Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Design of Everyday Things

The author, Donald Norman, highlighted a few key points in this introductory chapter to his book, The Design of Everyday Things. The first point he made was that well designed objects are easy to use and contain visible clues to their operation. Throughout the first chapter, the author emphasizes visibility which includes affordances, constraints, and mappings. He also states that the fundamental principles of designing for people are providing a good conceptual model and making things visible. The author stresses the principle of natural mappings: the relationship between controls and actions should be apparent to the user. Norman sugguests that feedback is a very important concept to consider when designing so that the user knows whether or not they have completed the correct operation. I believe that the most stressed point in this chapter was that added functionality comes along with the price of added complexity. This is because as items become more sophisticated and can do more they also become more complicated and therefore harder to use.

One object that I have had dificulty using is my graphing calculator. There are so many functions that it can perform and many of them are very hard to use and require mulitple steps. Almost every button has multiple functions making it very confusing and sometimes hard to perform the correction function. Also, there are many functions that I don't even know how to use or what they do. The majority of these problems arise from Norman's principle of visibility and complexity. There instructions are hard to follow and it almost seems like the calculator does too much.

When the iPod was designed, many of the principles addressed by Norman were taken into consideration. The iPod can perform many tasks; however, the interface is very simple and easy to use. The buttons are labeled so the user can easily idenfity them with their function. Also, the iPod is a very visual product and you can see everything that is going on in the LCD display screen. This also allows for a large amount feedback as the user of the iPod knows exactly what they are doing and exactly what will happen if they perform a certain task. The iPod is a very well designed product.

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