Don Norman: Designing For People

Nielsen Norman Group

Most recent essays

(In reverse chronological order, most recent first.)

UC San Diego Postdoc in Human-Centered Healthcare

14 May 2015

The Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego is embarking upon a large, major project in healthcare for complex problems. We are working with the Medical School, various departments at UC San Diego, and several funding agencies in this endeavor. The emphasis is on the processes and structure associated with modern healthcare. We seek a Design Fellow to assist with a project to better understand the complex cognitive ecosystem of healthcare who can help us define, explore, and implement new processes and procedures aimed at improving medical care for complex cases. We seek a Design Fellow to assist with a project to better understand the complex cognitive ecosystem of healthcare who can help us define, explore, and implement new processes and procedures aimed at improving medical care for complex cases.

Positive computing: technology for wellbeing and human potential (Calvo & Peters)

04 January 2015

The design of human-computer systems used to focus upon the negative, the breakdowns that confused and confounded people. Now it is time to move to the next level, to focus upon the positive, systems that are enjoyable and pleasurable. We need systems that delight as well as inform, systems that create pleasure along with useful function. We need systems that are resilient, that promote control, understanding, and sometimes just plain pleasure. The design field has responded by examining the role of emotions and pleasure in design. We need to move these findings into mainstream computing.

Why Procrastination Is Good

25 December 2014

Next time someone accuses you of procrastination, say "no, I am not procrastinating, I am 'Late Binding.' " That should shut them up. Let me argue for late binding - delay, or if you like, procrastination - as a preferred way of life. Delaying decisions until the time for action is beneficial for lots of reason. Practice late binding. Planning never produces the exact answer for the exact conditions that take place. People always will change their behavior. In fact, people have no choice when unexpected events occur. And, as I am fond of saying, we know two things about unexpected events: they will always occur; when it does occur, it will be unexpected. So prepare. Study. Get ready. But delay the actual decision as late as possible. Procrastinate. Practice late binding.

The Human Side of Automation

25 December 2014

The technological requirements for self-driving cars are extremely complex, and although we are now able to succeed in a very high percentage of the situations, those last few percentages contain the most difficult, the most daunting challenges. As automation gets better and better, then the problems of vigilance increase, for the more reliable the system, the less for a person to do, and the mind wandering begins. Do not take people out of the loop: have them always know what is happening. How do we do this in a meaningful way? By asking people to make high-level decisions, to continually be making decisions. Human pattern recognition and high-level statement of goals and plans are good. But here is what we are bad at: the ability to monitor for long periods, to be precise and accurate, to respond quickly and properly when an unexpected event arrives where the person has not been attending. So, have us do what we are good at. Have the automation do what we are bad at. Aim for collaboration, not supervision.

Why DesignX?

13 December 2014

"Why DesignX" answers common questions about DesignX. In particular, What is new? What is the role of the designer? What about craft skills?

DesignX: A Future Path for Design

02 December 2014

DesignX is a new, evidence-based approach for addressing many of the complex and serious problems facing the world today. It adds to and augments today's design methods, reformulating the role that design can play. Modern design has grown from a focus on products and services to a robust set of methods that is applicable to a wide range of societal issues. When combined with the knowledge and expertise of specialized disciplines, these design methods provide powerful ways to develop practical approaches to large, complex issues. We seek a radical reformation of design practice, education, and research. It is time for a new era of design activism.

A Great Product Ruined

20 September 2014

LG. get your act together. Every so often I can't stop myself from complaining. This is one of those every so oftens. No visibility. Insufficient tactile differentiation among the controls. No labeling of which side is right and which left which matters, both because these are stereo earphones and because the identical looking and feeling buttons do different things on the two sides of the device. Manuals that use incredibly tiny type small type in gray on a black background. Badly written as well, but we have come to take that as standard. Usually we can figure things out anyway by playing with the controls. Not these controls. They are invisible in use (deliberate), but with insufficient tactile distinction, with the left controls identical to the right one, but doing different things, and no way of knowing which is left and which right, so on each usage, they will vary randomly.

Hill climbing in radical Innovation

27 July 2014

John Langrish challenged the analysis of Norman & Verganti on Incremental and Radical Innovation, arguing that we had ignored the evidence from Darwinian evolution. He called us "creationists." We find John Langrish's argument to be puzzling. We wrote a paper on product evolution and he chides us for failure to cite the literature in evolutionary biology. Similar issues have been faced in many disciplines. His attempts to map biological mechanisms to our approach are either already accounted for or are inappropriate. We are accused of being creationists. We plead guilty. That's what the field of design is all about: all-seeing, overarching designers who look over their creations and go in and change them. Designers have that luxury. Release a product and call it back for revision. Or completely change the next release, keeping the stuff that worked and deleting the stuff that didn't. Or completely repurpose it for some other usage that had not been considered at first. Radical innovation within the field of design does not come from hill-climbing. It comes from putting together things that never before were thought to belong together. It comes from the heart and mind of the designer. Yes, as designers we are creationists. We teach it, practice it, and take delight in it.

Verganti & Norman: Having a vision is not enough--it must be implemented

13 July 2014

Vision building is the most relevant and rare asset in our society. We do not live in a world where data and knowledge are missing. Indeed, it is just the opposite. The amount of information is overwhelming. What is rare is the capability to make sense of this enormous and complex picture, to go beyond the past and existing patterns and imagine what is not there. The new frontier is to explore the path to innovation by understanding the nature of vision building. For this purpose, we need new frameworks. We need to investigate the slippery intangible dimensions of thinking, the capability to unveil what is hidden into the mirror that reflects our role in the society.

Error Messages Are Evil

10 May 2014

I hate error messages. They are insulting, condescending, and worst of all, completely unnecessary. Evil, nasty little things. They cause us to do unneeded work, and often destroy the work we have already done. Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines. It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem arises, we should call it machine error, not human error: the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build machines that conform to our requirements. Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us.

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