Don Norman: Designing For People

Nielsen Norman Group

Good Design

Apple's products are getting harder to use because they ignore principles of design.

10 August 2015

I was once proud to be at Apple, proud of Apple's reputation of advancing ease of use and understanding. Alas, these attributes are fast disappearing from their products in favor of pretty looks, or as designers call it "styling." A journalist has just reported my views. And Bruce Tognazzini and I are writing a detailed critique. This note gives highlights of the views and points to her interview with me..

A Great Product Ruined

20 September 2014

LG. get your act together. Every so often I can't stop myself from complaining. This is one of those every so oftens. No visibility. Insufficient tactile differentiation among the controls. No labeling of which side is right and which left which matters, both because these are stereo earphones and because the identical looking and feeling buttons do different things on the two sides of the device. Manuals that use incredibly tiny type small type in gray on a black background. Badly written as well, but we have come to take that as standard. Usually we can figure things out anyway by playing with the controls. Not these controls. They are invisible in use (deliberate), but with insufficient tactile distinction, with the left controls identical to the right one, but doing different things, and no way of knowing which is left and which right, so on each usage, they will vary randomly.

Floorplan Light Switches

26 January 2014

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I got tired of light switches that contained a long, one-dimensional linear array of switches mounted on a vertical wall controlling a two-dimensional placement of lights that were placed on a horizontal plane. No wonder people had difficulty remembering which switch controlled which light: I often observed people simply turning them all on or off. Why not arrange the switches in the same spatial configuration as the lights, and then mount the switches on the same spatial plane as the lights. Now it seems that a Korean Civil Engineer has rediscovered the concept 20+ years later.

The Hilton Hotel Alarm Clock Reconsidered

15 March 2011

A few years ago I wrote in praise of the Hilton Alarm Clock: easy to set the alarm time, I said. I take it all back. Nice try Hilton, but there is one other important feature you neglected to provide: the clock has to tell the correct time. Hilton: Try again. This one was a nice try. Time for a new, improved version. Meanwhile, if you want a good alarm clock, carry your own. I highly recommend the clocks on modern smart phones: Both iPhone and Android Phones have easy to set, efficient alarm clocks. (Other phones might also: my experience is only with these two.) Numerical keypad to enter the time. Big, clear display. Easy to set the alarm sound. Easy to check.

PaperPro Desktop Stapler

16 October 2006

Who would have thought it -- a better stapler. This is a great example of how even the most mundane, commonplace commodity can be improved. PaperPro completely rethought the operation. On the outside, the stapler looks just like the old-fashioned kind, but try it once and be convinced forever. Pushing down on the top cocks a spring. Then, the spring releases -- bam! -- all the energy at once, and the staple shoots into the paper. Effortless. And in my many uses, never a single failure.

The Hilton Hotel Alarm Clock

09 May 2006

Conclusion: Hotel alarm clocks are getting better, as two examples show. But they are still imperfect. Kudos to Hilton for trying. Now it is time to bring out Version 2.0. By the time you do 3.0, you should have gotten it right.

Teapots Teapots

08 January 2006

My book Emotional Design (correctly) gave the impression that I enjoy tea. But the result has been a surplus of riches: my readers provide far more suggestions of tea-brewing products than I can possibly evaluate, let alone use. But here are two, culled from the many suggestions. The teapot I actually use is not one shown in the book. I use the bodum Chambord Teapot. Simple, elegant, easy to use, easy to clean. Readers frequently suggest other teapots. One that...

Bad Doors Do Good (?)

03 May 2005

I know, this is supposed to be about good design, but I couldn't resist adding this wonderful story: Robbers foiled because they couldn't open the doors into the restaurant they planned to rob. They pushed, pulled, and kicked), but they were sliding doors. Yes, there was a sign, but as you all know, if it needs a sign, it's badly designed. In this case, bad design led to a good result. Hope this doesn't entice others to do badly in...

WMF Whisk -- with wire

03 May 2005

Who would have thought it? The standard kitchen whisk can be improved. The German culinary company WMF has created this novel whisk thathas separate strands of wire with a ball at the end instead of wire loops. Attractive and, if commentators are to be believed, far superior to the ordinary whisk. As Wilbert Bann said in his email that told me about the product: "The design makes it work faster and it is much easier to clean. It's great...

LeapFrog's "Twist and shout multiplication"

17 October 2004

The company LeapFrog has a wide variety of truly excellent children's toys -- both fun and educational. Elton Billing told me about their toy for learning the multiplication table. Billing described his experience with the toy this way: "My children were able to use the device by simply exploring the controls on the product. In fact, the user guide is really only useful to keep parents distracted a few minutes so that children can learn the device without being...

The Tyg

15 September 2004

The tyg -- a multiple-handled cup is brilliant behavioral design. Why did it disappear?

OXO Measuring cup

15 September 2004

Clever redesign that allows quantity to be seen from above. They work! (I own two.)...

Apple iPod music player

15 September 2004

Brilliant design: High on all three levels -- Visceral (beauty); Behavioral (usability); and Reflective (Pride of ownership)...

Casio Camera

15 September 2004

Also high on all three levels. People look at it and say "I want it." It is easy to use. It is fun to show off....

Microsoft Outlook date handling

15 September 2004

Hurrah for Microsoft! Too many companies force you to enter dates in their preferred format (and often they only tell you after you do it wrong. In Outlook calendar, you can type almost anything, and it is interpreted properly. For example, "tomorrow," "day after tomorrow," "next day," Wednesday," Wed." Oct. 24, 24 Oct, 14/10, 10/14, etc. Kudos to Microsoft...

Microsoft Outlook Telephone number handling

15 September 2004

Don't you hate it when people insist that you enter the phone number with dashes or space or no dashes or no space or ... Well, Microsoft, once again, has done it correctly. Enter the phone number any way you like and Microsoft does an excellent job of interpreting it. Use spaces or not. Periods or not. Dashes or not. Parentheses or not. Start with + for foreign numbers (or not). Thank you, Microsoft....

Harmony Remote Control

15 September 2004

Activity-based, so it works better than most other controls available. Alas, ...

Suitcase with built-in baby stroller.

15 September 2004

website for Ride-on-carry-on Normally, I'm not a fan of combination objects, but I do favor them where they fit the needs — such as in traveling. Parents need some way of carrying children, and the normal stroller is big, huge, and bulky, and even though airlines will let you wheel it to the door of the plane, it is hugely inconvenient and often delays the travel. So here is a clever, solution. ("Designed by a flight attendant mom," says the...

The"IceDozer Plus."

15 September 2004

By The Innovation Factory A truly innovative ice scraper. Strongly recommended by Dave Farber (on his "interesting people" mailing list. Even if you live in sunny climates, take a look. January 2014: In 2004 I said "the company seems to have disappeared." I am happy to say that it is now back in action. (With thanks to Ryan Wilson who pointed out the new product.)...

Wild Country Cams -- Climbing Equipment.

15 September 2004

Wild Country Website I have long maintained that sporting equipment is among the best designed products, usually because the designers use them themselves. This example was submitted by Mark Lowe, a reader, who had this to say: "I bought one of these rock climbing 'camming' devices in 1979 when they first came out, and despite an incredible amount of use (with some repairs to the trigger wires) my 'Friends' still work as well as the day I bought them. They...

The Chatsford Teapot System, made by The London Teapot Company, Ltd.

15 September 2004

The example -- and the photographs -- were submitted by reader Justin Akehurst, who pointed out that they have all the virtues needed, yet so seldom provided. To quote his email: "The teapot comes with a built-in tea strainer which is made out of plastic. The mesh on the filter is very fine-grained. I never have a problem brewing a powdery tea with the pot and have pieces leak out and into my cup. "The teapot has a small...

Eveready Energizer EZChange and DURACELL EASYTAB Hearing Aid Battery packages

15 September 2004

Hearing aid batteries are tiny, and the hearing aids themselves small and difficult to work with. The batteries have to be changed frequently, which used to be a truly difficult task. Moreover, the batteries would often run out in inconvenient locations (dark, crowded places), and people who have hearing aids tend to be elderly, with restricted vision and sometimes poor hand coordination. I think Everyready first noticed the problem and came out with a clever holder for the batteries...