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User friendly: how the hidden rules of design are changing the way we live, work, and play
Genesereth M., Fabricant R., MCD, New York, NY, 2019. 416 pp. Type: Book (978-0-374279-75-2)
Date Reviewed: Sep 3 2021

Books that focus on a narrow topic but extend to powerful depths of detail are rare. User-friendliness is such a topic that has deeper connotations. Hence, this book is an effort to dive deep into two viewpoints of user-friendliness: “easy to use” and “easy to want.” The overall narration is like a story, bringing in facts, anti-patterns, and real examples from history to the modern era.

The authors are experts in user experience design and computing. It took them six years to write and publish this book. The book has ten chapters--five chapters each on “Easy to Use” (Part 1) and “Easy to Want” (Part 2).

The reading journey starts with chapter 1, “Confusion,” stressing that newness should not be baffling to users, from specialists to everyone else. A key takeaway is that designers should have a mindset that includes psychology, art, and culture. The second chapter, “Industry,” analyzes user-friendliness from a product design and human-centered design standpoint. One cool example is around the birth of Ripple, the user-friendly version of 911.

“Error,” the third chapter, explores the history of industrial design and analyzes user-friendliness from a behavioral economics standpoint. It highlights the intellectual shift of the 20th century to see humans as they are instead of as they are supposed to be. To trust a machine, humans should feel trustworthy in the knowledge that it can sense what they want. It may apply to a driverless car or a digital assistant. The fourth chapter explains that humans are friendly and polite to machines that they know.

Chapter 5 is “Metaphor.” Metaphors play a vital role in a user-friendly world by inspiring designers to embrace newer ideas and build mental models to comprehend how things work. Apple’s graphical user interface (GUI), inspired from the physical world, is an example of a metaphor.

Part 2’s five chapters are “Empathy,” “Humanity,” “Personalization,” “Peril,” and “Promise.” An appendix follows to present a list of historical user-friendly ideas and inventions from 1716 to 2016.

The authors share their wisdom, advice, and experience throughout the book, along with historical and modern examples. They primarily examine humans and machines, that is, their interactions, from a design lens. Undoubtedly, this will be a fascinating read for both new and experienced designers. Readers will learn how user experience design has evolved to shape the digital era. Happy reading!

More reviews about this item: Amazon

Reviewer:  Ponmurugarajan Thiyagarajan Review #: CR147347
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