Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

1.      According to Norman, how should we handle all failures within a system? What are the primary causes of most failures and what are the design implications for developers?

How should we handle all failures within a system?
1. Understand cause and design to minimize cause rather than blaming end user. It may include using constraints, proper messaging and confirmations.
2. Do Sensibility checks based on user's profile and previous flows chosen if possible.
3. Keep the option to undo action.
4. Make it very easy to discover error.  
5. Try bringing end user to normal desired flow of action rather than immediately throwing out.
Swiss cheese model beautifully describes how to reduce possibility of errors.

What are the primary causes of most failures?
Most common is requiring end user to operate in unnatural ways.  Interruptions are also major cause of errors, both slips and mistakes.
What are the design implications for developers?
It is not always possible to make errors discoverable or report the error before it has occurred, and undo it when transaction is already complete. Say, end user didn't bother the warning he was given and kept on clicking OK.

2.      Explain the relationship between discoverability, feedback, the conceptual model, affordances, signifiers, mappings, and constraints. Use an item to illustrate your points (Norman discusses these in great deal using several examples. Do not repeat an example from the book. Use your own).

Affordances: is the reason why I am using the machine under consideration, say I will be using shaving kit for cleaning my bread in a while.
Signifiers: Signifiers help determine how I can do shaving bread with this shaving kit lying on my table. 
Mapping: size and shape of the holder matching with the slot is natural mapping for me.
Constraints (may be of type physical, logical, semantic, and cultural): so the holes in blade and the corresponding elevation in the holder work has forced constraint in my example.
Discoverability: with this it is possible to determine what actions are possible in current state of machine. I can put blade in the holder and clean my face full of shaving cream.
Feedback: Is the way to communicate back, what is happening. I will look in to the mirror while shaving how it’s going on, this is feedback for me.
Conceptual model: This is the rough image in my mind of the system and how it works. I am writing this description above based on conceptual modal in my head.

3.      Summarize Norman's thoughts on standardization. He brings it up at several points in the book. He offers the benefits and the drawbacks but does provide a clear viewpoint.

Author clearly mentions the importance of affordances and signifiers, discoverability, feedback. But if it is not possible to provide anything or say there is a language barrier or anything unforeseen, he says  standardization always pays and worth following.
When no other solution is possible, design everything the same way so that people have to learn once. Standards simplify life for everyone, but it is difficult to set a standard and bring all the manufacturers and governing agencies on the same page.
He mentions, sometime standards may take so long to develop that they are no more relevant and beneficial, because already in market there are numerous manufacturer specific designs implemented now.
There are always many people who advocate presence of multiple standards.
Sometimes, even if standards are set, they are no followed and vanish with time.

4.      Norman discusses the process of design thinking. What two tools does he provide to support this process and how are they related? According to Norman, are these more theoretical or practical? Why?

He suggests double diamond model for defining problem and then again    double diamond model to reach the best possible solution.
In both cases, we start with something, and expand our scope and finally based on elimination reach to problem statement/ solution.
Start with an idea, and through the initial design research, expand the thinking to explore the fundamental issues. Only then is it time to converge upon the real, underlying problem. Similarly, use design research tools to explore a wide variety of solutions before converging upon one.
These are more theoretical though.
Money, schedule constraints and market pressure may not allow detailed analysis.

5.      Norman asserts that "reliance on technology is a benefit to humanity". What does he mean by this? Do you agree? Why or why not?

Author here means that, if we use more and more advanced technology based solutions, it is not always true that we will be making ourselves dumb. We may not be always losing our abilities, but we will have more mental resources to be used elsewhere.
But he also mentions that, perfect coordination b/w man and machine is the key. If we are not able to utilize our brain to fully deploy machine power, it may be not so beneficial.

6.      Norman's goal with this book was to turn readers into great observers of the absurd, of the poor design that gives rise to so many of the problems of modern life, especially of modern technology while giving them a tool chest of good design principles to address future issues of design. Did Norman accomplish his goal with you? Explain while offering your biggest take-a-ways from this book (positive or negative).

To be true, he is not successful if I consider myself as an end user and reading this book, but yes me being in a designer role, it helped me.
Me as an end User:
1.  Author uses similar examples to illustrate two almost opposite direction concepts. 
2. I think, if I am the end user in this book, I may be a person without common sense and empty skull. That is not the case in 99% cases. 
Yes it gives me some good tactics to argue, but I will prefer to sort out issue myself before actually running to the manufacturer.
Me as a designer/developer:
Yes, this book is something I will keep with me always and keep on reading again and again. This book is the lifetime experience of a brilliant personality and teaches me to be end user centric in my products.
Some things I am going to stop doing:
1. Thinking that, why my client doesn't understand what I am trying to explain.
2. Did she miss the big red message in large font?
3. Why should I worry to roll back transaction, when I gave the big confirmation message.
4. This application works well in Chrome, who cares IE, there are very few user base from IE as per Google analytics.
5. Why didn't the end user not able to see this download button?
6. I won't ever blame customer service guy to forget a step in sequence we handed over to him, rather think of making design more robust.
7. Now I know the importance of text in error messages.

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