UNPICKING DESIGN –
WHAT PARTS OF THEIR DESIGN HELP US TO USE THEM?
In everyday things there are features and devices that ensure the ease of user experience with the product. Donald Norman in this 1988 work The Design of Everyday Things expressed 6 ideas that define how an experience is designed with the needs of the user in mind. They are: affordances, mapping, conceptual model, constraints, feedback and signifiers.
The conceptual model of a thing describes the idea that is formed in the minds of the users without reading or being told the actual use and functions of the product. For ease of understanding we formulate an idea that is simple and enough that we can use the item in a basic manner. The conceptual model is formed from information we gather from the item, this includes the feedback we receive from it, what is visible on the device and how the assistances for use are mapped on the design. We come accustomed to what we have on offer and in most cases ordinary people will rarely blame the design of a failure in use. Norman (1988, p.11) states this conceptual model and knowledge of the item makes way for personal blame, ‘Touch a computer terminal just when it fails, and you are apt to believe that you caused the failure…’ Our lack of knowledge in the true workings of the item will mean that we blame ourselves for failure and this can result in a damaged experience with a product.
The decision to blame ourselves is as a result of a lack of design. There is not enough information to form an accurate understanding of how the thing works. “It is a poor design that allows either kind of false causality to occur” (p.11)
By forming understandings with designs and using the supplied knowledge within the item, whether that be material, colour, text etc…, we can endeavour to use objects and systems in the way that was desired by the designer.