Don Norman: Designing For People

Nielsen Norman Group

Time Magazine

In the Thursday, November 8 2007 edition of Time Magazine, Barbara Kiviat writes:

A Problem Of Progress

Life is supposed to get easier with new technology. Donald Norman wishes it were really so. Instead, he says, as devices evolve, people wind up befuddled and annoyed. The culprit: bad design, a longtime target of the Northwestern University professor. In his seminal 1990 book, The Design of Everyday Things, Norman explained why, for example, people so often switch on the wrong burner of an oven range--in a person's mind, a straight row of control knobs doesn't logically map onto a square stove top.

In THE DESIGN OF FUTURE THINGS, he turns to technology on the cusp of invention--smart homes, cars that drive themselves--and finds big problems brewing. Making machines ever quieter may seem wise, for instance, but then they lack audible cues to help people know something is happening. Faced with silence, we often grow frustrated and start over. Better to use natural and intuitive signals. Consider vibrations in a car seat instead of yet another blinking light on the dash to let you know you're drifting across lanes. It's technology that gets psychology.

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