System Design & Management

Design guru Don Norman slams Apple's ease-of-use 'disservice'

“Apple has done the world a great disservice by emphasising the appearance and actually making their products more difficult to use. Apple has completely forgotten that an important part of design is being able to understand and use your stuff,” Don Norman, professor and director of the Design Lab at University of California, San Diego vehemently tells me over our Google Hangouts session.

Norman’s statement comes as a bit of a surprise as it’s not a view you often hear about Apple since, after all, Apple prides itself on mixing beauty with function. But then again, if anyone knows what they are talking about it’s Norman. In his TED talk, with a touch of humour, he explains how well-designed products need to hit certain emotional cues. He was also VP at Apple in the 1990s, founded the hugely influential Nielsen Norman Group user experience consulting firm, and has written a ton of stuff about design, including a book called The Design of Everyday Things.

Did he hold this opinion when he worked for Apple too?

“No,” Norman quickly responds. “We had a really good team at Apple. [At Apple] you didn’t need to read the manual; you could understand what to do. It has gone downhill in the last five years. The invention of the gesture phone and this crazy notion of minimisation and eliminating anything that might help the person has caused this deterioration.”

For Norman, Apple lost direction when it forgot design’s three most essential principles: discoverability, feedback and correction. He explains this as discovering what users can do, understanding what has happened and getting back to where the user previously was.

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Ayesha Salim

Ayesha Salim is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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