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The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition

Don Norman · 15 HN comments
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Design doesn't have to complicated, which is why this guide to human-centered design shows that usability is just as important as aesthetics. Even the smartest among us can feel inept as we fail to figure out which light switch or oven burner to turn on, or whether to push, pull, or slide a door. The fault, argues this ingenious -- even liberating -- book, lies not in ourselves, but in product design that ignores the needs of users and the principles of cognitive psychology. The problems range from ambiguous and hidden controls to arbitrary relationships between controls and functions, coupled with a lack of feedback or other assistance and unreasonable demands on memorization. The Design of Everyday Things shows that good, usable design is possible. The rules are simple: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints. The goal: guide the user effortlessly to the right action on the right control at the right time. The Design of Everyday Things is a powerful primer on how -- and why -- some products satisfy customers while others only frustrate them.
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> The damn "designers" are so infatuated with their "principles" of design and aesthetics

I agree with your main point, but I have a small objection to this phrase. I don't think principles of design tells you to not care about usability/function. In fact, a good design is aesthetics AND function, as argued in "The Design of Everyday Things"[1].

So in this case, the designers are simply not doing their job. They've been infatuated with their principles of aesthetics, that they didn't follow the actual principles of design. Which happens when designers blindly copy the latest trend.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that one might interpret the phrase to mean that design is not about function, which isn't fair to many great designers out there.


Agree, I should have specified "aesthetic principles"

Yes, the actual great designers put function first, then solve the now-harder problem of simplifying the aesthetics without sacrificing the function.

Had an architect (trained, licensed, etc.) propose a redesigned front porch and put a support post right square in front of an existing bay window. Sure, from the front elevation view, it looked great, but squarely blocked the view from inside. Also proposed just building the wrap=around part without moving a natgas meter, just left it obstructing part of the side entry. What a waste of time and money - she just solved the problems she wanted to solve (e.g., make it look good in her drawing) and ignored all the other problems - and was proud of that.

This is the problem - real design is hard because it includes ALL the problems and the constraints they create. Too many (I'd say most, in my experience), just focus on the problems they want to solve, ignore the rest, and think they've done a good job, when in fact they completely failed. And the real problem is management that accepts that crap as completed work and pushes it out on the customers.

Agree, I should have specified "aesthetic principles" (vs "'principles' of design and aesthetics").

Yes, the actual great designers put function first, then solve the now-harder problem of simplifying the aesthetics without sacrificing the function.

Had an architect (trained, licensed, etc.) propose a redesigned front porch and put a support post right square in front of an existing bay window. Sure, from the front elevation view, it looked great, but squarely blocked the view from inside. Also proposed just building the wrap=around part without moving a natgas meter, just left it obstructing part of the side entry. What a waste of time and money - she just solved the problems she wanted to solve (e.g., make it look good in her drawing) and ignored all the other problems - and was proud of that.

This is the problem - real design is hard because it includes ALL the problems and the constraints they create. Too many (I'd say most, in my experience), just focus on the problems they want to solve, ignore the rest, and think they've done a good job, when in fact they completely failed. And the real problem is management that accepts that crap as completed work and pushes it out on the customers.

Very good course (teaches UX from fundamentals):

Currently it costs $75, but Udemy often has coupons/promotions for up to 95% off (I registered for $15). This course is normally $5000+. It is very thorough and well-explained. Like 20+ hours of video lectures, slides and full transcripts. Also the instructor is very responsive and active in the course's private FB group.

This course is shorter and more focused on web UI (vs more general UX):

You can probably find resources for free, but then you might end up paying with your time. If you're really strapped for cash, I suggest borrowing books from the library: free and probably better than a lot of the low-cost/free resources online.

Don Norman's is one of the most respected UI/UX researchers. His book is used to teach UI at universities:

Don Norman also contributed to Apple's HIG, which is actually a very good free online resource:

There might also be some good open courseware like this:

Oct 03, 2020 · kebman on What is the best dumb TV?
I don't have a TV, only a few monitors (it's very liberating, actually). So instead I'll talk about my microwave. Yes, unironically! :D It has two dials. OMG how do I survive with only two dials? How do I program it? Well, the answer is, unsurprisingly, that I don't program it. Instead I crank it to watever wattage I need (usually the top one), and the time I think it'll take until the food I becomes hot. Aaaand that's it. No programming. No fiddling or mindlessly pushing buttons in the hopes of finding the right one. Only two dials. One for wattage (power output), and the other for time. I think it's really great. There's even some indicators on the Watt-dial for thawing and stuff like that, but I seldom need it, so I usually just keep it rested on 800W. It's the required wattage for most TV dinners anyway. And hot pockets. Don't forget hot pockets guys. How would I survive without...... If you didn't get it, this is actually a post about UIs, and how much I love the book The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman.[1]


A couple years ago, I discovered the joy of microwaving at low to mid power. The results are far better for foods that have already been cooked, at the cost of mildly longer cook time. The only thing I nuke at full power is liquid.
I do the same. For frozen foods I sometimes still use high power for a 30-90 seconds just to speed up the thawing process, but then cut it back to 40-50% for the remainder of the cook time. Things come out much more evenly heated, so you don't have a sauce that's lava hot while there are still cold spots inside.

A lot of microwaves power settings are just toggling when its on or off during the cook process

(Not that this means its not a valid choice!)

You and me both. I was fed up of following the cooking instructions only to have some things explode. I was particularly tired of cleaning up porridge which will quickly turn concrete-like. Instead, drop it down to medium, add on a minute or two and it's perfect.

Why is it that all microwave cooking instructions say to use high power. I recently bought a soup that included the cook time for a 1000W microwave, I can't imagine that ending well.

A microwave only work with an on/off cycle. It runs on MAX for x seconds and off for y seconds. If you want 50% effect, it runs 5 seconds, then wait 5 seconds. Cooking it on low is just letting the food distribute the heat naturally for a while, instead of building up an energy bubble that will expload in steam. So low effect is good. It's still max effect but on half the time.

When cooking oatmeal porridge I usually do one cup oatmeal and 2 cups and a little more of water. In deep plate, full effect in microwave for 2 minutes but I watch it the whole time. When it starts building a volcano I let it go on until the edges of the volcano goes to the edge of the plate. THen everything is nicely cooked and I stuff my butter and a bit of salt in there and stir it until it's the thickness I want. Add milk to stop the thickeninig and eat. Maybe with some applejam on top. Oh, and make sure the oatmeal is not the generic type, it tastes nothing. There are really nice types around that makes oatmeal really great.

Of course there is a slowcook method too but I haven't tried that yet. Let the oatmeal just stand in cold water over the night, no cooking included.

My partner enjoys what we call "overnight oats" but it's not for me, I like the warm wake-up. I'm half milk, half water, 4 mins at 60% and then I don't have to stand there watching it. Fruit on top as a treat otherwise it's plain all the way! But there can be a big difference in the oats you use, totally agree.
My oatmeal technique is to boil water (in an electric kettle), pour that over the oats in a bowl, and let it sit for a few minutes. This works with both regular rolled oats and quick oats (thinly rolled), but it takes longer with regular oats. I'm making hot water anyways for a beverage, so it's already available. After a few minutes, I just add milk, cinnamon, and sugar.
Overnight, then heat (saucepan/stovetop, or microwave) in the morning.

Cooking need only be long enough to heat the oatmeal, not to absorb liquids. This is especially useful for steel-cut oats.

>A microwave only work with an on/off cycle.

That may be changing soon because of solid state microwave/rf-heating:

Solid State Cooking Oven Uses RF Energy, 1m31s


Goji Food Solutions Solid State RF Cooking Demonstration, 2m35s









tl;dr essentially a beamforming solid state microwave phased array

edit: removed one double link

Cheap ones, anyway. Expensive models sometimes have an inverter.
Several years back (and things may have changed) Panasonic had a patent on the inverter and was the only microwave that offered it. I purchased a Panasonic for that reason and love it.

This from their website: The Panasonic Microwave Ovens powered with patented Inverter Technology™ deliver evenly cooked meals, from edges to center, every time.

My experience with a Panasonic inverter & grill oven was that it didn't make the food hot, even if you gave it double the time. That defeated the point for me.

I ended up using a cheapo 600W microwave that cost 1/4 of the expensive Panasonic but would actually make food hot.

I've also had other experiences of bad usability in Panasonic products. Pointless extra button presses to to tell it you actually want to _microwave_ at _full power_. Who knew you would actually want to use your microwave for microwaving? /s Just let me press the time & start, already.

I now have a Samsung with convenient controls and a cheerful tune.

Thanks. I've googled around for microwaves that heat evenly, but the term "inverter" never showed up. Glad to know this exists.
My Panasonic bit the dust after about five years of use with a light show. I believe the magnetron shorted and burnt out the power supply. As I was microwaving water for tea, there was a bright white light on the inside of the microwave. Family also described a similar failure around the same time frame of ownership.

I enjoyed that microwave before that happened and was thoroughly impressed with the ice cream soften setting.

I had the same microwave and I loved it. Unfortunately it caught on fire, and according to Amazon reviews we weren’t the only ones. Luckily my wife was in the kitchen when it happened.

I’m sure whatever model they’re selling now is different, so I’m not trying to scare people off. The point is I now have a microwave without an inverter and I hate it. It might end up going to my photography studio and I’ll get a new one for the home.

We're going off topic now, but why do all microwaves have knobs now? I hate them. I want a number pad like the microwaves had when I was growing up. I want to close the door, press the numbers that indicate the amount of time I want and hit "start". When you turn a knob, either you have no indication of the exact time, or there's a display that moves in increments that the computer thinks are good (usually 10s). I don't want to scroll to the time I think is good, and I don't want to fight the thing trying to get smaller increments, which I need for doing more sensitive foods (microwave cake, for example). The knobs can also be difficult for people with certain disabilities.

While I'm griping already, a lot of people hate the button interfaces some (rare) microwaves have because they use capacitive touch buttons with no haptic feedback, and careful aim is required to press the correct button. I wish manufacturers would make microwaves with button blister keypads instead. For blind users, blister buttons can also have raised braile indicators, or users can buy "bump dots" to make the buttons easier to find and actuate.

What do blind users do with a microwave that has knobs? If the knobs click and they use the microwave regularly, I guess they could memorize the number of clicks to turn them. If they're ultra-smooth digital no-click knobs, then they have to memorize quarter-turns and turning speed, etc. Sounds awful! Or perhaps I am mistaken and there is actually a microwave with both knobs and voice guidance (though if I were blind I think slow voice guidance would drive me nuts).

[Edit]: formatting

Same here. I want my button-blister microwaves back.

Knobs are low-accuracy, low-precision. Which may be fine for some cooking, but not all. On my current knob-equipped microwave, my precision is limited to +/- 30 seconds simply due to the mechanical design, which means a) it's hard to heat anything up "just a little", as sub-minute heating is hit-and-miss, and b) it's hard to do food sensitive to cooking time.

Button blisters with a digital clock telling time to the second. That's an interface I can trust because I can see the time counting down in the correct pace (I have trust issues with all kinds of analog knob timers, including Pomodoro timers). That's an interface I've learned to use without looking, one hand keying in the correct time and power setting, the other hand operating food, <Start> getting pressed as soon as the tray door close.

I still remember my most common sequence from childhood. <Cook Time> <Power Level> <Power Level> <1> <4> <0> <Start>. Could do that blind even today.

Knobs are good for things that you need to scroll around a lot (and knobs in professional devices excel at jumping precision levels to allow an excellent experience here). Setting time and power on a microwave is not like that. You have exact values in mind, and need a way to input them precisely.

Having an input level precise to 1 second is useful if you're using it day-in, day out. As a kid, I was mostly doing the same few meals in the microwave, so I had perfect timing nailed with experience. For instance, a DIY zapiekanka[0] made of bread, cheese and some flavoring, would come out perfect at Full power, 1:40 time. Add 20 seconds, and you'd burn the cheese. The cheese was the factor that determined microwave settings. If, for some reason, my mom bought a different type than usual, I'd have to correct the time (usually adjust up), but then with experience I quickly developed "cheese tables" in my head. I'd look at a slice, and think, "ok, this is the smelly one, needs +40 seconds to come out well". Etc. Then I'd key in the correct settings, and come back in 2 minutes to the perfectly made zapiekanka.

(I suppose this was my attempt at treating cooking as an industrial process and not black magic :).)


[0] -

[0] Kur..! Now you made me hungry! Need to get some Croques instead, I guess.
My microwave has a knob and a digital display - so turning the knob updates the display. The knob also has "clicks", rather than turning smoothly. I like this interface - it's tactile and usable.
I had a microwave like that as well, and it was absolutely fantastic! One big wheel to set the time, and it was 100% deterministic, so you developed muscle memory for setting it at different times. Loved it, never been able to find one like it since.
I have NEFF microwave that works like this. I agree that it is the best. Still haven’t fully got the muscle memory but ...
Easier to clean than a number pad. I think knobs are great, you can rotate fast with very little effort. I think it should be a standard feature of computer keyboards.
Far from standard, but it's available, in case you're not aware:
You might as well buy something like the shuttle rather than a small knob stuck between two keys

I love the volume roller on my Logitech G710+. Having a few programable knobs would be interesting to play around with, though I'm not sure what exactly I'd use them for.
Not true. You can just wipe a blister number pad and you're done. They're designed that way. With knobs, better hope they're detachable.

Agreed that a knob should be a part of a computer keyboard - as a generic analog input device, not a mousewheel equivalent, though.

I would be happy with a big red rocker switch. It should have labels "ON" and "OFF".

A more daring design uses the door as a switch. Close the door, and the microwave runs. Open the door, and it stops. This is about as simple as it could be. User efficiency is maximized.

Our digital knob micro was like that. This gets a problem when the digital knob suddenly malfunctions and starts the microwave in the night, set on 5 minutes and nothing inside it. Could start a nice fire if unlucky. It only happened during daytime when we noticed it luckily.
I have seen and used a close-door-to-start microwave. It was a regular microwave where the timer knob was broken. Every couple of weeks you would use pliers to turn the remaining spindle of the knob all the way to the right to reset the timer. :)
Where are you shopping? Only 5 of the first 50 microwaves that I just saw on Amazon have knobs.
Now that you mention it, I guess what I really am is a grumbling ex-pat.

I often find things I want on and then change the URL to .de or, or I find items that are available for shipping to Germany (for a decent price), I assume because they actually ship from China or are already distributed in Amazon warehouses. I guess in the case of microwaves the power input is different, so the models are different by area, and this part of Europe seems to prefer knobs.

I will say, though, I don't see any there with blister buttons; they all appear to be capactive.

My beef is microwaves that force you to press “cook time” before can use the number pad.

If I walk up to the thing and start typing, WTF does GE think I’m entering? Their default is... NOTHING. It ignores the input. STUPID.

Found the millennial? The knob design is the much older one as it's purely analog.

I don't have a microwave anymore for almost a decade now, but even before I used it occasionally only, mostly for heating up food from the day before, nothing where I'd need sub-millisecond accuracy. Also in general food tastes different/weird if you blast it at full power, so going for lower wattage and longer cooking times would reduce the need for super accurate timing controls. Unless you grew up on microwaved food exclusively, then I guess food prepared on a stove tastes weird. :-)

I believe you're both talking about two separate designs - I'm sure one might have influenced the other but they're certainly not the same.

The analog knob you're referring to, I think, is the _very_ old design that functioned more like an egg timer. It was spring loaded and simply turned on the microwave circuit and broke it when the timer mechanically reached resting position.

The new knob is digital, and you use it to navigate a digial menu and to increase/decrease the timer prior to pressing it inward to start the process. Completely novel input mechanism.

I'm 52 and have used microwave ovens since my parents bought one in 1981. It had a touchpad and every microwave I have ever used since then has had a touchpad. My experience is that except for the extremely low end of the countertop microwave market it was rare to see a microwave with knob controls until the last 10 years.
All my micro waves have been nob controlled except one but that one broke down after a few weeks so that one does't count. The rest was two analog and three digital nobs. All the digital nobs broke down after 1-2 years but the analog nobs still work after 20+ years. And you can still buy new ananlog nob microwave ovens in the store but they aren't as good any more.
Maybe it is regional but in the US microwaves have been mostly touchpad since at least the late 70s.
I grew up with touchpad microwaves and I assumed that most models still used that interface. I live in Germany now, and when I search through the models on Amazon US, UK and DE I was only able to find one touchpad microwave that I could get here, and unfortunately it was capacitive :( I was pretty surprised at this change. I wonder what drives microwave UI patterns over time.
> Found the millennial?

Given that millennial seems to refer to anyone born between mid 70's and late 90's, that could basically be any type of microwave design that ever existed.

Early 80's, not mid 70's.

If you cut at mid 70's you'd basically be erasing Gen X, but just because it's popular to talk about "boomer" vs. "millennial" doesn't mean they're adjacent!

I think you’re right ... he’s thinking of the one that comes after. I think we’re settling on your definition but there’s still sufficient confusion. It’s only in the last 5 years I think we’ve become settled with gen x.
I guess you haven’t seen the new digital knobs, worst of both worlds.
> Found the millennial? The knob design is the much older one as it's purely analog.

Modern microwave knobs are not properly analog. They are so infuriating - an analog control fiddling with a discrete setting. As you turn the knob, it will occasionally (with no haptic feedback) tick over to the next discrete value.

but much better than the old analog knob. For less than a minute you couldnt even turn it (usually jumped back to the bell or was anything from 20s to 1min)
The microwave I grew up with (70s/80s) had a log-ish scale. The first quarter turn was 0-60s, the second quarter turn got you to 5 mins, etc. I don't remember the exact gradations but I remember it was very easy to get almost any time you wanted.

I have hated every microwave since.

I am curious how they did this. Was it purely mechanical?
It was purely mechanical. Somehow I managed to find the model:

A closeup picture of the dial:

The log-factor wasn't as severe as I had remembered, but the 0-1m angle is about the same as the 20-25m angle. It was still pretty easy to get 15s, 30s, etc. I'm sure you could do a lot better with modern digital electronics.

Sorry this is a bit nitpicky but since this is HN ... is it strictly correct to call this knob “analogue”? The old fashioned ones were clockwork and the newer ones are some kind of digital rotary controller ... I guess if we’re describing the experience rather than the mechanism maybe just good old “knob” suffice!
Ye a mechanical timer is digital in its output, right? The analogue dailer could maybe be the power, but it was most likely discrete too.
Also, since they're mechanical, after 20 years they'll get gunked up / unsprung enough to stick right before the "end" detent. The microwave will just stay on until someone notices.
This. Since becoming a father I realised how annoying our analogue microwave knob is when you just need to blast something for 20 second while dealing with a screaming child. Either it's too short and you get 2 second, or it's too long and you get 60, now you need to do your best to cool the thing down quickly

In the time before baby, the analogue microwave was refreshing, now it's a nuisance.

>This. Since becoming a father I realised how annoying our analogue microwave knob is when you just need to blast something for 20 second while dealing with a screaming child. Either it's too short and you get 2 second, or it's too long and you get 60, now you need to do your best to cool the thing down quickly

Not sure about your microwave, but mine (ca. 1996 Panasonic) has an analog knob (actually, that's the only control) for time.

If I need less than a minute, I turn the knob past 1 minute, then turn it back where I want it. That pretty much always works for me.

Perhaps it might for you too.

It's also a fire danger because the mechanical time wheels can lose spring tension / get gunked up just enough to stick right before they reach the end, leaving the microwave on until you notice.

It wasn't a huge deal when it happened to me because I wasn't very distracted and I was making tea so it just sat there and boiled for a couple of minutes until I checked in. Under slightly different circumstances it could have been much worse.

Sounds like a UX fail to not use an encoder with detents.
Oh, they use encoders with detents, they just can't be bothered to make their software "fast" enough to reliably count every detent even though each detent tick lasts for millions of clock cycles.
It can be done well. I've used one (I forget the brand - possibly Electrolux) with a wheel that does have haptic feedback on every tick and is actually very nice to use. As the absolute value increases, the increment for every tick also increases in a way that feels natural to me, so you don't have to turn it as much as you would an analog wheel for the same precision .
I've never got the meme about numpads on microwaves being needlessly complicated design. On about any decent microwave made in the last 10 year, pushing 1-6 gives a cook time of 1-6 minutes, respectively. Pushing start again after cooking has started will add 30 seconds. For longer cook times, press "time cook." Maybe this sounds a bit complicated, but it's efficient and all written down on the keypad. Mechanical timers really don't work well for less than 5 minutes. Good microwaves with a dial use a rotary encoder and increase time logarithmically. It sure looks elegant on the builtin over your stove, but log scaling really isn't intuitive outside volume controls, and probably more fiddly than buttons.

If there is a gripe to be had about microwave numpads, it's the useless popcorn setting. The microwave popcorn bag tells you not to use the popcorn setting. It's like something out of bad standup. /rant

There are nonlinear dials with larger, clearly-marked steps for short periods (often only a few seconds), then larger steps.

See: e.g.

DDG image search:

It's a textbook example on design and UIs, spread by professionals and teachers. Do you just dismiss it as a meme because you don't get it?

From your own post, it's more complicated already. With wheel/knob, you have an interface for time and another for power. A little twist means a short value, a long twist means a high value. If you know what you want to do, you already know how to use this microwaves.

I think the problem is it's slightly harder to use, eg you need to understand that more food needs more time to heat, that different cooking needs different power, etc. But you learn as you go.

I think the equivalent for a car would be to have a buttons for 'fast', 'medium', 'slow', 'bumpy terrain', 'road','long trip', 'short trip'. How crazy would that be?

> I think the equivalent for a car would be to have a buttons for 'fast', 'medium', 'slow', 'bumpy terrain', 'road','long trip', 'short trip'. How crazy would that be?

Plenty of upmarket cars have these types of settings, and are routinely praised for it.

“I don't have a TV, only a few monitors.”

I also highly recommend this. It’s been 18 years since I’ve lived in a house with a tv. It’s still weird to me that people design their living rooms around sitting facing a screen rather than other humans.

Watching live sports on 75inch TV is an amazing experience. Especially if it is broadcast in 4k
For sure, that’s important to some people, but I’ll just walk over to a local bar if there really is a game I want to catch (like the World Cup).
What’s the difference between a TV and a monitor anyway? My TV is only used for Netflix and videogames. Just like I’d do with a monitor.
My reading of it was that they meant dumb tv. However the general differences between a monitor and a TV as marketed are response time, viewing angle, and viewing distance with tye TV having the larger of all three.
In France the difference is that you pay a broadcast tax every year for owning a TV. Even if the tuner is unplugged. Even if the TV is covered with dust in a basement. Even if you rip the tuner apart and use it as a screen only (this specific case has been lawyered to death right up to the last court of Cassation).

Because computers and smartphones, the law has since been extended to also include the case where you own no TV but either a PCI or USB tuner, or any internet access that includes TV streaming (e.g those that come with a set-top box, or those extra options on mobile plans).

I like Australia's system better. You pay a very minor tax yearly regardless of tv ownership and it funds a few government run TV channels and radio stations as well as a news site. Despite the current governments best efforts, the ABC is still the only worthwhile news site in the country.
Same in Germany but the tax is a fixed price of EUR 17.50 each month per household and no escape from it except for very few special cases (e.g. university students receiving financial support from the state).

Personally I agree with a mandatory monthly cost but it is way too high, should be in proportion to household income and the people in the upper ranks of the broadcasting companies shouldn't earn absurdly high wages and pensions.

Despite that I like to support proper journalism that is accessible to everyone and content that is often ad-free to watch/listen/read.

The TV tax is a great idea, but it's twice as expensive as netflix. On the bright side, you get decent news channels, and Arte.
I would say the tax makes no sense. It‘s a reminiscence of some times that are long gone. People pay a tax for a bloated system and TV channels that mostly pensioners use. The quality of the programs is very low. Also, few people know that the tax is also paid by companies, based on the number of employees and cars.
It’s 138eu here

The issue for me is mostly that I refuse to pay for the bucketloads of despicably low quality content they put out. A shame, because there’s Arte (TV) and FIP (radio) which have quality stuff, but they only get a fraction of it.

I guess that‘s always the case with the preferred content. I don‘t care about Schlager clap-along shows with enormous budgets but it‘s what a lot of people like. On the other hand most of the people won‘t care about my beloved Arte and late night shows.
Sweden used to have it like this. You had to pay a license for owning a TV receiver. But then the public broadcaster also started offering streaming over the internet. Then they declared "also a computer is a TV receiver" and required everyone with a computer to pay TV license. If you refused, you were taken to court. The court agreed with the broadcaster. Only in the highest court was it thrown out. Had it not, there would have been an explicit tax on owning a computer in Sweden.

This was a despicable period and since then the law has changed. Now there is no license fee on owning a TV receiver. Instead everyone pays a tax whether they own a TV, a computer, whatever and no matter if they watch TV or not.

There is still a tax on computers (or rather storage) in Sweden. We pay an extra fee for private copying set on the number of megabytes you can store on harddrives, CD's, DVD's or flash drives. But at least that means it's legal for you to copy your friends DVD's and music collection, no matter what the license says in the box.
Yes, not on computers, but on storage as you say. And it is a one time tax on top of the price, not a recurring yearly tax as the license fee would have been.
Same with Finland. TV licensing fees were replaced with public radio tax.
There's something odd about the logic here.

"Once upon a time, the government tried to impose a tax you had to pay if you had a TV or a computer, which was bad because even people who never watched TV would have had to pay it. But it's better now, because instead there's a tax that literally everyone pays, even if they don't watch TV and even if they don't have a computer."

I'm struggling to see what principles would make the first situation bad without also making the second one bad.

Because it is less hypocritic and more fair. The license fee was per household, the tax is per person. Many dodged the fee while still having a TV. Cannot do that now

But both are bad, the former more so than the current, at least.

The second one is more just in the context of public TV being a public service: society pays as a whole, instead of having some unenforceable, incomplete, broken kludge to make only people that watch it pay, like for a commercial service.

Ideally the individual cost is very low, so it’s not outlandish to have everyone pay, especially as even if you don’t watch it, you benefit from the diffusion of qualitative culture and news in society.

By not making everyone pay, this public service has to compete for attention with commercial ones and risks drifting away in quality.

The counterpoint is that such a state-owned channel could become a propaganda tool.

Less weird now with most of my social interactions being via screens.
Watching TV is a social activity. Working on computer is a solitary activity.
What does that have to do with TV vs. monitor?
>It’s still weird to me that people design their living rooms around sitting facing a screen rather than other humans.

I spent the vast majority of my time facing a screen rather than other humans.

Same, but I think that's an argument for making your social space the opposite
Why? It's not like I'm going to have any more guests over.
A friend of mine's father is an architect. He designed his living room spesifically for having guests. So instead of the living room being in front of a telly, there are two big sofas facing each other accross a lounge table. Behind the seating arrangement is a Bang & Olufsen stereo with a turntable and a shelf containing records. But that's not all. To top it off, the ceiling skews down towards elongated windows placed so that you only get a good view of the sound they're facing by sitting down. This arrangement gives guests a great view, great music, and great company. They also have a TV room, but it's tucked away in a much smaller, purpose built room, so that the guests get the full attention when they visit, and not the TV.
My mom did this, too. The sofas facing. It’s horrific. Absolutely horrible. Even GUESTS hate facing each other, like on the subway. Lots of little nooks and crannies for subgroups to congregate.
Yeah my living room is a couch and a lot of seating around a large coffee table I built, with my turntable and records integrated in that arrangement. Then right off to the side are floor to ceiling bookshelves for our (growing) library that I built.

But it’s not like we have a lot space in our tiny brooklyn apartment, we just set it up for hosting and talking with people. It’s great when there isn’t a pandemic happening.

Practically anyone with a large enough house ends up with a sitting room and a TV room seperate to their living room.

Its just the majority cannot afford said house, so the TV room joins the sitting room in the multi-function space that is the living room.

Might just be my experience but the sitting room usually never gets used / is too cold and eventually gets converted in to a storage room.
This is an interesting observation. In many respects the TV has taken position that the fireplace used to have. What we're missing is thus those deep and cozy fireplace conversations. I also like the idea of nooks and crannies. Perhaps it's an idea to design future houses like that of native villages?

I think the meaning of the space in the house mentioned, wasn't just socializing, but also relaxing to music, and observing the sound (the water body) flowing by outside. Othwerwise the house isn't much bigger or smaller than other Norwegian 80's houses, only the layout is different and more inspired.

Walking around in Oslo, or any city, for that matter, there are many examples of various forms of architecture, and the difference between inspired and uninspired or cheap is striking. For instance, I have a rather ambivalent relationship to the institutional brick architecture springing out of 30's Funkis (Functionalism), that really reached its peak in the 70's and 80's evolving into Modernist structures. The uninspired or brutalist versions of it, are ghastly and cheap shells, while the inspired versions, such as Institute for Social Research in Munthes street in Oslo, gives off a feeling of welcoming peace and warmth.

I have often wondered about those spaces in hotels or office lobbies, where a divan or lounge chairs are set out, but serve no purpose, because no one in their right mind would ever consider sitting there.

My microwave has one round dial that turns. That’s it. And zero buttons.

It’s fantastic. Turn the dial, and it starts. The farther around you turn it, the more time you get. The scale is clearly marked around the dial with large readable numbers and gives progressively more coarse as you turn through about 340 degrees or so (less than 360).

To abort and turn it off early, just turn the knob back to the zero. Otherwise it turns itself off at the chosen time.

There’s a digital readout that tells the time remaining. Simplest interface ever and none of those nasty washable flat panel buttons, or any others as I said.

It’s a Sharp brand “Medium Duty Commercial 1000 watt” model. Pretty pricey ($269) but very worth it. At the time, I found it on Amazon but I don’t see it on there now. Model R21LCFS. I see it does come up on duck duck go at some other suppliers like (not a typo that the link ends in a dash apparently).

One caveat: it does not have any rotating mechanism inside. This has never been a problem except I do sometimes manually rotate food during a long session. But this is super easy because you don’t have to bend down or punch buttons.

ObTV: don’t have one either. Best TV choice imho.

> Oh, the things it won't do! It won't baste, mist, sense, probe, convect, or take your food for a horsy ride. It doesn't care to know if you're cooking pork or potatoes, or if something's thawed or frozen, solid or liquid, or 1 lb. or 5. It doesn't issue odd advice ("Stand and Cover"! "Pull Apart"!). You can't use it as a nightlight. It won't tell you the time. It won't match your decor. It won't even cook anything for more than 6 minutes at a time. There's nothing to choose, nothing to alter, nothing to select, nothing to enter. All it's got is a big, smooth 1950's style dial that does a backwards countdown, with an accompanying red light marking the time as it goes. A great appliance that hardly does anything at all. Highly recommend.

I see you're in love.

Hmm that’s not me but it sounds about right.
Microwaves have such terrible UIs. I always wanted to make an online Microwave UI simulator where it generates a random Microwave control panel and you have to work out which buttons to press to heat up some soup.
Seriously, once you've used a micdowave where the +30s (or +1m) button is the same as the start button, you'll constantly be wondering who thought it made sense to do it any other way.
>I don't have a TV, only a few monitors (it's very liberating, actually). So instead I'll talk about my microwave. Yes, unironically! :D It has two dials.

Same here! I only worry about the day when it stops working, because no UI designer seems to realize that there is nothing better, and new microwaves come with atrocious, laggy, pointless UIs.

Buy a commercial microwave that just has minutes if there's no other option
Here in Ireland and based on my time living and travelling in Germany I'd say in most of Europe, its hard to get a microwave that isn't just wattage and timer.

Here except for a few things like phones and tvs, smart electronics aren't as easily available as my home country, India.

I speculate this is perhaps related to the age of the population.

Rather, richer markets are pickier.
I'm not too sure about that because if that were true the online shopping experiences in these richer markets in Europe would be better than India which is quite demonstratively not the case. Hence my assertion about correlation with age of the population.
How is online shopping in India better than in Europe?
The UX tends to be more sophisticated. The mobile experience is way better. The payment options are many and well integrated. The choices are better. Search is better. Delivery (time as well as tracking) is better.
Uh, no.
Why Edge?

Being “critical” about products depends on how educated a population is. I just asked to a bunch of friends (we are having breakfast in Europe) if they know about smart microwaves. They all know they exist, but asked “why on earth would I want that?”. They just want two knobs to set time and power.

The discussion now moved to smart Toasters, where everybody just wants one knob...

In my experience, people here buy stuff either because they need it, or because they find it really cool and just love the technology. I don’t know anybody that finds smart microwaves or their technology cool. Same applies to smart toasters or smart TVs.

Given that I bought that book in 2012 as a result of someone else’s comment here about it, and I’ve seen so many other comments about it here, I’d wager that this site has sold a lot of copies of that book. It is a good read, though. Free marketing for Donald Norman!
Ok, I'll ask. Which Microwave do you have?
I don’t know if this is the same one, but a quick Google came up with the Turbo Air Radiance Series TMW-1100NM. Never seen these but I want one, microwave UIs are the worst.

That’s more of a commercial one, a cheaper version (Impecca) came up too but the link was broken.

OMG that one looks like it'd fit right into a Fallout game! How many bottle caps? Here, take them all! Anyway, mine is a Samsung. Affordable too! Edit: Note to self: Stop telling dad jokes on HN.
You realize that microwave is doing ACR on everything you cook, and selling it to your insurance company, right?

(Sorry HN)

Just look for the cheap brands. Many of them have really simple interfaces. Mine is also just two knobs.
I have an old TATUNG I bought off Craigslist for $10, and I'm clinging onto it for my dear life (4 years and 2 interstate moves later).
TDoET is a classic. If you like digging further into philosophical musings on the subject of design, you might also enjoy What Things Do: Philosophical Reflections On Tochnology by Peter-Paul Verbeek. Here's a review:


I feel somewhat self-conscious about being old-fashioned but that's exactly the way I liked it. I've also never had or intended to have a "smart TV" or a smart-almost-anything. Just the computers, and the smartphone and I feel like that's already a huge concession... use it in the most untrusted way possible.
> wattage (energy output)

Nope, power output.

I stand corrected. Thank you!
energy output per unit time
Multiply the two dials together to get the energy output per use.
Did your distinction really deepen the conversation? Why are people compelled to make corrections like this?
While I'm sure it's usually for some personal emotional reasons, it's still a valuable service. Getting that wrong inhibits your ability to reason about the topic. What's the point of having thoughts that are just a soup of words that sound like they make sense but are actually nonsense?

This is not like correcting grammar where it hardly matters and we have to use some kind of grammar to write. If you didn't know what something meant, you could have just not tried to explain it or not used the word.

Because GGP confused energy with power. It's a common mistake (the fact that the most popular unit of energy in everyday use, in context of electricity, is kilowatt hour, is not helping). But a mistake nonetheless, and one that, uncorrected, will make it hard to think about topics related to energy.

In such cases, a friendly correction is very much the right thing to do.

I found it a useful reminder. The ranking algo made sure it wasn't distracting. And it's a good idea to use the correct term when it's available.
> Did your distinction really deepen the conversation?

Yes. For some people, it might be the most valuable thing they learn from the entire discussion. Imagine having as business discussion and mixing up P&L and a Balance Sheet. If you think it was just a pedantic correction, maybe you should reconsider.

You have an actual variable power microwave? Not a duty cycle power control??
Now I am curious of how most microwaves are modulating power.
Every mw I’ve ever owned or used turns the magnetron on and off. If it’s a 1000W unit and you set it to 300W, it’ll only heat 30% of the time. You can hear it from the noise it makes, it’s slightly louder when the magnetron is on.
Wow. So basic.

That reminds me about dishwashers - you put powder or a tablet in a little hatch and I always wondered what happened behind the hatch, does it inject water, disolve the powder, and then pump it around to the jets?

I recently realised. Nope. It just opens the hatch ten minutes into the cycle and the tablet/powder falls into the machine with a clunk.

Mind blown. So obvious, and yet I gad always assumed it was a system like in a washing machine, as you described
And many of the door latches are/were heat sensitive strips of metal. When the temperature of the water inside the machine reaches a certain point, and after a period of heating up the metal door latch, the metal deforms and the door pops open. Then after the wash, everything cools down, and the metal reforms. There is just enough tension on the metal latch to make it latch closed and just enough deflection after heating to make it spring open.

P.S. Pro-life tip: Don't forget to refill your dishwasher drying port today with Jet Dry/Glisten/Whatever brand you like, it'll stop your dishes from coming out spotty and helps with the dry cycle.

Wait, there's a drying port? Is that the place where I put the Rinse Aid liquid?
I've only used jet dry when I got free samples and never noticed a difference. I never have spotty dishes. Maybe it depends on the water.
I believe it does indeed depend on your water supply. And it doesn't help to use it if you do not use the drying cycle on your dishwasher. And here ends my limited knowledge about this nuanced, and I am sure to some, deeply interesting subject.
Perhaps I was imprecise. It has a stepped dial, with pre-set wattages. Caveat for not being an electrician. ^^
But the “wattages” just pulse the thing on and off right? I’ve never heard of a home microwave that can apply true variable power. If you have one I’ll buy it.
It's marketed as "Inverter Technology"

Most of the major brands in the US have them, now, and the reliability is improving. As I understand it the drive transistors in early models were prone to failure.

More info available here:

Oh god, you are really lucky! I am shopping for a new microwave and here in India all the microwave makers only have the two-knobs (wattage and timer) one on small-size microwaves that can only fit a bowl. All the larger size one's come with lot of stupid buttons (defrost, cook, heat, start, stop etc.) and an LCD display. I just want the two-knobs one on a large microwave but it just isn't available. I now plan to get one from abroad. :(
I find the microwaves with dials just last longer, and they are usually cheaper. In my experience, the touch pads on the digital ones breakdown faster.
When living in japan my apartment came with this microwave that wasn’t smart by any means, but had like 50 buttons and I only ever had to use one of them.

The Start button.

It would start heating and I would guess there was a temperature sensor that would automatically stop the thing once the food was hot. In a case it was not hot enough, you would press the same button again and it would go on again for another 20 sec or so. Brilliant.

My microwave also has those two dials, which I use a lot. Plus a whole array of other buttons and functions I've never used.
I kind of like that my microwave has a button (in addition to a gazillion others that we don’t use), that somehow determines what is inside and how long it will take to heat up. And then automatically sets time and wattage.

No more thinking, just press the button and get hot stuff. It even gets it right some of the time.

Sounds like my 2001 car. If I'm too hot I press a button. If I want to skip track or listen to the radio I press a button. I don't even remember what the buttons look like becuase I know where I need to press my finger to change something.
My microwave has a lot of buttons but I basically use it like you do.
Goes well with a single-button-no-display rice cooker.
makes me think about toasters and how they haven't really evolved because it works fine enough
I dont know what toaster you use, but for me, toasters are exactly a piece of technology that evolved from masterpiece to horrible UX.

Look up Sunbeam Radiant Toaster[0]. Now compare it to any other toaster you can buy today. I wish I could buy one Sunbeam Radiant Toaster, but its kinda pricy importing one from random ebay seller to EU..


I would reduce it to one dial. Two dials is too much.
I have a microwave with one dial. Best microwave around. Nobody can get confused about how to use it. There's not even a turntable so it holds more food and it's easy to clean. That's the Sharp R21LCF for ya.
Haha. I love how despite being so simple, it still has instructions below the one knob explaining how to use it:

With the door closed, turn the timer to the desired time. Oven will begin operating immediately. To shut oven off manually, return timer to 0.

It's almost as if they have to help people unlearn the crap they're used to with button microwaves wondering "Where's the start button?" and "Where's the cancel button?"

Yeah, I really wish they would sell a version without all the instructions because I think it would look really clean! I've been thinking about just cutting a piece of aluminum to go over the front plate.
I've got a one-dial microwave (the dial is also a button), it's so quick and easy to use.
Eh, I've had the "one button" UI on a "smart" watch where you're doing a series of single taps, multi-taps, short presses, long presses, etc. It's really not fun for several reasons:

1. It takes forever to do anything even remotely complex.

2. The most common features aren't really the easiest to access (in terms of input effort).

3. If you make even a single mistake in a long series of taps, you have to loop all the way back through the interface. If you let it timeout, this is apparently the equivalent of a "select".

4. There is zero intuition for any this functionality.

I know some people here will not like to here this, but it's how I feel when somebody with an iPad is showing me the difference between a one finger, two finger, three finger and four finger swipe/grip. It's not that they exist and nobody but a power user would access them, for me it's more that I might accidentally trigger one of these functions and have zero idea of cause and effect.

The worst offenders are when the UI changes depending on the context. Like that touch bar Apple had where the buttons and layout would change depending on which application you are in. I understand how it could be cool for a power user, but as a normal user I want some standardization for the location of things between apps.

> a "smart" watch where you're doing a series of single taps, multi-taps, short presses, long presses, etc.

It’s almost like having to learn some version of morse code. Yikes! Even amateur radio licensing in many jurisdictions has abolished the morse code proficiency requirement to bring more individuals to the hobby.

So much this. I bought an oven. I wanted as few features as possible, ideally just a bake and a grill, then a knob for the amount of heat. I bought one with 2 knobs and that appeared to have very few ‘features’. It turns out it does a ton. You hold both knobs and do various twiddle manoeuvres and things start happening. The light turns on, the clock adjusts, the timer is set, the eco mode is activated or the temperature goes up. It’s awful. Smeg.
My current oven literally has one knob - temperature. Doesn't even have an indicator for when it's done preheating (but if the gas flame stops, that's a good indicator it is warmed up). Honestly, it kind of annoyed me at first, but I really don't hate it. Biggest change would be a preheat indicator at this point, but even that isn't that big of a deal.
The oven in my apartment doesn't even have knobs, but only touch surface controls. It is so annoying as I cannot quickly set it to one of the three programs I normally use, and holding the "up" button for selecting the temperature is also not working well. Especially since the thing gets harder to control the dirtier my fingers are, and that just naturally happens when preparing a meal.
We got a Smeg induction cooktop which is amazing, but it also has touch controls. Water on it, wet fingers or some random factor I don’t understand prevent it working.

Boil water and a drip goes on the special zone and it switches off.

It’s really irritating.

My microwave has a wheel to turn the timer, a wheel to set the WATT, a stop button and a start button. If you press the start button it’ll automatically run for 30 seconds, if you press it again it’ll add another 30 seconds to the current run. It took me maybe 4 years of owning it before I learned of the start button feature. Not sure what the hell people are doing with microwaves that connect to the internet, but I sure as hell like mine simple enough for me to operate it. A general theme with most of my kitchen/home appliances really. If something doesn’t work out of the box, or if it has a gazillion “smart” features, then it’s likely just not for me.

A tad ironic to some people, I know. I work in public sector digitisation after all, we’re working with cutting edge tech every day, to help make the lives of citizens easier. Like how to distribute medicine so people with dementia actually take it. So many people naturally assume I’m a gadget person, and in fact a lot of my colleagues are, but I just don’t get why you’d want your TV to be “smart“.

So I’ll happily enforce your message about simple Designs.

I buy smart tvs because they have ads on them, which makes the initial purchase price cheaper. Then I just connect it to my media server and never bother with the smart features.
Exactly. If you don't connect your smart TV to your home Wifi network, it can't connect to anything and exfiltrate your data. I doubt manufacturers are secretly putting LTE modems inside TVs.
This is not true. It connects to open wireless and updates your software and probably ads. There was a post on here a while ago about it which I can't find from a preliminary search.
Is this the post you refer to?
Yes there is a reply that takes you a reddit comment [1]. However now it appears as though that commenter deleted their account so I don't know the validity.

I want a smart TV so I can access Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ etc. right from the TV and don't need a separate device for it.

Many people suggest buying a dumb tv and then an apple tv. The problem is, now I have two devices and instead of trusting [TV manufacturer] I have to trust Apple. I don't see a big gain in it and also don't consider Apple to be especially trustworthy. [TV manufacturer] should just sell me a smart tv without customer hostile "features".

With a standalone smart box connected via HDMI if it becomes obsolete, or you want to use different software it’s just that which needs replacing. With a smart TV the entire display has to be replaced, to no real benefit.
Not really. Why not just use the TV until it becomes obsolete then buy a box if you have to?
Often the TV box apps run better, gets obsoleted much more slowly and you can customise it much more easily than your smart TV (e.g. you are out of options if your TV doesn't support some new streaming service).

I have a random, no-name Android TV box and it's one of the best value for money devices I've gotten in years - covers every single streaming service, has IPTV, web browser, and any other conceivable option you'd want in a TV box. You can add a VPN trivially, use it as a music client for LMS....and so on. Plus it doesn't have unblockable ads covering half the screen like recent Samsung TVs.

> [TV manufacturer] should just sell me a smart tv without customer hostile "features".

Unfortunately there are basically zero TV manufacturers who will do this.

High end Sony sets seem to be pretty customer friendly
Commercial displays have no ads, but also typically ship with minimal software and fewer inputs.
I think it would be extremely interesting if the thing that got tech nerds to get on board, politically, with the notion that a single company doesn't have to have a monopoly for consumers to be hurt by "market standards" was, uh, smart TVs with too many ads.
>[TV manufacturer] should just sell me a smart tv without customer hostile "features".

The price will be much higher then. Right now, you're sold the tv at a discount (at a loss, I'm pretty sure) because the manufacturer will make money off you down the road by stealing and selling your data to advertisers. It's kind of like with social media (though to a lesser degree) - don't make the mistake of thinking of yourself exclusively as a customer. You're a product, too. Their advertising partners are the true customers.

I somehow doubt that argument. My 65" smart TV cost about $2000. My advertisement worth as a user is how much? Maybe about $30 per year like a Facebook user [1] (which I would think is to high for Samsungs model)? That's $150 to $300 over the lifespan of the device. I don't consider these extra 15% sooo much higher. It's within the range of regular retail discounts.


Apple TV doesn't include ads, and doesn't sell your viewing habits to third parties who create profiles of you. [0]

Your TV manufacturer does.


Yet. You forgot "yet".

Apples shareholders will one day be keen to achieve the second trillion dollars on the company's valuation.

I'm not as pessimistic as all that, but I agree that vigilance is necessary. The good thing about going with the external box solution is that as if the company doesn't align with your values on this issue, you can unplug it and install something else. If that something else exists, of course.
Tech can often make complex processes simpler but it can also make simple things complicated by adding too many unnecessary bells and whistles. That's how I feel about a lot of the IOT products coming out today.
End the torture: What's the make/model of the microwave?
A simpler UI is Sharp R21LCFS. Link elsewhere in thread.
I bought a Breville with jogger knobs for power and time, just because I liked the UI. Most importantly they can be changed even while cooking.

I think this is the current revision:

It does have all the feature buttons, which are just inside the door, although I admit I have never used them.

Alternatively buy a really cheap microwave that just has two physical knobs.

One knob is even better.
One knob is even better.

I don't own a microwave, but find routers to be one of the most frustrating machines to deal with. All communication is done via different lights either on/off or blinking, and none of it makes any sense. How much is a freaking display these days?
I've just bought new xerox printer with wifi feature. No display, just couple of leds and buttons. After half an hour and numerous google searches I was able to use it over wifi, but only 2.4GHz. Spent another hour trying to set it up with 5GHz. Now it is connected via USB only and I am happy.
I have a router with a lcd display... I never use it (the display), because well.. it's a router, and it's hidden (literally) behind a couch.
I never look at my router’s lights. I use or whatever to do stuff in the browser.

(There is actually an option on mine that lets me turn off all the lights. (Except the power on light, dang it!))

It's useful to quickly check whether the connection is 100BASE-TX or 1000BASE-T.
There are only two lights that matter to me: power and WAN. They let me see if there are problems that I can't do anything about through the browser UI. If there's no power, then obviously its a hardware problem and if there's no WAN then its an upstream problem that I cannot fix myself. All other lights are meaningless to me and I use the browser UI instead, like you.
-AOL. I work in automation&controls in the oil industry, and my customers are always puzzled when I start to whittle away at the features suggested, rather than adding to them; my mantra being that 'If it isn't there, it cannot fail.'

My experience echoes yours - I keep my appliances as simple as possible, both at home and professionally.

Add complexity wherever you have to, not wherever you want to.

I work in the IT systems integration industry, and I have unironically used the phrase "fewer moving parts" when describing the benefits of my preferred architectures.
This could be interpreted either way in this context.

So, in the context of microwaves, does this mean you prefer software-controlled ovens instead of simpler ones with mechanical timers (which have lots of moving parts), or the reverse?

If no one attempts to remove features, bad features make it into the product, adding complexity and sapping time from good features.

If someone attempts to remove a good feature, someone on the team should be able to successfully argue for it in 3-5 sentences.

No code runs faster than no code.

No code has fewer bugs than no code.

No code uses less memory than no code.

No code is easier to understand than no code.

Design has always been a balance of usability and the emotional connection we create through our products.

I find most designers go through two phases, starting out they are very free form and fancy-graphics-for-the-sake-of-graphics approach, mostly because they can, which is where all newbies start. Then they learn about usability/functional design after reading something like "Design of Everyday Things" [1] which does a great job of selling why the functional nature of the product matters first-and-foremost as much or more as the way it looks. This is the first step in being a good and useful designer.

But people don't realize that same author Don Norman released an equally important book called "Emotional Design" [2] which digs deeper into why something like an Apple product is not only easy-to-use but is designed in such that it melds into our life cleanly, it goes beyond just being a useful tool to where it becomes part of our identity and we treat it like a piece of art.

The mature designers learn that good design goes beyond merely simplifying a 5 click process down to 2 (for example), towards crafting something that creates an emotional connection with the people buying it. For example: sometimes adding an extra 3rd step which communicates information or eases anxiety in the user is more important than the lowest amount of clicks/time to action is completed.

Yet most usability-obsessed designs would dismiss this as unnecessary distraction when the immediate 'conversion' should be 100% the goal, instead of realizing the wider emotional experience that exists in these same processes. It's easy to get someone to click a red button over a black one for psychological reasons, but it takes good design to have it naturally flow as part of the goal in the users mind at the time, which helps create a solid long-term connection with the customer.

The type of relationship where people recommend your product to others, not just solving their problem quickly and forgetting it.

This is the more abstract and intuitive part of design that reaches beyond what the more scientific approach to usability and functional design can achieve by itself. That's were things like aesthetics, colour, copywriting, and the whole experience buying the product and interacting with the company comes in. The stuff that seems like excess in a totally functional perspective. This is what turns a product from merely more useful than the rest of the market into something that is coveted and sought-out by customers when they see the brand name or designer behind it. It's the attention to the details and experience of the humans using your product, not just robots greased to the credit card page the quickest.

Most software/hardware sucks at even getting the functional parts down, which is why it gets hyped up and valued so much - which is fine, that's where the lowest hanging fruit will remain. But that doesn't mean it stops there.



> I find most designers go through two phases, first they are very free form and fancy-graphics-for-the-sake-of-graphics approach, mostly because they can, which is where all newbies start. Then they learn...why the functional nature of the product matters as much as the way it looks

I think design norms new media are the same. Why <blink>? Because we can.

Absolutely wonderful description. (This comment was more interesting than the blog post). I've been trying to figure out how to justify to PMs/etc that we should spend time to make delightful software, and "emotional design" seems like just the thing. I really enjoyed The Design of Everyday Things; I'll have to give Emotional Design a read!
UX is a huge field with a lot of entry points so it’s difficult so suggest a single resource to start with.

However I’d suggest that coming from an engineering background, you might find joy in learning about user testing first as that’s usually a big eye-opener that helps you understand why the field of UX design is important.

A classic book to start with is “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug[0], which covers usability testing and even how to conduct a session yourself.

Then there’s “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman[1], whom many consider the ‘father’ of the modern field of UX. That one can be a bit dense though.

If you want to think like a designer, then learning about Design Thinking[2] is a good place to start.

Hope that helps!




Thanks! That will be a good start.
The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Cheers, thanks for the tip!
This seems to be blurring a use of "design". Not all design is chrome on top of things. Some literally leads to better use. Some design is required for safe use.

I think it is oversold, but the book "Design of Everyday Things"[1] goes over this for many common items. There is a long section on doors with many interesting points to consider.


> This seems to be blurring a use of "design". Not all design is chrome on top of things.

You're thinking of syntax as chrome. It is more than that.

Apologies, that is exactly what I was trying to say. Specifically, I was arguing against "Most technologists don't seem to believe that design applies to programming languages at all."

I was speculating that this belief is from folks that think design is just chrome.

Ah that explains things perfectly, sorry I misinterpreted you.
No worries. I should write more clearly and take this as help along the way!
Aug 22, 2017 · onli on The Holmes 1-Touch Heater
If you like that article, you might also like Donald Normans The Design of Everyday Things, It has a lot more examples for these kind of bad designs, and it also explains why these designs are bad and what makes a good design. I can't recommend it enough, everyone that ever might design a product or a GUI should have read it.
Jun 13, 2016 · gr33nman on Wittgenstein's Handles
Those interested in the philosophy of door handles will enjoy Don Norman's classic:

The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition

Don Norman would claim it is the designer who is at fault:

Interesting discussion in itself.

I read three books at a time, and only pick up/start/buy a new one once I finish one. Helps acquiring a large back log of unread literature around the apartment. :)

  * Labyrinths - Jorge Louis Borges [0]
I believe HN was the reason I picked this up, if I remember correctly. It's a collection of short stories, each of which can be finished in a night, which is satisfying. I really dig his writing style and fantastical nature of the stories. I've done a bit of philosophical reading but a lot of the references he makes go over my head, leaving me to do a bit of research after each story.

  * The Design of Everyday Things - Don Norman [1]
Picked this up after finishing Debbie Millman's How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer [2] (Misleading title, I would 100% recommend this book to anyone). I'm not sure what I expected, but so far this hasn't been satisfying. The first couple of chapters have been laying out a framework and defining terms. Considering swapping this out for Jon Kolko's Well Designed - How to Use Empathy To Create Products People Love [3], which seemed much more actionable after picking it up at Barnes and Noble.

  * Real World OCaml - Yaron Minsky, Anil Madhavapeddy, Jason Hickey [4]
Second time picking this up, originally read up to chapter on Functors over the summer. I started over this time and I'm about finished with the first section, "Language Concepts", now. It's worth noting that the entire text is available online for free on the book's website. [5] I did some Scheme in high school and read through the fist half of SICP and dabble in functional js, but this is my first experience with a semi pure functional language and I'm loving it. I'm going through the functional challenges on Hackerrank in OCaml at the same time to solidify some of the language concepts. Decided to go with OCaml over Haskell or Clojure because I'm super interested in using/contributing to Mirage OS [6]








edit: formatting

Right, many software devs have read The Design of Everyday Things [0] and understand the value of usability. But they didn't read Don Norman's follow up book Emotional Design [1] which explains that usability is only 50% of the answer - emotion is the other 50%. And emotion often means pretty, or at the minimum a positive UX.



I wouldn't be surprised to find that emotion is actually higher than 50%. Though, I like to gripe about how overblown the study of doors is in that work.
I feel I should mention 'The Bible' of usability: The Design of Everyday Things [1], which is highly recommended.


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