This is the first design-related book I’m reading. I’ve read blogs in the past though. I picked this up because of its rave reviews and my own interest in wanting to design software and represent data better. Here I list some notes I made from the book peppered with my own thoughts during the reading.

Chapter 1 : The psychopathology of everyday things

In the reading of this chapter, Don Norman stresses that the 2 most important characteristics of good design are


What do these terms mean?

Basically, given a product, the intended user should be able to discover all the features the product has to offer and has to be, with minimal-to-zero difficulty understand how to use the product as the designer intended for it to be used. Unfortunately, not many products are designed with these characteristics in mind. :disappointed:

If a product is designed well, it results in “brilliant, pleasurable products.” And if it’s not, the users are forced to behave the way the products want them to and this is counterproductive to the whole reason products are designed - to help people.

Of late, a new brand of design is cropping up - HUMAN CENTERED DESIGN, which means exactly what you think - to be designed with a human i.e the end-user in mind. And intuitively, this is how products should have always been designed. But the problem ultimately, as even Don notes is that products are designed, largely, by engineers, who are trained to be logically thinking. But to expect the same of the users they’re designing for is unfair. Sometimes blatantly so. HCD aims at engineers focussing on what happens when things go wrong during the usage of a product and not just when things go all right.

One of the best things that can be built into a product (where some form of a display is available) is notes on how to go about resolving the problem when it occurs. This could mean a troubleshooting section or log messages/ non-intimidating user-friendly error messages in case of software.

Don proposes 5 fundamental psychological concepts that form the bedrock of Discoverability -