Apr 16

In the book The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman, one idea that is stressed is how users blame themselves for bad design. We assume that mass produced products are designed properly because we trust companies to put their products through rigorous tests. This truth is that many products are released without any usability testing at all. Companies assume that designers know what they are doing if the product looks nice. However, design isn’t all about aesthetics  If you have trouble using an item don’t blame yourself, blame the design. There is no reason for you to feel stupid because a designer focused more on making an item look nice then making it functional. Function and form can work together to make a product that is easy to use and nice to look at.

Typically when products have too many functions it can become confusing and overwhelming trying to figure out how they all work. So why don’t we have this problem when it comes to the dashboards on cars? Dashboards have tons of buttons that do many different things but somehow we are able to hit the right button even while driving. This is because most of the time car dashboards are designed well. It is important that people do not become confused when driving since it can cause such large risks. If someone can’t figure out how to turn on their defrost and the car windshield is fogging up problems can arise.  It is possible to make an object that may seem confusing not confusing at all.

Take this picture of controls for powered adjustable car seats for example. The buttons are in the shape of a seat so just by looking at it you can see how one button would move the head rest while another would move the seat itself. This button layout is an excellent example of natural mapping, affordances and constraints.

So next time you are buying a new product take design into account. Can you figure out how it works by just looking at? Will I make mistakes because the mapping isn’t natural? If a company makes a new product that is difficult to use, by buying that product you are basically telling the company that the design is fine. This is why objects that are poorly designed seem to last for years. Take the CD for example. CD’s are very sensitive and need a case in order to keep it safe, even the case itself is poorly designed. Where just a few years back we had floppy disks that were very well designed. There was only one way to put it in and the part that was sensitive to touch was protected by a plastic covering that was pulled back when inserted into a computer. Yet floppy disks left as fast as they came and it seems as though CD are around to stay.

Don’t assume designers know everything. The objects they build are for you, the user, therefore you should know how to use them without any difficulty. If you fail in understanding how an object works, especially if it appears simple, than the designer failed, not you.


67 comments so far

  1. kozicks
    4:24 pm - 4-17-2013

    I read your entries with great interest due to the clarity of the concepts that you present. The title “Don’t Let Poor Design Make you Feel Foolish! was catchy and engaging. Who wouldn’t be drawn to the promise of not feeling foolish? I appreciated the links to the definitions for usability testing and affordance. Usability was nicely represented in the dashboard example—cool. The word “affordance’ can be generalized to so many situations—for example children’s play spaces that Crystal is studying. I also appreciated the reference to “function and form,” a key idea in construction that was initiated by Louis Sullivan, the late 19th century Chicago skyscraper designer. His 1896 words:

    It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
    Of all things physical and metaphysical,
    Of all things human and all things super-human,
    Of all true manifestations of the head,
    Of the heart, of the soul,
    That the life is recognizable in its expression,
    That form ever follows function. This is the law.

    I look forward to understanding more about “natural mapping” in your work.

  2. their explanation
    11:39 am - 5-11-2013

    Does your website have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an email. I’ve got some creative ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

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Ergonomic Design