Two books that have changed the way I look at design.
The design of everyday things
By Don Norman
This has to come first in my book recommendations because for me it is an absolutely seminal work. It will totally change the way you look at the world and how it is designed.
The burden of responsibility moves from the supposedly ‘stupid’ user who can’t understand something to the designer, whose job it is to ensure people can understand how something works from its form
You will start to look at products you can’t use easily or don’t understand and wonder why that is the case. The burden of responsibility moves from the supposedly ‘stupid’ user who can’t understand something to the designer, whose job it is to ensure people can understand how something works from its form.
With practical, fascinating examples of good and bad design from everyday life, Norman reveals the key points in the way users’ minds work when evaluating a product: what it does and how to make it work.
From the set of double-doors that are so confusing someone got trapped in between them, to the fridge that is nigh impossible to program, Norman identifies key weaknesses in these products and opens your mind to simple ways we can make life easier as designers.
Although this book does not deal specifically with digital products, the ideas and concepts apply universally to all types of design. Read it. It will change your life.
Don’t make me think
By Steve Krug
The genius of this book is its simplicity. Designed to be read in a few hours, Krug’s irreverent style is engaging and entertaining. He makes so many great points this is likely to be word-for-word the best book of its kind.
The genius of this book is its simplicity. Designed to be read in a few hours, Krug’s irreverent style is engaging and entertaining
Using a very visual combination of text, cartoon-style drawings, thought-bubbles and the like, Don’t make me think is a whirlwind tour of key online usability advice. Simple things such as creating a clear visual hierarchy on a web page, and making a tab actually look like it contains the content it should, will form the foundations of all web design, IA and graphic design decisions you make in the future.
Another key theme of the book is that usability testing, per se, should not be ‘big, expensive and rare’ but rather ‘quick, cheap and often’. With the rise of usability testing as big business these days, managers are often put off performing testing due to cost or time inplications.
But it doesn’t need to be this way – ‘little and often’ testing is more useful but rarely takes place. This is certainly borne out by my own experience. People think ‘we need to spend a lot of money to get expert usability testing’, but Krug maintains art directors and IAs can do their own testing with excellent value-for-money results.