Once you start looking…

I recently got an email from a reader asking if I notice non-software related design mistakes…. Of course I do!  I strongly believe that once you start thinking about the world from a user centered view you see it in your everyday life.   I drive my wife crazy with suggestions about how the can-opener, highway system, restaurant entry ways, and the diaper genie could all be better. 


A couple of interesting resources I have found for this:

The Design of Everyday Things

This Is Broken

A Timeless Way of Building


I am sure there are 100s of others, what are your favorites?

Comments (9)

  1. Sherrod Segraves says:

    The problem with incompetence is that you usually aren’t aware of it. This is the biggest challenge to HCI (Human-Computer Interaction).

    Every programmer I’ve met firmly believes that he or she can design a good interface, but most just aren’t very good at it. I hope I’m an exception to this rule.

    One of the great things about Microsoft is that they take usability into account. Now with C# and the .Net libraries, Microsoft has even applied usability concepts to programming. Good work.

    Anyway, design is an often overlooked part of usability. A good example is the usability guru Jakob Nielsen’s website. Its poor design makes it one of the most unusable websites you’ll ever run across.

    The Non-Designer’s Design Book is a great introduction to page layout and design. It’s a great read – very clear and succinct. Much of what Ms. Robin Williams covers in that book can also apply to dialog boxes and other elements of an application.


    (A small point for you Brad: don’t put two spaces after punctuation. (Yes, that’s unrelated to usability. (And yes, I’m overusing parentheses.)))

  2. stan says:

    here’s a site I syndicate to. Basically, a website that documents broken things, designs, etc..


  3. Ha! I drove my wife crazy after I read The Design Of Every Day Things because I pointed out all the design flaws. Especially after scalding myself at an unfamiliar sink because it didn’t have an affordance for how it should work.

    As for two spaces after a period, I think the jury is out on that one. I’d like to see some data on that. My personal usability testing says its helpful because it helps the eye distinguish one sentence from another quickly.

  4. WadeW says:

    For an example of the ultimate in an un-usable UI, <a href="http://thedailywtf.com/archive/2004/06/02/188.aspx">check this out</a>. Whenever I need a good laugh about bad design at someone elses expense, I stop in at <a href="http://www.thedailywtf.com">The Daily WTF</a>.

  5. WadeW says:

    Sorry about the bad HTML in my last comment, wasn’t thinking clearly this morning.

    Example URL: http://thedailywtf.com/archive/2004/06/02/188.aspx

    Hosting Blog URL: http://www.thedailywtf.com

  6. sbjorg says:

    It is usually easy to point out shortcomings of a solution. However, the fixes make them frequently worse. Furthermore, the complainer rarely has to live with his/her failed fix since they actually never implement it. Thus perpetuating the myth that they are a better designer.

    Just a thought.

  7. Ken Brubaker says:

    I’ve been reading "The Evolution of everyday things"


    Premise is that Form follows Irritation

  8. There is an excellent book that I read for a technical writing course about design. Definitely a funny read with some interesting insights.


    The Inmates are Running the Asylum