Quotes of Interest

Posted in General at 6 pm

Bryan Boyer has collected a list of Quotes from Donald Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. I have copied the list and added it to this entry.

“When simple things needs pictures, labels, or instructions, the design has failed.” (p. 9)

“When the number of controls equals the number of functions, each control can be specialized, each can be labeled. The possible functions are visible, for each corresponds with a control. If the user forgets the functions, the controls serve as reminders.” (p. 22)

“The logically plausible relationship between musical pitch and amount does not work: Would a higher pitch mean less or more of something? Pitch (and taste, color, and location) are substitutive dimensions: substitute one value for another to make a change. There is no natural concept of more or less in the comparison of different pitches, or hues, or taste qualities.” (p. 23)

(I think that it’s fairly safe to argue, for instance, that there are certain hue pairs that users recognize. Blue -> Red is commonly used to display temperature variances. With pitch and taste the argument stands, but with hue I am not so convinced. )

“The same technology that simplifies life by providing more functions in each device also complicates life by making the device harder to learn, harder to use. This is the paradox of technology.” (p. 31)

“If the task sppears simple or trivial, then people blame themselves [when failing]. It is as if they take perverse pride in thinking of themselves as mechanically incompetent.” (p. 35)

“If an error is possible, someone will make it. The designer must assume that all possible errors will occur and design so as to minimize the chance of the error in the first place, or its effects once it gets made. Errors should be easy to detect, they should have minimal consequences, and, if possible, their effects should be reversible.” (p. 36)

“Coincidence is enough to set the causal wheels rolling.” (p. 40)

One major aspect of the assignment ofblame is that we frequently have little information on which to make [a] judgement, and what little we havemay be wrong. As a result, blame or credit can be assessed almost inependently of reality.” (p.40)

“Once we have an explanation- correct or incorrect- for otherwise discrepant or puzzling events, there is no more puzzle, no more discrepancy. As a result we are complacent, at least for a while.” (p. 45)

“The Gulf of Evaluation reflects the amount of effort that the person must exert to interpret the physical state of a system and to determine how well the expectations and intentions have been met.” (p. 51)

Given a set of coins with small variations, students were asked to identify the real penny. Few were able to identify the actual penny. “The confusions probably occured because the users of coins formed representations in their memory systems that were sufficiently precise only to distinguish among the coins they actually had to use. It is a general property of memory that we store only partial descriptions of the things to be remembered, descriptions that are sufficiently precise to work at the time something is learned but that may not work later on, when new experiences have also been encountered and entered into memory.” (p. 59)

(This echoes de Saussure’s ideas of differential linguistics– the idea that we recognizing words by the fact their phonetic makeup is different from every other word. That is to say, the difference is all that matters.)

(On page 77 Norman gives two examples of “well designed” stove tops. The final example shows four burners laid out in a semi-circle shape, this is great. The second to last example, which he claims is just as well designed, is actually a fire waiting to happen. He puts the burners in a trapazoid shape which makes it awkward to reach the back burners. Depending on where one is standing, it would not be uncommon to reach over the majority of the burners. NOT GOOD.)

“Whenever labels seem necessary, consider another design.” (p. 78)

“Errors are usually understandable and logical, once you think through their causes. Don’t punish the person for making errors. Don’t take offense. But most of all, don’t ignore it. Try to design the system to allow for errors… Design so that errors are easy to discover and corrections are possible.” (p. 131)

RE: warning on products. “Without a forcing function failure to heed [warnings] is almost guaranteed.” (p. 140)

“Much good design evolves: the design is tesed, problem areas are discovered and modified, and then it is continuall retested and remodified until time, energy, and resources run out.” (p. 142)

“Once a satisfactory product has been achieved, further change may be counterproductive, especially if the product is successful.” (p. 150)

“There is a big difference between the expertise required to be a designer and that required to be a user. In their work, designers often become expert with the device they are designing. Users are often expert at the task they are trying to perform with the device.” (p. 156)

“Design is the successive application of constraints until only one unique product is left.” (orig. from Richard W. Pew) (p. 158)

“There is no such thing as the average user.” (p. 161)

“Designers must guard against the problems of focus in their own design. Did their attention to one set of variables cause them to neglect another? Did safety suffer for usability? Usability for aesthetics? Aesthetics for manufacturability?” (p. 165)

“Creaping featurism is the tendency to add to the number of features that a device can do, often extending the number beyond all reason.” (p. 173)”

“The second path [to dealing with complex option sets] is organization. Organize, modularize, use the strategy of divide and conquer. Suppose we take each set of features and hide them away in seperate locations, perhaps with diving barriers between sets… The proper division of a complex set of controls into modules allows you to conquer complexity.” (p. 174)

“One important method of making systems easier to learn and to use is to make them explorable, to encourage the user to experiment and learn the possibilities through active exploration… There are three requirements for a system to be explorable:” The user must readily see and be able to do the allowable actions, the effect of each action must both be visible and easy to interpret, and actions should be without cost. (p. 184)

(Thinking about this last item, cost, in a web context. There are certain costs which are unavoidable, e.g. bandwidth usage, and should be minimized in lieu of their total removal. (p. 183))

Limitations on attention are also severe; the system should help by minimizing interruption, by providing aids to allow for recovery of the exact status of the operations that were interrupted. (p. 191)

“The major requirement of response compatibility is that the spatial relationship between the positioning of controls and the system or objects upon which they operate should be as direct as possible, with the controls either on the objects themselves or arranged to have an analogical relationship to them.” (p. 199)

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