PM Learnings from
“The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman

Rohit Verma
4 min readMay 10, 2023

“The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman is a seminal book that explores the principles of good design and user-centred design. While the book is not specifically targeted at product managers, there are several key learnings that can be valuable for product managers in their role of creating successful and user-friendly products.

Here are some of the key learnings from the book and examples illustrating their application:

  1. Understand the user’s perspective:
    Product managers should strive to understand the needs, goals, and behaviors of their users. By empathizing with users and gaining insights into their experiences, product managers can design products that are intuitive and meet users’ expectations. For example, when designing a mobile banking app, product managers need to consider the needs of different users, such as those who are unfamiliar with banking terminology or those who have accessibility requirements.
  2. Provide clear and meaningful feedback:
    Good design provides immediate and informative feedback to users about their actions. Product managers should ensure that their products offer clear feedback so that users understand the impact of their actions. For instance, when a user submits a form on a website, providing a visible confirmation message or a progress indicator reassures the user that their action was successful.
  3. Simplify the user interface:
    Keep the design simple and minimize cognitive load. Product managers should aim to create intuitive interfaces that are easy to understand and use. For example, in a productivity app, having a clear and uncluttered interface with well-organized menus and icons can help users quickly find and use the desired features.
  4. Bridge the Gulf of Execution and Evaluation:
    The Gulf of Execution refers to the gap between a user’s goal and the actions required to achieve that goal, while the Gulf of Evaluation refers to the gap between the user’s actions and their understanding of the system’s response. Product managers should strive to minimize these gaps by making the product’s functionality and feedback align with the user’s mental model. For example, if a photo-sharing app requires multiple steps to upload and share a photo, it creates a large Gulf of Execution. By streamlining the process and reducing the number of steps, product managers can bridge this gap and enhance the user experience.
  5. Error prevention and graceful recovery:
    Product managers should focus on preventing errors or guiding users through error recovery processes when they occur. By designing error-resistant systems and providing clear instructions, product managers can minimize user frustration and support a positive experience. For instance, if a user enters an incorrect password in a login form, providing a descriptive error message that helps them identify the mistake can aid in error recovery.
  6. Iterative design and testing:
    The book emphasizes the importance of iterating on designs and continuously testing them with users. Product managers should embrace a user-centered design approach and gather feedback early and often. Conducting usability tests, user interviews, and incorporating feedback loops throughout the product development process enables product managers to refine and improve their designs. For example, a product manager working on a messaging app can conduct user testing to identify pain points and then iterate on the design to address those issues.
  7. Consider the context of use:
    Products are used in specific contexts, and product managers should understand and consider these contexts when designing their products. The physical environment, the user’s goals, and the constraints they face are all factors that influence the design. For instance, a product manager designing a fitness tracking app should consider the different contexts in which users might engage with the app, such as while exercising outdoors or in a gym environment, and ensure that the app is optimized for those scenarios.

These key learnings from “The Design of Everyday Things” provides valuable insights for product managers to create user-friendly and effective products.

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Rohit Verma

Senior Product Manager @AngelOne, ex-@Flipkart, @Cleartrip @IIM Bangalore.