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The Design of Everyday Things

Video (5:31)

Who Should Read it

Executives, managers, product managers, and designers

Why Should We Read it

This book shows us how to think about human behavior and human psychology when designing products. If we want our product to sell, then this is our book.

What Will We Learn

We will learn the Six Product Interaction Points, Seven Stages of Action Cycle, Design Thinking Framework, and go-to-market strategies.

Book Summary

"The Design of Everyday Things...shows up in every recommended reading list for product managers."

The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald A. Norman, was first published in 1988 under the title The Psychology of Everyday Things, and it shows up in every recommended reading list for product managers. I became a product manager in July 2016, and it is now my turn to read this book.

This book lays out many great frameworks for product designing, which I have summarized in greater detail in this blog post’s video. Chapter One introduces the six interaction points between the products and users: affordance, signifier, constraints, mapping, feedback, and conceptual model. Chapter Two explores the human behavior – how we make, execute, and evaluate decisions. Chapters Three, Four, and Five elaborate on the six interaction points. Chapters Six and Seven provide the framework for product designing and go-to-market strategies.

"The overall structure becomes a bit patchy and not very easy to follow."

This book could have been structured more clearly. Mr. Norman did a great job updating his book with new observations from the 21st century, such as online education, 3D printers, and cognitive computing. Perhaps because of these updates, the overall structure becomes a bit patchy and not very easy to follow. For instance, Chapter One introduces the six interaction points, but these interaction points are explained neither methodically nor sequentially in Chapters Three through Five.

If we can slough through and digest those three chapters, we will be aptly rewarded with Chapters Six and Seven. It is too often that product managers and designers rush into a solution and build a feature that the users request, but the solution does not necessarily solve the core user problem. To avoid this pitfall, Chapter Six introduces the product design frameworks: The Double-Diamond model and the Human-Centered Design Process. These frameworks stress the importance of finding the right problem.

"A good product that does not sell is not a good product."

Chapter Seven calls out the importance of go-to-market strategies. A good product that does not sell is not a good product. Product managers and designers must pay attention to the market, competitors, and user acceptance. Numerous new technologies were not accepted in the commercial market several decades after they were introduced in the lab. For example, our modern smartphone's multi-touch keyboards were first developed by the University of Toronto in the early 1980s, but the first generation iPhone was not introduced until 2007. If the product managers and designers decide to enter the market before the product can be generally accepted, they also might fail. The first mover advantage does not always pay off, and go-to-market strategies need to be carefully devised for a product to succeed.

Overall, this is a great book. I highly recommend all product managers and designers to read it.

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