A design classic, reimagined

Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things did more than introduce me to interaction design. It became the foundation for almost all of my teaching/coaching/consulting. I read the book sometime in the mid-1990s, when my web design career was young.

It was written in 1988 and first published as The Psychology of Everyday Things, which made for a nice acronym: PoET. Don writes of learning about the disaster that was the title and its subsequent reprint as TDoET.

In his preface to the 2013 (25th anniversary) edition, he writes:

Although the fundamental design principles of DOET are still as true and as important as when the book was first written, the examples were badly out of date. “What is a slide projector?” students ask. Even if nothing else were to be changed, the examples had to be updated.

The principles of effective design also had to be brought up to date. Human-Centered Design, HCD, has emerged since the first edition, partially inspired by the book. This edition has an entire chapter devoted to the HCD process of product development. The first edition of the book focused upon making products understandable and usable. The total experience of a product covers much more than its usability: aesthetics, pleasure, and fun play critically important roles. There was no discussion about pleasure, enjoyment, or emotion. Emotion is so important that I wrote an entire book, Emotional Design, about the role it plays in design. These issues are also now included in this edition.

My experiences in industry have taught me about the complexities of the real world, how cost and schedules are critical, the need to pay attention to competition, and the importance of multidisciplinary teams. I learned that the successful product has to appeal to customers, and the criteria they use to determine what to purchase may have surprisingly little overlap with the aspects that are important during usage. The best products do not always succeed. Brilliant new technologies might take decades to become accepted. To understand products, it is not enough to understand design or technology: it is critical to understand business.

If you have not picked up a copy of the revised book, run to your favorite retailer ASAP!

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.