This is perhaps the seminal work on product design, usability, interfaces, and all sorts of things that I like to notice and (occasionally) denigrate mercilessly. I cannot use some brands of microwave oven without cursing their makers’ makers, so I was excited to finally read this book. Norman provides a framework and vocabulary for understanding design which is important and impressive considering how very much is encompassed by the notion of “Design”. The examples give a clear picture of the problem and the difficulties faced by designer and user. Unfortunately, Norman does not get much farther than that.
Beyond the framework and vocabulary, the book didn’t tell me much that I didn’t already know. There wasn’t much meat to the book, the writing was meandering and unstructured, and Norman always seemed to stop short of asking the really interesting questions. This was surprising because issues of design can generally be distilled down to questions about human behavior which is endlessly fascinating. Whenever an interesting question appeared, I found Norman’s analyses lacking in imagination. This left a small amount of useful content that, uncharitably, could have fit in one chapter which leaves a lot of book without much to say.
Overall, I found the book to be disappointing: significant perhaps but disappointing.