Userability Podcast #6 – 20 Years, No Improvement?

Brian Christiansen

April 3rd, 2009


Duration: 14m | 8 MB
Recorded: March, 2009
Brian Christiansen, UIE Podcast Producer
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This week’s episode features a surprise guest for Jared and Robert. Actually, every guest is a surprise, but this one is a surprise and an ambush by a friend of UIE, the always entertaining Scott Berkun. Scott wanted to know, what gives?

Don Norman’s seminal, The Design of Everyday Things, is approaching it’s 20th year in print. It explained why so many basic things in life are poorly designed and hard to use, such as pull handles on doors that need to be pushed. Since the world has been aware of these design flaws for two decades, why are so many basic usability failures still around?

Listen in to hear if Robert and Jared’s answer is what you would’ve said. Would you have answered differently? Leave a comment below.

Have a serious UX question? Send it in and Jared Spool and Robert Hoekman, Jr. will answer it with a healthy dose of levity. Please send your deep, vexing questions to us at We’d love to feature you on the show! Till then, if you think you know why so many usability failures remain, let us know in the comments!

3 Responses to “Userability Podcast #6 – 20 Years, No Improvement?”

  1. Dan Bricklin Says:

    Jared and Brian,

    While in many cases usability might not seem to matter, there are a lot of cases where it does. Usability probably changed the course of a presidential election in 2000. I wrote up stuff about that then, including an email I got from John Palmer, who deals with industrial accidents where usability is life and death important. As more and more things move to being controlled by web browsers, even web usability will really matter, including with health care related as well as industrial and financial. Here are some URLs:

    I include this material (and some more relating to industrial accidents) in my new book that should be coming out by next month, Bricklin on Technology. I’ll send a copy to UIE.

    -Dan Bricklin

  2. Daniel Szuc Says:

    Good listening!

    Sometimes people notice improved design and usability when something better comes along to replace an old way of doing something.


    * Can Openers – An ergonomic design so that it does not break your hand when using it
    * Tivo – so you don’t have to program the VCR any more
    * Google – more accurate and simpler searching
    * Octopus Smartcards – used for Hong Kong transport (driven by the need to move many people on a given day)

    So design and usability should always go hand in hand and communicating the actual improvement to people and business helps if you have a design to show and talk to (versus just numbers and reports).


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    […] was recently listening to a UIE podcast, where the following sensible question was asked (and I paraphrase) “If Don Norman’s […]

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