Log 2A: Reading Analysis

Work Being Analyzed: Chapter 2 of The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman.

This chapter focused on the psychology of everyday actions.

When using an object for a desired effect or affordance, there are multitude of feelings a user could have, when most of it really just boils down to poor design.

1. Self-Blame: If the task at hand looks like it should be simple and the user makes an error, their immediate reaction is to say that it is their fault, not the design. (Norman 34-35). Norman says that if a error is possible, then it will happen, and it is the designer’s job to minmize the chance for errors as much as possible (36).

2. Naive Physics: Everyday misconceptions are made. What seems right is really wrong and what’s right seems a lot more confusing than it should be. Aristotle had come up with ideas of “Naive Physics,” which since have been deemed incorrect, but it follows the same path of thought that most people would use. That’s why using what seems to be common sense can cause error as users try to use certain objects (Norman 36-38).

3. Explanatory Creatures: Norman calls people explanatory creatures, as they need to know what things are, how they work, why they work. If an object’s design gives no definitive hint as to how it works, the user will use their own mental models to imagine the process to getting the result (Norman 38-39).

4. Incorrect Blame: Depending on the situation and complexity of the object, instead of blaming one’s self, people will blame something unrelated to the damaged item, mostly based on coincidence. For example, someone’s computer terminal burned out. At the same time they were on an online library catalog. Both items are unrelated, but because of the timing, the blame was put of the website. People usually don’t have enough information to find what the real problem is, but in their need to find a cause of this problem, what they percieve is at fault is at fault, no matter if it is corrrect or not (Norman 39-42).

5. Learned and Taught Helplessness: Learned Helplessness is what happens when a user tries to use a product and something causes them to fail, resulting in them believing that the task can’t be done, at least not by the user (Norman 42). Taught Helplessness happens when the design can essentialy set one up for failure (Norman 42).

In this chapter, Norman also brings up the 7-step action process, which applies to everything people do.

Step 1. Form the goal, or what you would like to have done.

Step 2: Form the intention, or the specific statement on what is to be done to achieve that goal.

Step 3: Specifying the action. (What do you have to do to get this done?)

Step 4: Executing the action.

Step 5: Perceiving the state of the world. (What happened?)

Step 6: Interpreting the state of the world, or making sense of it.

Step 7: Evaluating the outcome. (Is this what you wanted to happen?)

(Norman 45-48)

Good design of interfaces is important to quell the feelings of confusion, blame, and helplessness that many feel when a bad design prevents the person from using an item correctly and easily. The seven steps listed above act as a design aid. Are those steps able to occur without error? If it can, then the design is good, if it can’t, the design needs ore work, otherwise certain technologies will be useless and some will want to just give up trying because of the negative feelings associated with the failure. It is the designer’s responsibility to keep the psychology of the users, the steps of a user’s actions and the elements of good design mention in chapter one (visibility, conceptual models, mapping and feedback) to make and sell items that can be used without a problem.

Source: Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 1988.

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