Why you are not to blame when technology fails…


Donald A. Norman makes an interesting point in his book The Design of Everyday Things – that people tend to blame themselves when technology lets them down.

How often do hear people taking the blame when the printer decides to quit? Or feeling guilty because they made the computer crash? Norman suggests we should not blame ourselves – we should blame the designer.

If something goes wrong because we haven’t used it properly, the designer clearly hasn’t designed it very well. A well designed object should be intuitive to use, removing the possibility of mistakes. I think good web design follows the same principles: it shouldn’t let you make mistakes.

The picture above is only slightly relevant to this post – but it’s what made me think of Norman’s work. It shows a door that has been well-worn by thousands of hands pushing it open. The fact that the door has a push-plate made me think of The Design of Everyday Things. This doesn’t represent bad design – it’s just interesting that everyone chooses to push the door not by the push-plate.

So the next time you struggle to open a can of beans, or your computer decides to act up, blame the designer for letting you get it wrong.


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