His solution? "Design the tool to fit so well that the tool becomes a part of the task." He proposes using the PC as the infrastructure for devices hidden in walls, in car dashboards, and held in the palm of the hand. A word of caution: some of Norman's zealotry leads to a certain creepiness (global positioning body implants) and goofiness (electric-power-generating plants in shoes). His message, though, is reasonably situated in the concept that the tools should bend to fit us and our goals: we sit down to write, not to word process; to balance bank accounts, not to fill in cells on a spreadsheet. In evenly measuring out the future of humanity's technological needs--and the limitations of the PC's current incarnation--Norman presents a formidable argument for a renaissance of the information appliance. --Jennifer Buckendorff --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From the Author
As I wrote "The Invisible Computer," I was struck bya paradox. On the one hand, there is very substantial agreement that ease of use and understandability are important. Similarly, good industrial design; simple, short documentation, and convenient, pleasing products are superior. I wondered why, if ease of use and understandability seems so important, much of the computer technology today violates all these things - yet the companies prosper. In fact, Apple Computer, the one company that tried hardest to make products that were easy to use, understandable and with sophisticated aesthetics driving both graphical design on the screen and industrial design of the products, has failed to win market share.
So why is it that good products can fail and inferior products can succeed? This became the theme for the book.
The story is complex: it takes a book to explain. But there are three themes.
One: A successful product must be balanced: marketing, technology, and user experience all play critical roles, but one cannot dominate the others.
Two: There is a big difference between infrastructure products, which I call non-substitutable goods, and traditional products, substitutable goods. With traditional goods, a company can survive with a stable, but non-dominant market share. Coke and Pepsi both survive. Cereals and soaps have multiple brands. With infrastructure goods, there can be just one. MS-DOS won over the Macintosh OS, and that was that. MS-DOS transitioned to Windows, and the dominance continued. VHS tape triumphed over Beta. Most infrastructures are dictated by the government, which assures agreement to a single standard. When there is no standard, as in AM stereo or digital cellular options in the US, there is chaos.
Three: Different factors are important at different stages in the development of a technology. In the early days, technology dominates. Who cares if it is easy to use? All that matters is better, faster, cheaper, more powerful technology. In the middle stages, marketing dominates. And in the end, the mature stages, the technology is a commodity. User experience can dominate, user experience and marketing. As in soap and cereal. As in watches. Swatch sells its watches for their emotional appeal, not their accuracy: accuracy is taken for granted.
The computer industry is now mature. The customers want convenience and value for their money. They want ease of use, emotional appeal. But the computer companies are all teenagers, resisting the pressures to grow up. Too bad. The customer is not well served.