Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Design of Everyday Things - Revisited

"Alas, poor design predominates."

1.I asked him to explain. "You mean," I said, "that it takes five or six tries to get an idea right?"
"Yes," he said, "at least that."
"But," I replied, "you also said that if a newly introduced product doesn't catch on in the
first two or three times, then is it dead?"
"Yup," he said.
"Then new products are almost guaranteed to fail, no matter how good the idea."
"Now you understand," said the designer.

I found this passage particularly thought-provoking because of the logical conflict it presents.
If what the designer stated is true, then the process of a good idea materializing into a product
we see on shelves can be compared to a hurdle race... with five or six hurdles. However, in this race,
most of the good athletes are only able to clear one or two hurdles at the most, while the bad athletes
are managing to clear them all. At the end of the race, we see many more bad desig...I mean,
athletes... at the finish line. This makes no logical sense, and neither does the designer's
statement, at first.
So why does poor design predominate? It can boil down for a couple different factors. Perhaps
some bad designs have succeeded because they were backed by a famous brand name or company.
Perhaps they succeeded just because of their novelty. This passage from Norman's article certainly
raises questions worth discussing.

2. Norman's book can still be used today because it is, at risk of sounding cliche, almost as timeless
as human nature. Again, the main idea of this chapter is that a good design works with, not against
a human's natural approach towards that design. If in twenty years humankind forgets how to decide
to open doors, then Norman's book might be facing a bit of a problem.

3. My basic design checklist would include:
  1. Visibility (Does my product have visual cues indicating how it can be used?)
  2. Feedback (Will consumers be able to see when their actions have been completed?)
  3. Simplicity (Have I only included the essential features?)

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