The Design of Everyday Things (Chapter 1): Response

In response to The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, chapter 1: The Psychopathology of Everyday Things, I believe that good design has to be a human-centered design. I feel that a human-centered design has to be clear and precise about the functions and ability of the product, and the target consumers have to find the product easy to use.

Although I feel that a good product has to be unique, having certain functions that other products do not have, however too many unnecessary functions may not be good. A few years ago, when the washing machine in my house broke down, we had to find a new one to replace it. When we went into the store, my parents realized that all the washing machines were now so advanced that it could wash and dry clothes using just one machine. We had our previous machine for almost 8 years and it could only wash the clothes. My parents had no choice but to buy the advanced washing machine and they had quite a hard time trying to figure out what the many buttons do. There were many functions like a temperature selection and saving a favourite setting. However, in the end, they realised that they only needed a few buttons to get the job done. As for me, having grown up tech-savy, I did understand what the buttons were for, but there were many functions I felt that wasn’t necessary. As an ‘Asian family’ we felt that some money was wasted as we did not utilise the full potential of the machine. A good quote from this chapter is ‘We accept this if the device is indeed complex, but it should be unnecessary for simple things.’

It is said that ‘One discipline argues that it must be usable and understandable, another that it must be attractive, yet another that it has to be affordable. Moreover, the device has to be reliable, be able to be manufactured and serviced.’ In my opinion, yes, this is true, if products were to be used by humans and the designers are humans, then we should be the one to adapt to our products, not the other way round. However, I would like to end this response with two questions: How can designs be made easy and simple when new innovation/function comes in? How can we ensure that for example, household products, are understandable for consumers of all ages?