Readings | Design Thinking | Week 2

Tuesday, February 12th 2019, 2:01:27 am

As someone who spent the last few years as a software engineer at various product companies, there was a ton of relevance in Chapter 6 of The Design Everyday Things by Donald Norman, titled “Design Thinking”. Below are the highlights.

Solve The Right Problem

The way he drew attention to “solving the correct problem” reminded my to think critically about the work of product design and not just take things at face value. This frames the challenge of what he calls “human-centered design” quite well by reminding the reader not to take business “problems” at face value and look at the bigger picture and focusing on the human element.

The Right Number

In the section in which he discusses the advantages and disadvantages of A/B testing, he very aptly identifies some of the limitations of and benefits of the method. However, his key insight is that the “batch” sizes of test groups is perhaps the most important element. In his words about 5 being the “right” number:

… five people studied individuall. Then, study the results, refine them, and do another iteration, testing five different people.

There are benefits of this method, when scaled to larger groups but preserving the batch size of 5. He wisely later points out that:

do one test of five, use the results to improve the system, and then keep iterating the test-design cycle until you have tested the desired number of people. This gives multiple iterations of improvement, rather than just one.

Fail frequently, fail fast

In regards to the importance of iteration, he also wisely points out that rapid prototyping and testing should be the primary goal. Though quoting the now perhaps cliché “Fail frequently, fail fast” mantra, he then adds a great point, or almost a proof of the mantra:

If everything works perfectly, little is learned. Learning occurs when there are difficulties.

This takes the old mantra, but really emphasizes why it works.

Fundamental Levels Of Goals

Another key point is his identification of why he believes Apple succeeds at what it does: goal levels. While referencing Charles Carver, he identifies three fundamental levels that control activities:

  1. Be-goals
  2. do-goals
  3. motor-goals

Without re-iterating the details of their respective definitions, he mentions how Appl’s success with the iPod is a testament to its supporting “the entire activity involved in listening to music: discovering it, purchasing it, getting it inthe music player, developing playlists (that could be shared), and listening to the music”. This in turn supports all three levels of goals for the user and thereby succeeds as a result.

Omar Delarosa avatar

Written by Omar Delarosa who lives in Brooklyn and builds things using computers.

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