Human-Centered Design in Everyday Thingsby greenspacewriter 07/22/2012
Don Norman examines the psychological principles that make user-centered design more successful, acknowledging the predominance of poor design and usability issues in the world of everyday things. From clocks to cockpits, revolving doors to the alphanumeric keypads on your smart phones, these everyday products and technologies can be frustrating and confusing. Having an understandable and sensible user experience can be few and far between. Here are a few of Norman’s observations that can help to make human-centered design work.
Mappings: Is the correct message available?
A revolving door needs correct mapping or signage to tell a user how to get through a door. Visibility is important. In a successful model of a revolving door the designer has mapped or demarcated where the user should push. A typical issue in usability is the absence of mapping between the user and the object. Mapping provides these helpful directions.
Affordance: What are the perceived uses and actual uses for an object?
A chair affords sitting and a knob affords turning! Says Norman “ When affordances are taken advantage of, the user knows what to do just by looking: no picture, label, or instruction is required.” Typical problems of affordance can be come from false causality. (Which can be explained more deeply by the psychology of causality). For example, a user may believe he or she is responsible for their computer’s operating system failure. However, this belief is a false causality. The computer was designed poorly and has failed due to its incompatibility with other software and operating systems.
A good conceptual model: How we predict the effects of our actions.
A good conceptual model shouldn’t be complicated. The model should be clear and succinct. For example, a user is trying to adjust the cooling and heating settings for an AC unit. The user finds the instruction manual and looks at a diagram of the AC unit. In a successful drawing of the model the user can quickly learn how to troubleshoot because the model is understandable. An inadequate diagram or nonexistent diagram may cause the user to feel confused.
While users are bound to make mistakes, many of these mistakes come from misconceptions and “naive” understandings. And in the nearby future where all of our appliances, vehicles, and offices are omniscient, it seems like there is plenty of rooms for mistakes. The GreenspaceNYC team thinks that the need for clear and human-centered design will continue to grow. Watch this clip about the Johnny Cab!(