Design of everyday things

by Wojciech Adam Koszek   ⋅   Jun 28, 2012   ⋅   East Palo Alto, CA

Classing in the UX/UI world. Also must-read for human-facing software engineers. If you built products, tools or any kind of automation solutions, you'd benefit from this book, as it presents an easy-to-understand take on what usability really is.

Boy ooohhh boy! Do I get frustrated by design of some objects of my daily use! No longer do I feel like a source of problem when encountering a difficulty with usage of things supposedly being trivial to use. No more!

I complained publicly about various things, including Opera browser and my bank’s Internet portal, however I’ve always felt bad about it (“Hm.. They have dozens of people working on that with thousands of data points gathered by statistical analysis – since nobody else complains, I must be the stupid one”).

But no more.

Donald Norman wrote a book which he always wanted to write, and also a book which I personally always wanted to read. Norman provides an insight on human behavior and the relation between how human beings work and how things surrounding us are designed.

Not being alone with frustration with usability of daily stuff feels better. So let me try to criticize some more.

Tea jars

Ever tried to pour a tea from a full jar, and instead of seeing tea pouring through spout, you started souring tea through the cover, straight on your fingers?

(Photo is missing, since due to the Murphy’s rule, I don’t have a necessary shot while writing a blog post about it)

Water filter

Basically the same as a tea jar. Water filter full of water doesn’t prevent you pouring unfiltered water over filter’s cover.


iPod is … eh. I think it would require writing a separate blog post. Mental model for iPod is pretty bad, if you’re a PC kid like me. Syncing? “What do I sync to – I have my MP3s on a disk and I want to copy them to iPod – that’s all”. I literally didn’t know how to use iTunes first time I started it. Funny thing is that nothing happens in iTunes when you connected your iPod for the 1st time. Not to mention, that as a ^nix system user iPod gen-6 is very unfriendly (read: unusable) And folders? Forget folders. iTunes knows better than you do how to group your songs. So if you happen to have MP3s without ID tags – good luck Robinson.

Ubuntu windows

Have you ever tried to drag&drop a file in Ubuntu? Haven’t you experienced difficulty in that? Especially if the directory is full of files, and the bottom of the window doesn’t have any “white space”. There no place to drag to, and it’s painful if you have subdirectories, since dragging files to such a top level directory will likely cause files to be copied to a subdirectory. Flip switch

It would be also interesting to write a bit about design and aesthetics connection, but since I’m not writing a book here, I’ll just say there’s some amazement in between Europeans visiting the US, since American stuff is very usable and practical, but not always “cute” enough.

My German friend pointed it out nicely: “If you go to the store in Europe to buy a power switch, you’ll have dozens of dozens of power switches, each of different sizes, shapes, colors, covers etc..”. In the US, you might have the same, but we know everybody chooses flip-switch.


Thing that frustrated me the most is that “Psychology of everyday things” and “Design of everyday things” are the same books, but renamed. Nice marketing catch! I actually got them together, without paying too much attention on reading referrals. If I had read Amazon comments, I could have save some \($ (since I acquire used book,\)$ fortunately is in the range of $0.99 – $5).

As I was writing this post, my company got some new babies: Sharp MFP printers. It was pretty interesting experience, so I wrote a separate post about it.

Almost usable

Anyway - the story with MFP is so much better than my previous experiences. Think of an intern in the computer lab with multiple floors, with all printers in networked environment present in your “Print…” dialog window, choosing “Print” with badly marked destination printer. Of course that’s not the end, since Murphy’s laws would prohibit it. So add to it: selected printer is present in a closed room, owned by one of the lab’s staff. And the person is on vacation of course, and will come back after you leave. And the printout has lots of numbers on it.

I hate printers with a great passion.

“The Toyota Way”

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About the author: I'm Wojciech Adam Koszek. I like software, business and design. Poland native. In Bay Area since 2010.   More about me