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Apple Help Programming Guide

Apple Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) highlights

  • Using Mac OS X Technologies > Spotlight
  • Using Mac OS X Technologies > User Assistance — comprises Apple Help and help tags.

Introduction to User Experience and Usability

The following gives recommendations on introductory literature with regard to our topic "user experience". It serves as a starting point for people who are new but interested in User Experience and it may contain some information for people who cooperate with us - e.g. developers wondering what we do and how we do that. Please note that the given information reflects personal opinions of individual members.

If you want to add literature or to change some information please refer to the remarks at the end of this section. If you have any questions or additional clues, then please contact the User Experience team on the ux-discuss mailing list.

Thanks and happy reading!

Title and Author The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
Summary The statement “You would need an engineering degree to figure that out” in chapter 1 provokes the question, "How should things be designed?" With the help of some examples like phone systems, the author introduces several basic principles like providing affordances or what it means to give reasonable feedback.

In chapter 2, “The Psychology of Everyday Actions”, Don Norman tells us how people see and explain their world. Finally, a simple model tries to explain how people “do” things – it is called “the seven states of action”. He concludes that the consideration of this model can help to prevent failures in design.

When doing things, people rely on their knowledge. In chapter 3, “Knowledge in the Head and in the World”, the author basically explains where knowledge can be stored and how this influences our task capability and performance. He states the pros and cons between knowledge in the head (e.g. learned) and in the world (e.g. written down).

The author claims that constraints help the user to figure out how things work. A classification of constraints types is given in chapter 4, “Knowing What to Do”, along with a lot of examples like automobile doors or light switches layout. He accompanies the constraints with examples of visibility and feedback giving additional clues (e.g. “the click when the toast pops up”).

But even good design may not prevent errors, the best design considers errors. In chapter 5, “The Err is Human”, Norman introduces several kinds of “slips”, which are later explained in context with tasks of different complexity and people's conscious and subconscious behavior. Finally, he proposes a design philosophy which takes errors into account right from the start.

This leads to the design process – in chapter 6, “The Design Challenge”. Norman uses the example “typewriter” to explain design evolution over time and contraposes pure aesthetics or the need of today's commercial “revolutions”. He explains the role of designers and potential problems, e.g. that “designers are not typical users”. As a result, he presents a series of issues for something simple like water faucets. He moves on to more complex systems and criticizes the “creeping futurism” and explains the foibles of computer systems. (Personal remark: the computer systems may be old, but the problems are still alive.).

After having explained issues when working with everyday things, Don Norman tries to transform the given examples and insights into people into a “User-Centered Design” process (chapter 7). He gives clues how difficult tasks can be transferred into simple ones. Or, if the goal is contrary, how the achieved knowledge can be used to make things deliberately difficult. The rest of the chapter summarizes the content and invites all people to “fight the battle for usability”.

Please note that due to the popularity of the book, there many other summaries available in the internet. Just look around...

Comments The main reason for reading “The Design of Everyday Things” is to get an idea what usability is all about. It is not intended to enable you to create perfect solutions for, but you will understand why careful design will take time but – at the same time – will satisfy more users. The whole text has a very strong focus on usability. Even the author admits in one of his later books that feeling and emotions are quite essential, too. But in the case of this publication, you get an unaltered insight in usability – and this may change your view in everyday life.

The book seems to have set a standard in the usability literature. The author avoids a scientific writing style, therefore it is easy to read. Sometimes the many repetitions and the structure may you feel a bit lost – but at the end you will have gained understanding in usability and the user's basic needs.

Details Paperback, 272 pages

Publisher: Basic Books (print run, reprint 2002)

ISBN 978-0465067107

Further Information

Open Source Software

Please consider the following remarks for adding or changing content in this section:

  • Keep the basic idea to provide introductionary literature, only. Special topics or scientific literature should find there place elsewhere.
  • Add only information which is generally available, e.g. can be purchased internationally and is in English language.
  • Keep it compact. If people have questions, they may request further information on the ux-discuss mailing list.
  • No dealer information should be added. An ISBN or the author/title combination should be enough.
  • Please respect the copyright of other authors. Do not just "copy and paste" any material from other sources without citation.
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