Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Learning Log #4: Water for my battery?

I stumbled upon this website as I was looking for new cell phones since I'm going to be needing a new one when I go overseas to study abroad.


It is a cell phone that is battery powered by water. I found this extremely interesting. I keep finding more products becoming environmentally friendly. I also did not know how a cell phone could be powered by water. It says that when you turn the phone on, the reaction between water and metal, creates hydrogen gas. It is then channeled through a fuel cell and reacts with oxygen in the air and then generates power. This battery lasts up to 10 hours and you would have to change the cartridge of water about every five days it says.

I thought this was a very interesting concept. I'm not so sure I'm sold on the idea though. I find it a little odd because I have always had a cell phone that can go near water or else it could break or be malfunctioned. I also know that electricity and water aren't very safe together, so why would they want to make it a battery? I understand the fact that they want to make the cell phone device environmentally friendly. I don't think people will like the fact that you have to change the cartridge of water every five days. I know it's only water, but what if you forget? When it's already so easy for people to just plug in their phone. I guess it would be easier if you were near a faucet. I think this would be hard for people to understand too, because we are so used to plugging in our phone and have electricity power it, not water.

Learning Log #4: Chapters 5,6 , and 7

Norman makes it clear in “The Err is Human” that our brains were functioned to make mistakes and not only a few, but many. Artificial devices, however, are not supposed to make mistakes and if they do, people get angry. There were many types of slips that Norman described. I catch myself doing slips everyday and very frequently. Types of error I frequently can relate to are Loss of Activation errors. I find myself going into other rooms and completely forgetting why I went in there. If that wasn’t bad enough, I’ve gone all the way to the store and completely forgotten why I went there for. I have learned to right everything down now. Sometimes I’m not able to remember though.

In chapter 6, Norman explains that a great design is an evolving process. There is a never-ending cycle of testing a design and then modifying it, every time making the design a little bit better. In the book, Norman gives the example of the typewriter. Another example of a design that does this process is the light bulb. The light bulb was invented over 100 years ago and before that was tested out by many people before Thomas Edison came up with a solution. Yet, even today, the light bulb is still evolving. There are energy efficient light bulbs, which are completely different to incandescent light bulbs. The incandescent light bulb does not last nearly as long as the energy efficient, compact fluorescent light bulbs. This invention is still evolving after over 100 years by people learning how to make a design better.

I have learned a lot reading Norman’s book of, “The Design of Everyday Things”. I have taken a look at interface and design at a closer more detailed way and find myself thinking about how to improve things. I believe this book would help many designers in designing more efficiently. The four ideas that I found most important were make it easy to determine what actions are possible, make things visible on the conceptual model, feedback and follow natural mappings.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Learning Log #3: Are those instructional books really for dummies?

In the article, “Don’t be so quick to embrace your own ignorance”, explains that those instructional book that are, “for dummies” are in a sense, dumb themselves. How can something be, “for dummies” when they do not even know how to do something? People need to learn to know how to do something. This relates back to the reading of Norman’s, “The Design of Everyday Things” because he states that it takes human experience and interaction to know to do something. This also relates to the chapter about helplessness. People end up blaming themselves about not knowing how to do something and these books deliberately insult them for wanting to even learn how to do it. I agree very much with this article because why should someone be questioned of their intelligence by purchasing a book that helps try to master what they want to learn? He states, “If there’s something you don’t currently know how to do, please decide not to be a dummy or an idiot. You’re as smart as you always were, you’re just looking to learn something new”. I really like this statement because people become embarrassed in trying to learn something. I know I wouldn’t want to buy one of those “for dummies” books because I would be too embarrassed to buy it. I wouldn’t want someone thinking I was dumb. I know that I am not, but the books themselves act as if you are.

Learning Log #3: Knowledge and knowing what to do

Norman describes the importance of the behaviors of knowledge and the constraints people have with knowledge they know. It makes me think of these behaviors of information in the world, great precision is not required, natural constraints are present, and cultural constraints are presents; at a closer view. I understand information in the world as habitual things humans do everyday because we no longer need to think about how to do something, but end up just doing it. The example of typing on a keyboard is a great one because at first you have to learn it, but it becomes so habitual, you don’t need to think about it. Once a person knows how to do that task, great precision is not required anymore. It becomes a non-thinking task and people just do it rather than think about it. The constraints of the keyboard are where you put your fingers. When you are first taught how to type your left hand has you put your fingers on letter, A, S, D, and F and your right hand on J, K, L and ; sign. This is a constraint because your fingers only press letters that are near to your hand’s starting point. The cultural constraints are the different keyboards used throughout the world. The keyboard is setup differently in different parts of the world. Constraints are necessary in all interface designs for people to figure out how to use them. The lego toy was a great example because the pieces had constraints of how to put it today such as, pieces not fitting together right. This should apply to more appliances. I remember trying to setup my desk. The desk came all apart in about 10 pieces. The pieces didn’t really fit together and there were about 3 different kinds of screws. It made it impossible to even begin how to put it together.

I found the light switch idea to make a room layout switch device to know exactly what lights to turn on was very clever. 3 or more switches gets me confused if they look all similar and are in a row, you don’t know which light goes to the actual light to turn it on. I mean I don’t think I would have to go as far as doing the exact room layout to figure out the light switches, but maybe if they were colored coated or numbered, it would be better than them looking all the same.

Knowledge and knowing things is definitely a key point in knowing how to do something, but the constraints to eliminate other possibilities in doing something is important too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Learning Log #2: Experiences with the Seven Stages

I was intrigued of the idea of acting out the seven stage of action since reading about them. Norman says that many tasks become, “opportunistic rather than planned (Norman, pg 48)”. They can be planned though. Let’s take for instance my day yesterday:

I was in Electronic Media II class and we need to finish project 1.

The First Step is to form a goal: My goal was exactly what is stated that needed to be done.

The Second Step is forming the intention: I needed to get on the computer to complete this task.

The Third Step is specifying an action: I needed to read instructions and follow them to complete the goal on the computer.

The Fourth Step is executing the action: I followed the directions to complete the project in step-by-step form and finished the project

The Fifth Step is perceiving the state of the world: This is when I realized I finished the completed task.

The Sixth Step is interpreting the state of the world: I came to the conclusion that I can move onto project 2.

The Seventh Step is evaluation the outcome: I completed the goal that I started with.

This was an example of a planned situation.

This is an example of an unplanned situation:

Forming a goal: Go to the Phillies baseball game or not to go?

Forming the intention: I think about all the homework I have to do to be able to go to the game. I have a lot, but realize that I don’t get too many opportunities to go to games for free.

Specifying an action: I could stay home and do homework or enjoy a night out at the baseball game.

Executing the action: I decide to go to the game.

Perceiving the state of the world: I realize this probably could be a problem in finishing my homework, but I’m going to go anyway because I don’t get too many chances like this and I need a break from school anyway.

Interpreting the state of the world: I am going to go to the game and I am going to have fun

Evaluation of the game: I decide to go and I did have fun. I also got free food, so I received more than I thought. It was a great night and I ended up finishing most of my work that night.

The seven stages pertain to almost anything. These two examples follow the stages in a similar way, but are completely different. It made me break down the choices in doing things and look at completely tasks a more particular and specified way that just doing something.

Learning Log #2: Helplessness

The idea of Helplessness makes me put myself in the consumer’s position rather than just the position of the designer. Norman points out how human intentions are to blame themselves if they are not able to perform a task on an object. It is interesting how Norman looks into this and realizes a connection between human misconception and design of everyday things.

I thought the whole idea of Aristotle’s theory of “Na├»ve Physics” (Norman, pg 36) is especially a notable theory to appreciate. Aristotle brought a common-sense way to thinking about physics than the traditional way of Newton’s laws. Aristotle said in order to create motion, something needs to constantly be moving it and in Newton’s law it says that there’s motion unless someone stops it. It makes more sense than Newton’s law.

The explanation of learned helplessness and taught helplessness was very intriguing. Learned helplessness is paralleled with depression, which I thought was interesting because depression in a sense is difficult to understand. When Norman brings these two terms together, he makes a viable argument because learned helplessness is not knowing how to do something numerous times, thus making the person helpless (Norman, pg 42). Taught helplessness is when you fail at something and feel embarrassed or inferior to that specific task. Norman gives the examples of learning mathematics. This happens to people everyday without even noticing from pushing a door the wrong way to putting an oil cap on, on an airplane.

The seven stages of action made me interested in the step-by-step process of how humans carry out their actions. There is, “one for goals, three for execution, and three for evaluation (Norman, pg 48)”. These steps apply to all situations. Ones that last for 10 seconds or ones that last for over a year, need to go through this process.

I liked reading this section because Norman in a sense puts blame on the designer and makes the reader realize that not being able to do something isn’t always their fault, but the design of an interface is to blame. He always lays out details of his findings through studying people.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Part 2 of Learning Log #1

I paid particular attention to the everyday things I use throughout the day. It became clear to me that there are many object that have all these crazy buttons on them and I use only a few of them and the rest become just like the "R" button on British telephone that no one actually knows what it's used for (DOET, pg 21). This is talking about the importance of making things visible. It says the more buttons on an object with less functions, makes it harder for the user to understand.


There are multiple functions on my printer. It is a fax machine, a printer, a copier, and a scanner. I think I have used only the copier and the printer. I have no idea how to use the fax machine. I have to scroll through the screen with the up and down arrows to change from printer, copier, scanner, and fax machine. I believe it would be easier if there were separate buttons for those. Even though it would create more buttons, the buttons would be easier to let the user know exactly what their function is. "The possible functions are visible, for each corresponds with a control (DOET, pg 22)". Norman says these become reminders to users so they exactly what the function is.


It made me laugh when I read about when Norman assigned a homework assignment for the class to design a new product with everything from an AM-FM radio to a desk or bed lamp (DOET, pg 31). This is my AM-FM radio, CD player, MP3 player, alarm clock, clock, and light stereo system. It does not have a telephone, TV, or coffee maker, but it reminds me a lot of his assignment and I have something already designed like it kind of, if you take out some unmanageable variables. This stereo system is still a bit confusing as an interface, because there are so many functions going on, but it's pretty well designed. I don't use all of the functions though and I think it would be overwhelming to know how to use them all. It's odd the designer chose to pair up a CD player and an MP3 player, since technology is moving towards more MP3s. I guess technology is evolving so fast that he included both. "It is true that as the number of options and capabilities of any device increases, so too must the number and complexity of the controls (DOET, pg 31)". An interface that begins to take on so many functions becomes more and more difficult to design well and efficiently for the user to comprehend.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Learning Log #1

I thought that interface was much more complicated. Donald A. Norman really got me thinking about everyday things and every object I use throughout the day. From something as simple as a door to a complicated computer, it is still an interface. I found it fascinating because it made me realize how much trial and error there was into designing objects we normally never think about because they become convenient and subconscious to people. Someone had to design so that a high percentage of people could understand and comprehend. I have noticed since reading, I have paid particular attention of how much I understand and use the interface.

I questioned the statement when, Norman says, "when people have trouble with something, it isn't their fault-it's the fault of the design (DOET, x, preface to the 2002 edition)". I initially didn't believe it because I've felt as though it has been my fault of not knowing how to do something. I feel that people get distracted by the design rather than the usability, or the affordances, as Norman says. Although, sitting in a designer's position, I see that it is their job to make a design so easy for people that they don't need to think about it.

"Gibson claims that the existence of affordances is independent of an actor's experience and culture. Norman, on the other hand, tightly couples affordances with past knowledge and experience (Affordances: Clarifying and Evolving a Concept, 3)". I understand and agree with Norman's definition of affordance more. I feel as though the user needs to experience the object or interface to consider it an affordance. Gibson's definition states that affordances are independent, but I think it makes more sense for affordances to relate to the user. The user uses their own knowledge for the object, if their was not a user, the object would just be an object by itself.