The Psychology Of Everyday Things

ISBN: 0465067093
ISBN 13: 9780465067091
By: Donald A. Norman

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About this book

Even the smartest among us can feel inept as we fail to figure our which light switch or oven burner to turn on, or whether to push, pull, or slide a door. The fault, argues this fascinating, ingenious—even liberating—book, lies not in ourselves, but in product design that ignores the needs of users and the principles of cognitive psychology.The problems range from ambiguous and hidden controls to arbitrary relationships between controls and functions, coupled with a lack of feedback or other assistance and unreasonable demands on memorization. The book presents examples aplenty—among them, the VCR, computer, and office telephone, all models of how not to design for people.But good, usable design is possible. The rules are simple: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints. The goal: guide the user effortlessly to the right action on the right control at the right time. But the designer must care.The author is a world-famous psychologist and pioneer in the application of cognitive science. His aim is to raise the consciousness of both consumers and designers to the delights of products that are easy to use and understand.

Reader's Thoughts


This is a helpful warning against the pitfalls of sloppy design with valuable advice on organizing systems so that average users will find them understandable and convenient. The author built a strong case for user-centered architecture in the era of impossible VCR mauals and phone systems with features that were varied and useful but impossible to learn. Since then, the word "intuitive" has become a common buzzword, with user-friendly design being a pivotal concern in the release of a new product. In retrospect, the author's insight was so keen that I frequently found myself wondering if certain technology developers hadn't read the book.The age of the book makes some of the content a little dated, but the considerations are still perfectly salient. I have found much of the advice to be useful in mapping out a project or planning an event.

Jim Razinha

Good, smart points; too often people blame themselves for errors with devices when the designs are faulty - something even as "simple" as doors.The lessons here are undortunately not well learned, 23 years later, perhaps even less so as products are rushed to market today. Another one for the toolbox.


This was a terrific book on everyday things.


This is an informative and entertaining tour through the world of Bad Design, full of the reasons why so many things designed to make life easier just don't. Like VCRs. Or doors you can't figure out how to open, or remote controls you can't read in low light. Norman lays out out recommendations and observations based not just on opinion, but on a strong base of cognitive psychology and usability with a dash of curmudgeon. Reading about some of the dated musings about phones and computers (remember, this was written in '88) only make it funnier.

Eugene Miya

I purchased this book as POET as did my good friend Bill Burke and it was a good discussion point. I prefer the POET title over DOET.My first Don Norman book was his text book on Memory and Attention. While I was not a fan of cognition, I read that book. Don likes punny acronyms. I'm certain it pained him to change the title to Design at his publisher's recommendation. I don't own a paper copy of DOET, but I do own the Voyager Hypercard based CD version Defending Human Attributes with Turn Signals and Things that Make Us Smart. The advantage of the CD is not only Don's recordings but also the corrected errata to DOET/POET. I like this CD version.I supposed critics of this book would say that scientists and engineers need to travel more and experience other parts of the world and humanity, things that artists and humanists say they do already. I know that I only experienced England two decades after Don did.


One of the most profoundly influential books of my life. Explains human errors and mistakes and how to design to build in perfection.Written by MIT / Cal U prof of engineering/industrial design. Became aware of him after reading an article talking about the Challenger explosion and introduced the idea of normal disasters.A must read for designers of all things and humans in general ...

Francisco Reivax

A must read classic for all who are interested in the design of objects.


Want to know why VCR controls are so commonly frustrating, why it's easy to turn on the wrong burner in an unfamiliar kitchen, or why simple things like doors sometimes confuse? Read this book and you be more likely to see whats happening when things like this happen.


This book is required reading if you make anything that people interact with.


A cognitive psychologist looks at how people interact with designed everyday objects and what makes those designs good or bad.


I'm not a designer and I enjoyed this book. I especially enjoyed the section on mistakes - what with being human and all. I felt better reading about other people's strange cascading failures and head-scratchings caused by lousy object design. Norman tells us about good and bad design principles in a conversational style that is very pleasant to read.And...I will never look at or walk through a door in the same way again.


Hilarious book about how we can't use ordinary things--with very good design advice. Everyone I know who's read this spends the next week screaming 'bad design!' whenever they trip over a curb or can't open a door. Recommended reading for my architecture students--my entire hour class on 'how to design a door' was initially based on observations in this book.


One of my favorite books from my user-interface design days. Norman's accessible, humorous, insightful, common-sense work is seminal in the field -- probably the most important book to me across my eight years in the business world.At one point they (the publishers?) renamed the "POET" into The Design of Everyday Things, which (as DOET) just wasn't poetic enough, I guess. I'm thrilled that it's going by POET again.

Lauren Golembiewski

Very interesting book about how design often fails us in the everyday things that we use. It considers many of the principles of design that must be properly implemented so that working a washing machine is self-explanatory, or at least self-discoverable. Though it was written almost 25 years ago, Norman's insights hold true, even when he talks about the beginning of 'hypertext' or the internet. A great read for any type of designer.

Andromeda Yelton

Astonishingly good. Moves seamlessly among theory, example, and best practices. Might turn out to be a five-star book in time - that is, one of those books that changes how I see the world.

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