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User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play

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In User Friendly, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant reveal the untold story of a paradigm that quietly rules our modern lives: the assumption that machines should anticipate what we need. Spanning over a century of sweeping changes, from women's rights to the Great Depression to World War II to the rise of the digital era, this book unpacks the ways in which the world has In User Friendly, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant reveal the untold story of a paradigm that quietly rules our modern lives: the assumption that machines should anticipate what we need. Spanning over a century of sweeping changes, from women's rights to the Great Depression to World War II to the rise of the digital era, this book unpacks the ways in which the world has been--and continues to be--remade according to the principles of the once-obscure discipline of user-experience design. In this essential text, Kuang and Fabricant map the hidden rules of the designed world and shed light on how those rules have caused our world to change--an underappreciated but essential history that's pieced together for the first time. Combining the expertise and insight of a leading journalist and a pioneering designer, User Friendly provides a definitive, thoughtful, and practical perspective on a topic that has rapidly gone from arcane to urgent to inescapable. In User Friendly, Kuang and Fabricant tell the whole story for the first time--and you'll never interact with technology the same way again.


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In User Friendly, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant reveal the untold story of a paradigm that quietly rules our modern lives: the assumption that machines should anticipate what we need. Spanning over a century of sweeping changes, from women's rights to the Great Depression to World War II to the rise of the digital era, this book unpacks the ways in which the world has In User Friendly, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant reveal the untold story of a paradigm that quietly rules our modern lives: the assumption that machines should anticipate what we need. Spanning over a century of sweeping changes, from women's rights to the Great Depression to World War II to the rise of the digital era, this book unpacks the ways in which the world has been--and continues to be--remade according to the principles of the once-obscure discipline of user-experience design. In this essential text, Kuang and Fabricant map the hidden rules of the designed world and shed light on how those rules have caused our world to change--an underappreciated but essential history that's pieced together for the first time. Combining the expertise and insight of a leading journalist and a pioneering designer, User Friendly provides a definitive, thoughtful, and practical perspective on a topic that has rapidly gone from arcane to urgent to inescapable. In User Friendly, Kuang and Fabricant tell the whole story for the first time--and you'll never interact with technology the same way again.

30 review for User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play

  1. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    NY Times review: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/19/bo... First-rate review. Excerpt: “Once a niche profession more commonly associated with chairs,” product design “is now talked of as a solution to the world’s ills,” Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant declare in “User Friendly,” their new book on what’s known as user-experience design. . . . “User Friendly” is a tour de force, an engrossing fusion of scholarly research, professional experience and revelations from intrepid firsthand reporting."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Todd

    Designs of physical products, online interactions, and real-world experiences is a lot more interesting and backed by an intriguing history than you may think. Most of us understand that things like Apple products have a lot of design built into them, but have we ever thought about the levels and varieties of design thinking that go into Disney theme parks, the radar system of a WWII-era battleship, the handle of a vegetable peeler, and the control room of a nuclear reactor? These are just a few Designs of physical products, online interactions, and real-world experiences is a lot more interesting and backed by an intriguing history than you may think. Most of us understand that things like Apple products have a lot of design built into them, but have we ever thought about the levels and varieties of design thinking that go into Disney theme parks, the radar system of a WWII-era battleship, the handle of a vegetable peeler, and the control room of a nuclear reactor? These are just a few of the examples that Kuang explores in this surprisingly captivating history behind the ideas of "user friendly" design. Kuang is at his best when detailing the implications of the unintuitive designs of physical large systems like nuclear power plants and the implications of frictionless interactions such as "1-Click" and "Like" buttons that now pervade our online lives. Perhaps the most surprisingly satisfying read of 2019 for me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mike Rapp

    I have been a user experience designer for years and this book made so many things click into place. If you have any role in product design, this should be required reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Josh Leong

    User friendly is well written, incredibly engaging, and should be required reading for individuals who seek to or currently practice user experience design. Because product design is ultimately a trade based discipline that in some sense accepts many other disciplines to it, one of its biggest missing pieces is a strong connection to the stories that built it, and a common narrative to bring it together. As the field of User Experience is still evolving rapidly, it makes the hidden stories of User friendly is well written, incredibly engaging, and should be required reading for individuals who seek to or currently practice user experience design. Because product design is ultimately a trade based discipline that in some sense accepts many other disciplines to it, one of its biggest missing pieces is a strong connection to the stories that built it, and a common narrative to bring it together. As the field of User Experience is still evolving rapidly, it makes the hidden stories of where we come from all the more important.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    User Friendly is a super compelling look at the history and foundations of UX. I like how the story threads together many parts of that history-- as far back as WWII. I think we so often think of technology as this fast-paced thing that we can't ever hold on to or understand. User friendliness is something that will always be related to technology and so getting a moment to step back and learn its origins is really insightful. I like that for the most part that history is told with a human lens, User Friendly is a super compelling look at the history and foundations of UX. I like how the story threads together many parts of that history-- as far back as WWII. I think we so often think of technology as this fast-paced thing that we can't ever hold on to or understand. User friendliness is something that will always be related to technology and so getting a moment to step back and learn its origins is really insightful. I like that for the most part that history is told with a human lens, looking at the designers behind the movement. All in all, a well-written and insightful read worth your time!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I have this five stars based on the number of Post Its I used and anecdotes I related to my husband. Great stories about why Three Mile Island melted, planes crash and Walt Disney. We take good design based on psychology for granted. After reading this book you will be more aware of how design affects you every day. The chapter on self-driving cars is weak and dated. Maybe for the paperback version he can cut this chapter and replace it with one on the USS John McCain, which crashed due to poor I have this five stars based on the number of Post Its I used and anecdotes I related to my husband. Great stories about why Three Mile Island melted, planes crash and Walt Disney. We take good design based on psychology for granted. After reading this book you will be more aware of how design affects you every day. The chapter on self-driving cars is weak and dated. Maybe for the paperback version he can cut this chapter and replace it with one on the USS John McCain, which crashed due to poor design.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrey Goder

    This book covers several disparate topics, which unfortunately were not combined in the most cohesive way. Part of it is a history of UX/design, which is interesting, but is not presented linearly which can make it hard to follow. My favorite part was the discussion of the development of industrial design of physical objects and how it significantly influenced digital design. Additionally it includes a description of more recent ideas in design, such as improvements in driver-assist technology This book covers several disparate topics, which unfortunately were not combined in the most cohesive way. Part of it is a history of UX/design, which is interesting, but is not presented linearly which can make it hard to follow. My favorite part was the discussion of the development of industrial design of physical objects and how it significantly influenced digital design. Additionally it includes a description of more recent ideas in design, such as improvements in driver-assist technology in cars, design of smartphone apps, etc. There was a long section in the middle that was basically soapboxing about the 'evils' of social media which felt really out of place. It didn't really have anything to do with design specifically (except in some very stretched way) and it seemed like the author just wanted to have a platform to insert these views. It really detracted from the flow of the book. A lot of the more interesting ideas to me were actually not elaborated on significantly. I would have liked to read more about ideas for the future of design and how we can make it better (which was hinted at a little). There was an interesting section about making things easy to use having some downsides (worse understanding of the underlying system) but again this wasn't elaborated on very much. Overall, the book had a scattering of interesting ideas, so I did enjoy it in parts, but it really felt like it was lacking that cohesive whole to make it a truly great experience.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joe Brown

    Fascinating book, very well written. The author does an excellent job of elucidating how design is so much more than aesthetics—it’s a sub-language, a user-guide built into everything we interact with. We rarely know to look at it, but our minds see it. A book rarely changes the way you see the world, but if you let it, this one can.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    One of the best parts of my job involves observing my family's behavior, then redesigning our environment to match our natural behavior with a desired outcome. It turns out this is an entire field of study. #careeroptions In seriousness, this book was fascinating. It discussed how the design of an object can affect its user's experience of that little piece of the world; it raised ethical and philosophical questions about how design does and should affect the tools that we use. I had to burn One of the best parts of my job involves observing my family's behavior, then redesigning our environment to match our natural behavior with a desired outcome. It turns out this is an entire field of study. #careeroptions In seriousness, this book was fascinating. It discussed how the design of an object can affect its user's experience of that little piece of the world; it raised ethical and philosophical questions about how design does and should affect the tools that we use. I had to burn through the reading of this (it was a library book that was overdue already), but I would have liked to have read it slowly, letting several of his ideas sink in.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Phil Costa

    Really insightful book about how designers approach their tasks and about the broader questions of how designs affect the way we see the possibilities and the world. I felt like the first 2/3 of the book (about the historical evolution of user experience and design choices for things like nuclear power plants and airplanes) was stronger than the end sections (about the like button), but that may be the luxury of a longer perspective. Regardless, definitely worth a read if you're interested in Really insightful book about how designers approach their tasks and about the broader questions of how designs affect the way we see the possibilities and the world. I felt like the first 2/3 of the book (about the historical evolution of user experience and design choices for things like nuclear power plants and airplanes) was stronger than the end sections (about the like button), but that may be the luxury of a longer perspective. Regardless, definitely worth a read if you're interested in product design or how product designers are shaping your view of the world.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chris Irwin

    Wow-this was an amazing read! As an industry leader, it's hard to find technology books which thread practical storytelling, complex topical paradigms and new and unheard historical perspectives. This book does all of it. For students, new or lifelong, I highly recommend reading this over the boilerplate practicum of yesteryear. It's as fresh and relevant as anything out there!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Very readable and interesting book about the history of design and its effects on our lives. A little bit too in awe of tech giants like Apple and Facebook but balanced with some criticism.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    I thought the part where the automated car should be treated as a horse and has to give the driver feed back and gradually take the reigns is somehting to think about/ and how user friendly UX and UI ones that make using the thing more intuitive is something super important in reducing error

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dеnnis

    Возможно, когда вы читаете этот журнал, рядом с вами находится телефон, на котором каждый раз, когда ваша концентрация ослабевает, вы проверяете электронную почту или набиваете текстовые сообщения. В этом случае можно сказать, что вы являетесь конечным пользователем целого ряда изобретений, возникновением которых мы обязаны людям с ограниченными возможностями. В данном случае это клавиатура, телекоммуникации и электронная почта. В 1808 году Пеллегрино Турри сконструировал первую пишущую машинку Возможно, когда вы читаете этот журнал, рядом с вами находится телефон, на котором каждый раз, когда ваша концентрация ослабевает, вы проверяете электронную почту или набиваете текстовые сообщения. В этом случае можно сказать, что вы являетесь конечным пользователем целого ряда изобретений, возникновением которых мы обязаны людям с ограниченными возможностями. В данном случае это клавиатура, телекоммуникации и электронная почта. В 1808 году Пеллегрино Турри сконструировал первую пишущую машинку для того, чтобы его слепая возлюбленная могла писать письма более разборчиво. В 1872 году Александр Грэм Белл изобрел телефон, чтобы профинансировать свою основную деятельность по помощи глухим. А в 1972 году Винтон Серф создал первые почтовые протоколы для зарождающегося интернета. Он горячо верил в силу электронных писем, потому что электронные сообщения представлялись ему лучшим способом общения с глухой женой, пока он был на работе. Хотя эти ситуации почти соответствуют клише о том, что нужда мать смекалки, точнее было бы сказать, что каждый из этих изобретателей, сопереживая кому-то, смог создать вещи, которые он, возможно, никогда бы не создал лишь для себя. Очевидно, что эмпатия является одной из основных движущих сил прогресса. Прогрессу в области создания удобных в применении устройств и вещей и посвящена эта книга. Дело в том, что нужды и особые потребности не всегда столь очевидны, как слепота или глухота. К интуитивно понятному расположению приборов на контрольной панели самолетов приходили через человеческие жертвы. Дико неудобное распределение датчиков машинного зала поспособствовало аварии на американской АЭС в 1979 г.. Удобство использования может, естественно, играть и на руку новаторам: неожиданно, одним из главных усовершенствований XXI века считается функция-кнопка 1-Click, введенная онлайн-магазином Amazon. Дело в том, что почти 70% набранных в виртуальную корзину покупок бросались не оплаченными. Убрав все промежуточные барьеры этой кнопкой, Amazon значительно поднял продажи. Более того, компания затем заработала миллиарды, поделившись технологией с Apple для только что запущенного ею тогда магазина iTunes. Неудобство, кстати, может быть не случайным: неэргономичную раскладку клавиатуры QWERTY придумали именно для того, чтобы снизить скорость печати (иначе печатные машинки быстро ломались). Двери автомобилей Бентли можно было бы делать практически невесомыми, но бренд строится на солидности, это ведь не какая-то «легковесная» KIA. Удобство в использовании и интуитивно понятные интерфейсы плавно подготовили нас к тому, что теперь машины и устройства не только откликаются на наши запросы, но и пытаются предвидеть их. Раньше об этом с ужасом писали в антиутопиях фантасты, однако, судя по всему, мы уже «вкатились» в этот дивный новый мир: уже 10% всех сообщений в Gmail составляют ответы, предложенные системой.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ned Frederick

    When I first plugged into the user-centered way of thinking about product design, it was four decades ago and I was struggling to understand functional design as it applied to footwear. This was at a time when Industrial Designers, for the first time, were being recruited by my company, to make sneakers more functional. Before that time, coaches, enthusiasts and tinkerers collaborated with traditional footwear stylists to "design" sneakers that would work better for the athletes that wore them. When I first plugged into the user-centered way of thinking about product design, it was four decades ago and I was struggling to understand functional design as it applied to footwear. This was at a time when Industrial Designers, for the first time, were being recruited by my company, to make sneakers more functional. Before that time, coaches, enthusiasts and tinkerers collaborated with traditional footwear stylists to "design" sneakers that would work better for the athletes that wore them. This quasi-functional approach was decidedly hit-or-miss. What we were trying to create was a more deliberate, evidence-based process. My part was to support the designers initiatives with research and testing. After 40 plus years of working shoulder to shoulder with three generations of talented product designers I'm still intrigued by the User Friendly perspective and see it as the best approach to innovation in sneakers and many other product categories. This book weaves its User Friendly tapestry with threads from Ergonomics, Dreyfuss's Human Factors, Bauhaus's form follows function ethic, Jane Fulton Suri's key insights, and more recently the Design of Everyday Things thinking of cognitive psychologist Don Norman, my favorite guru. Lots of anecdotes and fascinating retellings of seminal moments in design history. For the most part It’s a beautiful thing with a natural elegance to the narrative. As the story evolves and starts to encompass digital interfaces we can see how the overlapping philosophies of earlier user-centered approaches influenced these new developments. Kuang stresses the importance of metaphor in choosing a user interface, providing feedback, being polite, and the clarity of intent/action. Most of all a user friendly interface must begin and end with an understanding of the users' perception. These are realizations that knocked me back. I suppose on some level I half-understood these things before, but this book punched them up into hard-to-miss headlines that revealed to me the full-on conversational nature of effective interfaces. For these gifts, I am grateful to the authors. But I have to say they made me work for it. Ironically, the user interface of User Friendly was not very friendly. It’s very conventional and virtually devoid of visual elements. This book would have been so much more accessible and complete if the authors had acknowledged the visual primacy of human perception and filled its pages with pictures, drawings, diagrams, etc. Even some of the wonderful faces of the progenitors of these mind-expanding insights would have been nice. Without a more visual interface, I came away feeling that this incredibly interesting book simply fell short of the mark.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ang

    I think this is a case of expectations not matching reality. I didn't realize that this was a HISTORY of UX. And I didn't really want to be reading a history of UX. I wanted something more....useful to me in terms of my own UX work at my library. And I didn't really get that. That said, if you're looking to read a fairly non-academic history of UX, this is your go-to!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Charles S.

    A must read for everyone who wants to understand the role good design can play in society and business. User Friendly completely expanded my cognitive vision and my approach to designing for the people and world around me. It’s one of the best books I have had the pleasure to devour!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Vinitra

    An interesting look at the rise of human-centered design, but a bit long for my tastes...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Lowry

    Good overview of modern design thinking and how much it's been applied to everything we now interact with.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lee Barry

    One of the better UX books.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Teni Sarris

  22. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sean

  24. 4 out of 5

    Penn Whaling

  25. 5 out of 5

    Conor Triplett

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Y

  27. 4 out of 5

    Timlettie02gmail.com

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  29. 4 out of 5

    Conrad

  30. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Gray

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