Commentary on the passage “Design of everyday things” by Donald Norman

I believe the main point made by Donal Norman in this passage dealt with “Intuitiveness”. He breaks open the notion of products and interfaces being “Intuitive” and puts it in the context of everyday use of objects.

A very important remark made in the passage which was kind of an undertone, was the priority of aesthetics and usability in design. In many cases, the final product the author had experienced interacting with, or was quoting others having interacted with it, were beautifully designed, to the point where they had even won awards; and yet failed to fulfill the only reason they were designed and manufactured in the first place.

In my opinion, the notion of design should not solely imply a mere “facelift” for the product. Design should also focus on the “behavior” of the product in a way that it will be intuitive enough for users, possibly in some cases regardless of their cultural or social contexts. The example of Paris subway, illustrated a convention adopted by the Parisian in their social context, that failed strangers to be able to operate the car door.

I believe the more complex the systems become, the more the length the designer should go to construct a thorough conceptual model. In my opinion, prototyping in this context can be seen as an extension of conceptual model; which in a way allows the designer to “think through” the interactions before handing out the final design to the manufacturer.

Interaction, visual and audio feedback and affordance -in my opinion- are not novel concept. If we refer to our past experience and memories, we clearly can relive the memories of touching a thorn, blocking our eyes from the sunlight or strumming a guitar or piano. If we look closely, we can find traces of feedback, affordance, constraints and even mapping (which string or key produces which note) in all of them. And I believeĀ  Since a great deal of our knowledge of the world around us comes from our previous physical interactions and experiences with the world surrounding us, it would be wise to incorporate those experiences to design a more “Intuitive” product. After all, that is where the notion of “Intuitiveness” comes from.

As for the “Switches” dilemma, I believe taking the interaction between the user and the lights to “Higher Level” might be an efficient solution; That is, instead of having the users deal with “What bulb”, we can have them deal with “Where to light up”. More practically put, we can provide the users with a touchscreen LCD that has the plan of the room embedded, so that the users can point to certain areas they want lit, and control the amount of light, and let the processor deal with what bulb to light up, and how much. Of course, the above scenario would seem logical in a large scale conference room, as opposed to a small living room.

To sum up, I believe the “design of everyday things” should rely greatly on human cognitive psychology and the study of behavioral patterns, decreasing new “learning” inputs to minimum, and taking advantage of the overall perception of the physical world already known to an average user.



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