Design of Everyday Things_1

Design of Everyday Things_1 - THE DESIGN OF EVERYDAY THINGS...

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Unformatted text preview: THE DESIGN OF EVERYDAY THINGS Donald A. Norman C RRRRR CY V DOUBLEDAY New York London Toronto Sydney Auckland A CURRENCY Boox PUBLISHED BY DOUBLEDAY a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036 CURRENCY and DOUBLEDAY are trademarks of Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. This book was originally published in hardcover by Basic Books in 1988. This Doubleday/Currency edition reprinted by special arrangement with Basic Books Inc., Publishers, New York. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Norman, Donald A. [Psychology of everyday things] The design of everyday things / Donald A. Norman. p. cm. Reprint. Originally published: The psychology of everyday things. New York : Basic Books, c1988. Includes bibliographical references. 1. Design, Industrial—Psychological aspects. 2. Human engineering. I. Title. [TSl71.4.N67 1990] 620.8'2—d620 89—48989 CIP ISBN 0-385-26774-6 Copyright © 1988 by Donald A. Norman Preface to the paperback edition copyright © 1989 by Donald A. Norman All Rights Reserved Printed in the United States of America First Doubleday/Currency Edition: 1990 20 19 18 17 ONE: TWO: THREE: FOUR: FIVE: SIX: SEVEN: CONTENTS Preface to the Paperback Edition Preface The Psychopathology of Everyday Things The Psychology of Everyday Actions Knowledge in the Head and in the World Knowing What to Do To Err Is Human The Design Challenge User-Centered Design Notes Suggested Readings References Index 81 105 141 187 219 237 241 249 iii PREFACE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION The Hidden Frustrations of Everyday Things We are surrounded by large numbers of manufactured items, most in- tended to make our lives easier and more pleasant. In the office we have computers, copying machines, telephone systems, voice mail, and fax machines. In the home we have television sets, VCRs, automated kitchen appliances, answering machines, and home computers. All these wonderful devices are supposed to help us save time and produce faster, superior results. But wait a minute—if these new devices are so wonderful, why do we need special dedicated staff members to make them work—“power users" or “key operators”? Why do we need manuals or special instructions to use the typical business telephone? Why do so many features go unused? And why do these devices add to the stresses of life rather than reduce them? This book is intended to make you aware of the problems of design and interested in improving things. Many readers have told me that it has changed their lives, making them more sensitive to the problems of life and to the needs of people. The examples in this book come mostly from Europe and the United States, but the same problems exist all over the world. Modern industry and manufacturing techniques have made high technology available to large numbers of nations and industries. Modern technology knows no national boundaries, and a company’s services, design teams, and man- ufacturing plants may span the world. Business and Industry Business exists to serve people, a point that successful businesses un- derstand and practice. But so too must the products of business be designed and manufactured to serve the needs and capabilities of the people who are its clients and customers. Since the original publication of the book, I have found considerable interest in the business and industrial community. Companies have ordered copies for their staffs. I have been asked to speak at conferences, to business executives, and to research and development organizations in the United States, Europe, and Japan, along with innumerable radio talk shows. Hurrah! Not for me, but for the positive signs of increased concern for the customer-user. The problems illustrated in this book result from a — More- over, in this day of increased legal liability for the way products are used, it is in everyone’s best interest to make designs simple to use, simple to understand, yet still powerful enough for the job. Bad design cannot be patched up with labels, instruction manuals, or training courses. Business and industry have learned that their products ought to be aesthetically pleasing. A large community of designers exists to help improve appearances. But appearances are only part of the story: us- ability and understandability are more important, for if a product can’t be used easil and safel , how vaulable is its attractiveness? I- ‘*= aesthetics need not be sacrificed for usability, which can be designed in from the first concep- tualization of the product. Usable Design: The Next Competitive Frontier Modern industry must distinguish itself through its consideration of the needs of its customers. This message has already been stated—and heard—in regard to interaction with the customer, service, and quality. Industry has learned that quality has to be designed into a product: insisting on proper design and manufacturing techniques from the very beginning is far more effective than attempts to discover and repair ill- made goods on the production line. The same story applies to the usability and understandability of prod- Prefuce to the Paperback Edition ucts. Human error is the leading cause of industrial accident and a major cost factor in the office. Humans do make mistakes, but with proper design, the incidence of error and its effects can be minimized. Warning labels and large instruction manuals are signs of failures, attempts to patch up problems that should have been avoided by proper design in the first place. As companies design more for usability and understanding, they will discover a competitive edge, for these principles save customers time and money while increasing morale. As this message spreads, more and more customers will reject the products that are unusable or that lead to frequent error and frustration. The Book Title: A Lesson in Design In this book I urge designers to s _ g _ ‘ “\ I also examine the failures of design and show \ why even the best-trained and best-motivated designers can go wrong when they listen to their instincts instead of testing their ideas on actual < users. Designers know too much about their product to be objective \ judges: the features they have come to love and prefer may not be ' understood or preferred by the future customers. / The title of this book is a case history of design. A writer is also a designer, a designer of words rather than of things. I liked the original title, The Psychology of Everyday Things, both for the cleverness with which it suggested that inanimate objects had a psychology and for the clever acronym created by the first letters of the words: POET. Rule of thumb: I ' A When Doubleday/Currency approached me about publishing the pa- perback version of this book, the editors also said, “But of course the title will have to be changed.” Title changed? I was horrified. But I decided to follow my own advice and do some research on readers. I discovered that while the academic community liked the title and its cleverness, the business community did not. In fact, business often ignored the book because the title sent the wrong message. Bookstores placed the book in their psychology sections (along with books on sex, love, and self-help). The final nail in the title’s coffin came when I was asked to talk to a group of senior executives of a leading manufacturing company. The person who introduced me to the audience praised the book, damned the title, and asked his colleagues to read the book despite the title. Clearly the title had to be redone. Alas, the so-called ”installed base Preface to the Paperback Edition vi problem" raised its head: the new title had to have some relation to the old. In Japan, things were easier, for the phrase ”everyday things” is not easily translated, and ”psychology” is not a popular subject: The Japanese title became Design for Usability: The Psychology of Everyday Tools. In English we had to keep compatibility with the original title. 50 here it is, the paperback edition, newly entitled The Design of Everyday Things. —Donald A. Norman Del Mar, California September 1989 iii Preface to the Paperback Edition PREFACE This is the book I have always wanted to write, but I didn't know it.“ Over the years I have fumbled my way through life, walking into doors, failing to figure out water faucets, incompetent at working the simple things of everyday life. "Just me,” I would mumble. ”Just my P mechanical ineptitude." But as I studied psychology and watched the ‘ behavior of other people, I began to realize that I was not alone. My ; difficulties were mirrored by the problems of others. And we all seemed / to blame ourselves. Could the whole world be mechanically incompe/J tent? The truth emerged slowly. My research activities led me to the study of human error and industrial accidents. Humans, I discovered, do not always behave clumsily. Humans do not always err. But they do when the things they use are badly conceived and designed. Nonetheless, we still see human error blamed for all that befalls society. Does a commer- cial airliner crash? "Pilot error," say the reports. Does a Soviet nuclear power plant have a serious problem? ”Human error,” says the newspa- per. Do two ships at sea collide? ”Human error” is the official cause. But careful analysis of these kinds of incidents usually gives the lie to such a story. At the famous American nuclear power plant disaster at Three Mile Island, the blame was placed on plant operators who mis- diagnosed the problems. But was it human error? Consider the phrase ”operators who misdiagnosed the problems.” The phrase reveals that first there were problems—in fact, a series of mechanical failures. Then why wasn't equipment failure the real cause? What about the misdiag- noses? Why didn’t the operators correctly determine the cause? Well, how about the fact that the proper instruments were not available, that the plant operators acted in ways that in the past had always been reasonable and proper? How about the pressure relief valve that failed to close, even though the operator pushed the proper button and even though a light came on stating it was closed? Why was the operator blamed for not checking two more instruments (one on the rear of the control panel) and determining that the light was faulty? (Actually, the operator did check one of them.) Human error? To me it sounds like equipment failure coupled with serious design error. And, yes, what about my inability to use the simple things of every- flay life? I can use complicated things. I am quite expert at computers, ‘ and electronics, and complex laboratory equipment. Why do I have . trouble with doors, light switches, and water faucets? How come I can ‘2 work a multimillion-dollar computer installation, but not my home / refrigerator? While we all blame ourselves, the real culprit—faulty { design—goes undetected. And millions of people feel themselves to be ‘3. mechanically inept. It is time for a change. Hence this book: POET, The Psychology of Everyday Things. POET is an outgrowth of my repeated frustrations with the operation of everyday things and my growing knowledge of how to apply experimental psy- chology and cognitive science. The combination of experience and knowledge has made POET necessary, at least for me and for my own feeling of ease. So here it is: part polemic, part science. Part serious, part fun: POET. Acknowledgments POET was conceived and the first few drafts written while I was in Cambridge, England, on a sabbatical leave from the University of Cali- fornia, San Diego. In Cambridge, I worked at the Applied Psychology Unit (the APU), a laboratory of the British Medical Research Council. { Special thanks are due to the people at the APU for their hospitality. ; They are a special group of people, with special expertise in applied and theoretical psychology, especially in the topics of this book. World- ( famous experts in the design of instruction manuals, warning signals, ;/ computer systems, working in an environment filled with design {g flaws—doors that are difficult to open (or that bash the hands when they x Preface do), signs that are illegible (and nonintelligible), stovetops that confuse, ._ .. light switches that defy even the original installer to figure them out. A .f striking example of all that is wrong with design, lodged in the home of the most knowledgeable of users. A perfect combination to set me off. Of course, my own university and my own laboratory have horrors of their own, as will become all too apparent later in this book. A major argument in POET is that much of our everyday knowledge resides in the world, not in the head. This is an interesting argument and, for cognitive psychologists, a difficult one. What could it possibly mean for knowledge to be in the world? Knowledge is interpreted, the stuff that can be only in minds. Information, yes, that could be in the world, but knowledge, never. Well, yeah, the distinction between knowledge and information is not clear. If we are sloppy with terms, then perhaps you can see the issues better. People certainly do rely upon the placement and location of objects, upon written texts, upon the information contained within other people, upon the artifacts of society, and upon the information transmitted within and by a culture. There certainly is a lot of information out there in the world, not in the head. My understanding of this point has been strengthened by years of debate and interaction with a very powerful team of people at La Iolla, the Cognitive Social Science Group at the University of Califor- nia, San Diego. This was a small group of faculty from the departments of psychology, anthropology, and sociology, orgaru'zed by Mike Cole, who met informally once a week for several years. The primary mem- bers were Roy d’Andrade, Aaron Cicourel, Mike Cole, Bud Mehan, George Mandler, Jean Mandler, Dave Rumelhart, and me. Given the peculiar (although typically academic) nature of this group’s interac- tion, they may not wish to acknowledge anything to do with the ideas as they are presented in POET. And, finally, at the Applied Psychology Unit in England, I met another visiting American professor, David Rubin of Duke University,, who was analyzing the recall of epic poetry—those long, huge feats of prodigious memory in which an itinerant poet sings from memory hours of material. Rubin showed me that it wasn’t all in memory: much of the information was in the world, or at least in the structure of the tale, the poetics, and the life styles of the people. My previous research project was on the difficulties of using com- puters and the methods that might be used to make things easier. But the more I looked at computers (and other demons of our society, such as aircraft systems and nuclear power), the more I realized that there was nothing special about them: they had the same problems as did the Preface X simpler, everyday things. And the everyday things were more perva- sive, more of a problem. Especially as people feel guilt when they are unable to use simple things, guilt that should be not theirs but rather the designers and manufacturers of the objects. So it all came together. These ideas, the respite of the sabbatical. My experiences over the years fighting the difficulties of poor design, of equipment that could not be used, of everyday things that seemed foreign to human functioning. The fact that I was asked to give a talk on my work at the APU, which caused me to start writing down my ideas. And finally, Roger Schank’s Paris birthday party, where I discov- ered the works of the artist Carelman and decided it was time to write the book. Formal Research Support The actual writing was done at three locations. The work began while I was on sabbatical leave from San Diego. I spent the first half of my sabbatical year at the Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge, England, and the last half at MCC (the Microelectronics and Computer Technol— ogy Corporation) in Austin, Texas. MCC is America’s research consor- tium dedicated to the task of developing computer systems of the future. Officially I was "visiting scientist”; unofficially I was a sort of "minister without portfolio," free to wander and interact with the numerous research programs under way, especially those in the area called ”human interface.” England is chilly in the winter, Texas hot in the summer. But both provided exactly the proper friendly, supportive environments that I required to do the work. Finally, when I returned to UCSD, 1 revised the book several more times. I used it in classes and sent copies to a variety of colleagues for suggestions. The comments of my students and readers were invaluable, causing radical revision from the original structure. The research was partially supported by contract N00014—85-C- 0133 NR 667- 547 with the Personnel and Training Research Program of the Office of Naval Research and by a grant from the System Devel- opment Foundation. People There is a big difference between early drafts of POET and the final version. Many of my colleagues took the time to read various drafts and give me critical reviews. In particular, I wish to thank Judy Greiss- Preface man of Basic Books for her patient critique through several revisions. My hosts at the APU in Britain were most gracious, especially Alan Baddeley, Phil Barnard, Thomas Green, Phil Johnson-Laird, Tony Mar- cel, Karalyn and Roy Patterson, Tim Shallice, and Richard YOung. The scientific staff at MCC gave useful suggestions, especially Peter Cook, Jonathan Grudin, and Dave Wroblewski. At UCSD, I especially wish to thank the students in Psychology 135 and 205: my undergraduate and graduate courses at UCSD entitled ”Cognitive Engineering.” My colleagues in the design community were most helpful with their comments: Mike King, Mihai Nadin, Dan Rosenberg, and Bill Verplank. Special thanks must be given to Phil Agre, Sherman DeFor- est, and Ief Raskin, all of whom read the manuscript with care and provided numerous and valuable suggestions. Collecting the illustrations became part of the fun as I traveled the world with camera in hand. Eileen Conway and Michael Norman helped collect and organize the figures and illustrations. Julie Norman helped as she does on all my books, proofing, editing, commenting, and encouraging. Eric Norman provided valuable advice, support, and photogenic feet and hands. Finally, my colleagues at the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego, helped throughout—in part through the wizardry of international computer mail, in part through their personal assistance to the details of the process. I single cut Bill Gaver, Mike Mozer, and Dave Owen for their detailed comments, but many helped out at one time or another during the research that preceded the book and the several years of writing. Preface xiii (ll\[’llR ()\I THE PSYCHOPATHOLOGY OF EVERYDAY THINGS q ”Kenneth Olsen, the engineer who founded and . still runs Digital Equipment Corp, confessed at the annual meeting that he can ’t figure out how to heat a cup of coffee in the company’s microwave oven. ”1 You Would Need an Engineering Degree to Figure This Oul "You would need an engineering degree from MIT to work this,” someone once told me, shaking his head in puzzlement over his brand new digital watch. Well, I have an engineering degree from MIT. (Kenneth Olsen has two of them, and he can’t figure out a microwave oven.) Give me a few hours and I can figure out the watch. But why should it take hours? I have talked with many people who can't use all the features of their washing machines or cameras, who can’t figure out how to work a sewing machine or a video cassette recorder, who habitually turn on the wrong stove burner. Why do we put up with the frustrations of everyday objects, with objects that we can’t figure out ho...
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