#1 BookBites: User Friendly-How the hidden rules of design are changing the way we live, work, and play by Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant


Connecting the dots between the three island mills story, Don Norman, design, and cognitive psychology, it is concluded that humans might fail. Still, they are not wrong, and they have a kind of indelible logic behind their actions, even if the actions are stupid and strange. It makes perfect sense if we blame machines for everything that is happening wrong and believe that machines failed people. Still, It is the designers' responsibility to know why people behave as they do, learn the environment and understand that those failures are a result of how people sense the world around them and how they want the artifacts around them to behave. They are also responsible for the users' mental models(deep or shallow) by crafting the interfaces and feedbacks in front of them.


Driven by different stories around the questions like“what a product should be about, what kind of story it should tell to the consumer” to where Henry Dreyfuss turned the design question from what to make and how to make it into whom to make it for and establish the user place in the design process.

The machine had to be built for Homo sapiens to operate.


Learned from the number of people who died in World War and airplane crashes, through the lens of experimental psychology, the blame was not toward “pilot error,” but “designer error.”

“We demand that new technologies do not only what they promise, but what we imagine. We also demand that they behave in the way we guess they will, without ever having used them before. But making that happen means that the machines must be designed so that our imaginations can’t get too far ahead of the machines. When they do, confusion reigns.”


There was an assumption about computers being tools like hammers, but passing time shows that we have a relationship with them; we have feelings before, while, and after using them or interacting with them. Clifford Nass believes “that our brains evolved to deal with two basic types of experience: the physical world and the social. Computers were a new hybrid of both; since their beginning, we had thought they belonged to the physical world. But because they responded to us, engaged us, aggravated and pleased us, we couldn’t help but see them as social actors.”

Metaphors will always be one of our most powerful entry points to the user-friendly world, possessing the singular ability to make the foreign feel familiar, providing us mental models for how things work.


By telling Interesting stories about Apple, Amazon, Ford, IBM circling around the metaphors they’ve got inspired by and used in their design, Kuang made his point about how important metaphors are, how they were an essential factor in human progress and how we can see them as an inspiration for our designs. He believes “not only can metaphors tell us how something should work, they can also become guides to what we’d like to create.


The story of IDEO integrating industrial empathy in the design process made it a standard practice, spread it to boardrooms across the world, and helped the design world change its perspective by finding interesting problems than interesting solutions. Kuang assumes, “That influence spread only because IDEO created the vocabulary that others could use to sell the idea that “design” wasn’t just prettiness. Rather, it was a process of industrialized empathy — one that could be marketed, explained, circulated, repeated, and then spread.”

The most important problems to solve were those that weren’t being expressed. The most important questions to ask were those that people never thought to ask themselves.

Moreover, In this chapter, it was pointed out that it is necessary for designers to understand this discrepancy between how people were supposed to do use things and how they actually did use them.


in this chapter, Kuang reasons for finding the best answer to the two main questions: “who the user is in user-friendly world” and “how to make technology so useful that it became invisible in our daily lives” and both answers circuits around humans and humane.


Disney and its Magic bands are the story of this chapter. The story of how and why its concept form. By setting out this example, Kuang puts the finger on the root of problems which we are witnessing nowadays in big companies and organizations, “The difficulties Disney saw in realizing its vision show why giant companies hoping to build the user-friendly world are reaching the limit of what they can create. It isn’t from a lack of design, technology, or vision; nor is it because we’re simply not ready. Rather, the difficulties lie in how the companies themselves are designed.

Disney magic band in different colors


Kuang states that “The most enduring businesses in the world have always been built upon addiction — alcohol, tobacco, drugs. The trick of the user-friendly world is that not only are we addicted, the drug doesn’t have to be bought. The drug lies in our own brains, hardwired there by evolution.


This chapter’s main question is, How to design for individual happiness while aiming us all toward high ends what we can’t accomplish on our own. But research shows that FOMO-fear of missing out-that we get from social media makes us unhappy.


Kuang says, “It is Pollyannaish to think that design will solve the world’s problems. But it is self-evident that the methods of design will play a role in helping us understand, accept, and then make use of whatever solutions we’re able to create. In helping people understand their world better, in creating the incentives and feedback loops for us to achieve better things, user-friendliness will be an assumed part of whatever comes next. The paradox of design in the twenty-first century will be the same one we face in society.

“User Friendly: How the hidden rules of design are changing the way we live, work and play” by Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant

My highlights of the book:

  • Feedbacks are the bones of our relationship with the world around us.
  • The easier our interaction with the technology becomes, the easier we consume things, and that can lead to consumerism. We should think twice and consider our environment in the process as well.
  • The greater challenge lies in making these technologies into something we trust, which happens when they mimic the way we come to trust other people. Moreover, the key for us, humans, to be comfortable with the future lies in mapping all the contextual nuances that we use without thinking.
  • It’s possible to be blinded by your own biases. You can know too much about yourself, so you don’t see the world clearly. You can fail to understand people well enough to know their real problems.
  • People say what they believe or want, not what is really happening, so research is.
  • Invisible technology in our daily life is the one that is integrated with our social fabric and helps us be more human.
  • If we want the machine to work in our world, we need to build machines that better adapt to humans.
  • Design and technology collaboration will be going in a direction that user environment is as important as the devices we are using in our daily lives.
  • The next generation of design will become less about screens and things and more about scripts and cues.
  • When technology gets laced into the fabric of everything, we demand that those technologies hew closer to our social mores and the expectations of polite society.
  • User-friendliness wrought a world in which making things easier to use morphed into making them usable without a second thought. That ease eventually morphed into making products more irresistible, even outright addicting.
  • User-friendly design is being applied to greater swaths of everyday life — and the design itself is coming to encompass things we hardly think of as design at all.
  • The things we make reflect the things we value. Those values can change.



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Boshra Javaheri

Boshra Javaheri

Designer and researcher passionate about people, their experiences, emotions, and interactions with AI. Get to know me better @boshra.me