Summary of The Design of Everyday Things

Basic Books,
First Edition: 1987 more...

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The Design of Everyday Things book summary
How to make products less confusing and more usable – it’s all in the design.


9 Overall

8 Applicability

9 Innovation

9 Style


Dome-headed engineering professors call it “human factors engineering,” “interaction design” or “usability engineering,” but the purpose of this strangely-named discipline is far simpler than these appellations suggest: to make everyday items do what users expect them to do. Donald Norman has been thinking about usability issues longer than almost anyone and has insights commensurate with his experience. Norman knows how both people and machines work (he has degrees in psychology and engineering). More importantly, he knows how to bridge the gulf between the human mind and the devices the mind wants to use, from toasters to telephones to teapots. In this classic, he provides a few simple precepts and many wonderful examples showing how to design the most important component of any technology – the user’s experience. While some of Norman’s examples are a little long in the tooth (he discusses VCRs, not DVDs), getAbstract finds that the principles he describes in this friendly book are still sprightly almost 20 years after their initial publication.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What “user-oriented” design is
  • Why it matters
  • How to design user-friendly products


The Way Things Don’t Work
Some days, it seems, the amazing conveniences that are supposed to ease life’s burdens conspire to befuddle you instead. When your digital alarm clock buzzes, you reach over and tap what you think is the snooze button. In fact, it’s the on-off switch. Two hours...
Get the key points from this book in less than 10 minutes.

About the Author

Donald A. Norman is co-founder of a consulting firm and professor of computer science at Northwestern University. He served as vice president of advanced technology for a major computer manufacturer.

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    Making coffee? Every detail of the mug, the bag holding the beans, the grinder and the percolator has been designed and engineered to be easy to use – and appealing to buy. Get the scoop on how that happened.

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