signals, mapping your interpretation and comparing the constraints are the main points of that topic.  Blaming yourself for errors caused when using devices is not a healthy practice.  The task of designing items so their intended use is infallibly mistake free is not your responsibility.  In a previous edition of this book, the author then goes to discuss misconceptions of everyday life using the intriguing example of bullets which is valuable for this chapter.  Physics does not necessarily explain how one fired from a gun will take so much longer to hit the ground than one dropped from a hand.  The speed it will travel horizontally has a direct effect on the rate at which it descends.  This leads to people being explanatory creatures as events like this are proven true or false by human collaboration.  He then disputes his earlier point by saying that people do not blame themselves all the time for events and look for a cause to dispense culpability.  Learned helplessness comes from repeated failure.  Positive psychology tries to acknowledge that these things happen and something reaffirming can be gained from it. 
                Chapter three inserts a smarting theme that behavior is contained by one’s knowledge.  How much we know will dictate how we act for particular circumstances.  Though knowledge is always in the world, the requirement of it reduces as we improve in other areas.  Reduction is the need to simplify things and give structure.  This is the case when dealing with precision and memory.  Memory is the knowledge in our head gathered from the world and retained for our own purposes.  Memory in humans, like computers, can be either in short-term or long-term form and have no relationship or linked by a direct correlation.  There is a natural mapping effect to that concept that draws from culture.  This is on display with his question concerning the timeline paraphrased as what is in front of us and what is behind us?  This is primarily directed by point of view but we should allow a subjective amount of time for users to assimilate to the newer ideas of the world. 
Chapter four begins recalling points for the previous chapters.  The two types of knowledge and the component that factor into each.  The author then uses the example of Legos to support his point.  The pieces, as they are separated, do not provide instructions for children on assembly.  It does give a visual as the finished product and the constraints that only allows them to fit together a certain way plays in the final determination.  Even with constraints being an indicator, some trial and error will actually complete the design.  There are four types of constraints.  Physical constraints allow for a strictly visual interpretation for the user.  Cultural constraints apply to individuals whose should conform to certain standards and conventions of those around them.  Semantic constraints deal with understanding the meaning and defining the actions required for use.  Logical constraints is the inherent order of the design and subsequent result of a device.  Mr. Norman add affordances and signifiers to the discussion using the models of doors and light switches.  Afterwards, he introduces a new concept of constraints that force certain behavior.  Constraints that do more than prevent and have varying locking aspects to them.  The chapter then goes to design in the form of the faucet.  Faucets tried to acclimate to the user with different ways to control the temperature and rate of the released water.  It draws to a close with the advice that sound is necessary from a cultural standpoint to alert other people.
                Chapter five revisits topic of human error versus perceived bad design.  When error happens we should try to discover a root cause to the matter and five additional questions to ask why about certain particulars.  Another concern that can be interpreted as error is violations.  Deliberate violations are intentionally done by users and maybe punishable.  A major cause of violations can be rules that are inappropriate to encourage damaging acts.  Errors can be classified as slips or mistakes.  Slips employed improper actions leading to the correct goal.  Mistakes do not meet the right ending.  Slips are classified as capturing the wrong activity, description-similarity for confusing the target, memory lapses and mode error given the controls different meanings.  Mistakes are classified as rule-based where identified practices must be given but not followed, knowledge base where lack of user expertise can be involved and memory lapse again.  When errors happen, the key is to learn of them quickly.  Once they are it should be reported by the user or the witness to the event.  This can help the manufacturer design for users by knowing what can go wrong.  It is simple to design for a device to perform perfectly for intended parameters and usage.  A study of errors might actually improve design. 
                Chapter six begins to remind the reader of how to analyze errors by mentioning he never tries to solve the problem he is asked to.  The root cause maybe separate from the five whys is what I think he is inferring.  Finding the right problem first is just as important as finding the right solution.  The human centered design process encompasses observation, ideation, prototyping and testing.  This assist in the natural challenge of design where nothing last forever and can always be improved.  Something is usually designed because there is a need for it.  Therefore, it is being created to address a past void and not for what is to come next.  It must meet the requirements of the designer, end user special cases and every intermediary along the way.  So complexity is good until it causes confusion.  To evade confusion standards should be reinforced. 
Design for the business world is the theme of the last chapter of this book.  There are two overriding concepts of competition and innovation.  Competition has a confusing aspect where organizations try to separate from each other by using the same ideas for the same products.  Very slight yet intricate differences are the dividing line between sport and lawsuits.  That also involves innovation in terms of being either radical or incremental.  Products that exist need improvements.  This can be dangerous experimentation when customers are happy with what is current.  The features that are suggested by research to be added on, can be just enough or excessive.  This can jeopardize the certainty you know for the possibility of reaching.  And new products face definitive challenges as implementing change and how long does it take to be accepted.  The change can be forced but customer purchase product with a conforming mindset.  A key statement he makes in the end is that as nearly everything changes around us, there will always be some fundamental standard that will endure and be relevant in any time period. 

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