User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play

In User Friendly, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant reveal the untold story of a paradigm that quietly rules our modern lives: the assumption that machines should anticipate what we need. Spanning over a century of sweeping changes, from women’s rights to the Great Depression to World War II to the rise of the digital era, this book unpacks the ways in which the world has been—and continues to be—remade according to the principles of the once-obscure discipline of user-experience design.

In this essential text, Kuang and Fabricant map the hidden rules of the designed world and shed light on how those rules have caused our world to change—an underappreciated but essential history that’s pieced together for the first time. Combining the expertise and insight of a leading journalist and a pioneering designer, User Friendly provides a definitive, thoughtful, and practical perspective on a topic that has rapidly gone from arcane to urgent to inescapable. In User Friendly, Kuang and Fabricant tell the whole story for the first time—and you’ll never interact with technology the same way again.

An Amazon Best Book of November 2019: Very rarely, but sometimes, you pick up a book and realize you’ve been looking at the world all wrong. That’s what happened to me when I picked up User Friendly, a fascinating book about the history of user-experience design. The book starts off with a bang (well, almost a bang; thankfully, it wasn’t) with a discussion of the Three Mile Island disaster. As it turns out, the designers of those famous nuclear reactors used most of their brainpower to design the actual reactors and much less on designing the control room. When things started going south, people got confused—so things continued farther south. And it could have been easily avoided. User Friendly hinges on the idea that humans eventually figured out they needed to design things with humans in mind. In essence, machines needed to anticipate how humans would interact with them. As the authors trace these changes and the people behind them, from the Great Depression to WWII to the digital era, you will sense lightbulbs going off in your mind the entire way. This is a fun read, an informative read. It’s like a switch going off in your head. –Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review

In User Friendly, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant reveal the untold story of a paradigm that quietly rules our modern lives: the assumption that machines should anticipate what we need. Spanning over a century of sweeping changes, from women’s rights to the Great Depression to World War II to the rise of the digital era, this book unpacks the ways in which the world has been—and continues to be—remade according to the principles of the once-obscure discipline of user-experience design.

In this essential text, Kuang and Fabricant map the hidden rules of the designed world and shed light on how those rules have caused our world to change—an underappreciated but essential history that’s pieced together for the first time. Combining the expertise and insight of a leading journalist and a pioneering designer, User Friendly provides a definitive, thoughtful, and practical perspective on a topic that has rapidly gone from arcane to urgent to inescapable. In User Friendly, Kuang and Fabricant tell the whole story for the first time—and you’ll never interact with technology the same way again.

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