Chris Peters's Blog

The human-centered view vs. the machine-centered view

September 29, 2006

Don't design for a cyborg. Design for a human.

Don Norman makes a great observation about the mindset of most of today’s technology professionals at the end of Chapter 7 in The Invisible Computer. Most technology professionals still look at technology solutions from a machine-centered point of view. Norman suggests a solution by pointing out a different point of view where the human wins.

Norman illustrates the machine-centered view like this. Notice how the machine’s strengths are emphasized.

People Machines
Disorganized Orderly
Emotional Unemotional

Here is Norman’s illustration of the human-centered point of view. Notice that the human’s strengths are emphasized.

People Machines
Compliant Rigid
Resourceful Unimaginative

The point is not that we need to immediately begin thinking from the human-centered point of view and ignore the machine-centered view. The point is that we need to consider both machines’ and humans’ strengths when creating technology solutions.

The rest Chapter 7 describes the industrial revolution and how managers tried turning their employees into machines with rigid policies and procedures. Think drones on an assembly line. The average worker tended to hate his job during those times, even though he made more money.

If your technology tries turning people into machines, they’re not going to enjoy using it, even if it promises to make their lives easier.

Written by Chris Peters, your friendly neighborhood digital marketing professional with over 20 years of experience of web design, programming, SEO, and marketing.