Distractibility isn't a human problem; it's a design problem, writes usability expert Don Norman. We need to reverse the normal technological strategy of asking people to fill in for gaps in machine performance. Instead, we should require machines to fill in for gaps in human performance. After all, technology was invented to enhance people's lives, not the other way around. Let's build technologies that empower us, allow us to use our creative abilities, and relieve us of the stuff we are not good at.
Most recent essays
(In reverse chronological order, most recent first.)
As automation and artificial intelligence technologies develop, we need to think less about the design of human-machine interfaces and more about the design of human-machine teamwork.
I am pleased to say that my paper with Steve Casner and Ed Hutchins, The Challenges of Partially Automated Driving, has been published in the Communications of the ACM. The creation of most-automated vehicles provides major challenges for us. For a long time I( have argued that the most dangerous part of the transition from manual to full automation is when the job is mostly complete -- which is precisely where we are today. The argument has been made many times. first by Lisanne Bainbridge in 1983 -- 33 years ago! I made the argument in 1990. Nothing has changed. In this paper, we once again warn that partial automation lulls drivers into a false sense of security. Moreover, people are especially bad at maintaining vigilance and a sense of situation awareness for long periods when nothing is happening or when their assistance is not needed. In the year 2014 (the latest year for which statistics are available), there was roughly one death for every 100 million vehicle miles. One per 100 million miles. Even so, there were over 33 million deaths in the United States plus roughly 1 million injuries. American drove almost 3 trillion miles.
Design started out as a craft, primarily focusing upon the creation of beautiful objects to become a powerful force in industry. Today, design has gone far beyond its simple origins as a craft to develop powerful new ways for people to interact with the world, emphasizing experience, not technology. Moreover, it has evolved into a way of thinking, of problem discovery, and of enhancing the lives of individuals, the experience of the workforce, and even the health of the planet. Are these new developments compatible with the craft traditions of the old? Is this a fork in the road, with some continuing the craft tradition of enhancing the emotional experiences of our products and others taking the other path, moving design thinking into all endeavors, but far removed from the history and mainstream practice of today. What is the future of design? We are at a fork: Which path should we take? I take my answer from the famed American baseball player Yogi Berra who said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
Chunka Mui wrote to say he was writing an article on autonomous cars and asked for my thoughts. He published his article in Forbes , and before I knew it, I was suddenly front and center into the debate about Tesla and autonomy.Here is the article:http://www.forbes.com/sites/chunkamui/2016/04/19/is-tesla-reckless/2/#ea36e8c40a4aAnd here is my response to the (fortunately very few) complaints. People really love their teslas and do not like any criticism.My reply is:Yes, I have experienced Tesla's autopilot (as well as the pre-release models from other OEMs)....
I am pleased to say that the paper by P.J. Stappers and me on DesignX has been published, along with several commentaries and then a response by the authors. With citation and URL for the package.
A video that is both instructional and fun. The article text concludes by saying "Don Norman's seminal book on design, The Design of Everyday Things, ... (p)ublished 25 years ago, it remains just as relevant today. Doors shouldn't need instructions. When most people complain about something, nothing happens. But Norman is not most people -- he's a psychologist and cognitive scientist. So his writing about his complaints is so incredibly thorough that he changed the way design works. And the "human-centered design" revolution he sparked changed not only how designers work, but also how people in fields like public health work to make the world a better place. This is why Melinda Gates believes human-centered design is one change that could save the world. To find out what all this has to do with crappy doors, watch the video."
Naomi Miyake, a brilliant Japanese researcher, a close friend and colleague, and one of my early PhD students, died this year (2015). Here are my reflections on her carer, published in the japanese Cognitive Science Society's journal: Cognitive Studies, 22(4), 1-38. (Dec. 2015)
Bruce Tognazzini and I document the many shortcomings of Apple's current design philosophy in this Fast Company article.
Design is a complex field. Some components of design already are based upon good science, usually from the behavioral and cognitive sciences. Some are at the pre-scientific level of understanding. I believe that with a proper attitude toward evidence-based studies, these areas can also become either scientific, or at least rigorously proven to be effective when used under well-understood circumstances. Some aspects of design seem primarily based upon human creativity, sense of style, and other socially mediated conventions. These may never be scientific, but they do play a critically important role in the quality and acceptance of design. So, can design be a science? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Can it be empirically based, evidence driven? Yes. Will it have to reply on intuition and the creativity of individual designers? Sometimes, yes. Design is a multi-faceted, complex enterprise. It involves the initial choice of what to make, a deep understanding of people, of materials, and of technology. It requires understanding how people decide upon purchase, and then use products. It covers an extremely wide range of activities and different disciplines of study and training. It is this depth and richness that makes design such a wonderful, fascinating field.
- All Books
- The Design of Everyday Things, Revised and Expanded Edition
- Living with complexity
- The Design of Future Things
- Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things
- The invisible computer
- Things That Make us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine
- Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles
- The Design of Everyday Things