The Psychopathology of Everyday Things:
In addition to the everyday examples we all seem to know so well – doors, light switches, watches, sinks, refrigerators, etc. – what really made me realize the importance of HCD/UI/UX/interaction design was the section about the Three Mile Island accident. There, it was poor design of the user interface that was directly to blame for a near-nuclear disaster! That puts poor UI design on par with poor engineering (Chernobyl) and natural disasters (Fukushima) when it comes to security, at least when it comes to nuclear power plants! Before that remark was made, I was keen to dismiss the author’s comments on poor design as inconsequential gripes (yes, I would think, being confused by a door is annoying, but do we really need to care so much? – turns out we should care!).
Furthermore, I appreciated the section about signifiers for app design, as it provided illuminating points about the need for explanatory labels in software, which software engineers are too likely to ignore – a sin that I am guilty of, as well. It was great that the author did not stop at saying what is wrong in a design, but also providing a clear illustration of how to resolve the problem. Good design, turns out, is all about good communication! “Profound ideas are always obvious once they are understood.”
Emotion and Design:
I was surprised to see affect mentioned in relation to design; I have only heard it in connection our response to art/film. It does make sense to consider how things we use make us feel, too – although I am not sure the author actually believes what he is saying when he says that usability, beauty, and function of a things are all equally important.
After all, he says that “although poor design is never excusable,” still “attractive things work better.” Attractive things put us into a relaxed state (positive affect), which allows us to consider usability problems with an open mind. How exactly is this not saying that beauty is more important than function?
Additionally, although the implications of positive-affect things seem clear enough (making us relaxed, open-minded, creative), I am not so sure about the implications of negative-affect things. They are supposed to put us into a deep-thinking mode and aid our concentration – is the author saying that concentration-aiding objects have to put the user in a negative affect? Make them anxious/uncomfortable to pique their attention? That seems wrong…
Instead, the author shifts the causality for negative-affect things – for things that people use when anxious, the designers must focus on function before all. But if that is the case, it ceases to be true that “attractive things work better,” proving that the catchphrase of the paper was merely that – a catchphrase! The author exposes the falsity of his own assertion by admitting that it is not an universal rule!