AMAZON BEST BOOKS OF 2019 PICK
FORTUNE WRITERS AND EDITORS' RECOMMENDED BOOKS OF 2019 PICK
"User Friendly is a tour de force, an engrossing fusion of scholarly research, professional experience and revelations from intrepid firsthand reporting."
—EDWARD TENNER, The New York Times 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.
Journalist Kuang debuts with this engrossing history of how the design of commercial products and technological innovations came to be singularly focused on the user experience. It proves a sprawling and multifaceted story, with side excursions into near-miss nuclear disasters, WWII fighter plane crashes, and the latest developments in driverless cars. The user-friendly ethos, Kuang explains, requires learning "why people behave as they do" so as to "design around their foibles and limitations." Not hesitating to get philosophical, he notes that this goal represents a remarkable intellectual shift from "the Enlightenment's faith in the perfectibility of mankind's reasoning." One of the most intriguing chapters considers the use of metaphors in design for example, the deeply entrenched metaphor of the "desktop" in Apple products and the value of finding new metaphors. The work also includes profiles of influential designers such as Henry Dreyfuss who worked on everything from waffle irons and school desks to thermostats and washing machines and, in an afterword from coauthor Fabricant, cofounder of Dalberg Design, helpful tips for fellow designers on incorporating user-friendly practices. The result is an erudite and insightful exploration of a revolution in human thinking that most people have probably never considered.