The Invisible Computer - Why Good Products Can Fail, The Personal Computer is So Complex, & Information Appliances are the Solution (Anglais) Relié – 2 octobre 1998
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Norman's forte is definitely cognitive and experimental psychology in product design, and not being a technological or product development process visionary. I found very little new or interesting content in the book, and I don't think he articulated even some of the derived ideas very well. The whole book could have been condensed into a long magazine article. His prose is wordy and redundant, and the book is regrettfully lacking in many of the detailed case studies and examples he's used in previous books to elucidate his ideas. I want the idiosyncratic and outspoken psychologist professor back, such as he was in The Design of Everyday Things, or the powerful academic argument of Things That Make Us Smart. His short stint as a VP of HPs "Information Appliances" division, and his earlier work at Apple, was not enough to give him a deep understanding or insight into the problems of the current technology-product market.
He does make some good book recommendations, however, and I'll add my favorite articulation of the problem, that I think articulate the problem and potential solutions much better:
C. M. Christensen, _The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail_, 1997. G. A. Moore, _Crossing The Chasm: Marketingand Selling High-Tech Goods to Mainstream Customers_, 1991. T. K. Landauer, _The Trouble With Computers: Usefulness, Usability, and Productivity_, 1995.
chance to pick up "The Invisible Computer" I had high hopes.
Unfortunately, this work didn't provide the same insight and
focus as his previous books such as "The Design of Everyday
Throughout the work Norman draws upon "Crossing the Chasm"
and "Inside the Tornado: Marketing Strategies from Silicon
Valley's Cutting Edge" [both by Geoffrey Moore]. Also
heavily emphasized are the ideas put forth by "The
Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms
to Fail." All of these books are interesting--but I wanted
something from Norman himself.
Chapter 7, "Being Analog", was more in line with what I had
come to expect from Norman. He ends this chapter with this:
"Alas, most of today's machines, especially the computer,
force people to use them on their own terms, terms that are
antithetical to the way people work and think. The result is
frustration, an increase in the rate of error (usually
blamed on the user--human error--instead of on faulty
design), and a general turning away from technology. Will
the interaction between people and machines be done
correctly in the future? Might schools of computer science
start teaching the human-centered approach that is necessary
to reverse the trend? I don't see why not." That's what I'm
looking for! If only the rest of the book had followed that
Instead focusing on human factors and man-machine
interface issues, Norman wanders discussing substitutable
goods vs. nonsubstitutable goods, a rehash of why software
is hard to write (and the mythical man month), and even some
embarrassing admissions now that he'd spent some time outside
academia and worked a bit in industry: "Time, or rather the
lack of it, I was starting to learn, is one of the greatest
barriers to quality". As my young nieces would say to me,
Finally, although written in the late 1990's with the
paperback edition published in 1998, I found the text to
already be a bit dated. You don't realize how quickly the
computer industry moves until you find a book frozen in time
like this one.
My recommendation is to read Norman's other works and the
works he recommends here (Crossing the Chasm, Inside the
Tornado, and Innovator's Dilemma). Finally, I recommend
"Machine Beauty" by David Gelernter. It provides more
passion and keener insights than this work--and is generally
more fun to read!
Norman builds a solid foundation for his arguments, citing historical cases and several written works. The book was a fun, easy read. When I finished Invisible Computer, I felt the same sort of illumination and clarity that came after reading Alan Cooper's About Face.
His vision of ubiquitous information appliances and devices will undoubtedly come true in ways none of us can imagine. But what will become of the PC? Will I have 100 individual devices replacing the 100 software programs I have installed? Hardly. But the book doesn't really address the ongoing need for a general purpose computer.
In the end, I would recommend this book to anyone involved in technology. It definitely altered my personal perception of where tech products have come from and where they are headed. Time will tell if his ideas are strong enough to truly help shape the future of software and product development.
Chapters 7 (Being Analog) and 8 (Why is Everything So Difficult to Use) are reminiscent of Things that Make Us Smart and The Design of Everyday Things also by Norman.
Chapters 9 and 10 focus on human centered development by defining it as a process and then describing 'immutable principles' that should apply. Six disciplines of user experience are identified.
As I progressed through the book, I had to continually return to the cover and back pages, rereading the title and description to remind myself of what the book is about. Read the two referenced books first!
An example is the way children interact with computers compared to senior citizens. When a child grows up with something is becomes natural. Most children who have access to a computer at an early stage find it as natural as using a video/DVD player, television or CD player. If the technology is introduced at an early stage it become part of the natural language of the child. Normal disagrees with this, and I think although he is a well researched observer that this is one failing of the book.
It wasn't until I reached the last quarter of the book that I could start to agree with his ideas and see the point he was trying to make. That is that some devices work as an appliance. The examples of the TiVo (which we don't have here in Australia) seem best to fit the example. They do one thing, and do it well. Network Computers are the other example, where the complexity of the device is hidden from the user (although he still feels uncomfortable with NC's as they are still "computers".)
Norman's style of writing made me think I had skipped back a few pages every now and then as he often will repeat himself in greater detail over points he thinks are important.
If you're a technologist you should read it. But don't take it as gospel. Although Normal is correct in some of his point, you need to use your own experience and environment to understand the points he is trying to make, rather than accepting them carte blanch.