Donald Norman came to the University of Texas many moons ago. The elfin and cerebral cognitive scientist had a Mac and a projector, and as he was preparing to start his talk, what he had visible on his desktop was projected on a huge screen behind him. He couldn’t quite get the presentation started because he had some file he couldn’t open, and a sense of amusement began to fill the auditorium.
“Bad design!” one wag remarked rather loudly. That was too funny! The usability guru was thwarted by his own system. Physician, heal thyself, etc.
But he got it together and gave an interesting talk. He does as good a job as anyone at explaining why smart people in companies make products that people have difficulty using (to see a recent talk exploring the role of emotion and beauty in the way we interact with technology go to www.ted.com/index.php/talks/don_norman_on_design_and_emotion.html) Good design can be very hard to achieve, even with dedicated engineers and usability specialists doing their best to clearly map form onto functionality. His book the Psychology of Everyday Things (re-titled the Design of Everyday Things) deals with usability in both the physical and digital worlds, and makes a demonstration by example that principles of good design hold for both.