Don Norman  

“The Don” Reveals All: Part 1

October 29th, 2004 by Don Norman :: see related comic

Do you consider yourself a guru? What defines a guru?

The term “Guru” (please note the use of the upper-case “G”) is reserved for those with beard certification. Alas, the word (often with a lower-case “g”) is widely misapplied. Do not trust the word of all those so-called gurus, many self-anointed. Look for beard certification.

I am a beard-certified Guru, with, I am proud to say, direct access to Gu. Not only is my word law, but Gu stands directly behind my word, and who r u to dispute Gu?

I encounter so many people with the mentality that a confusing door isn’t that big of a deal. These are the kinds of folks who don’t care that the switch on the right controls the lamp on the left, and vice versa. “So what? You figured it out, it’s not that hard.” This attitude becomes a frustrating challenge when everyone else on the team is fine with a design the way it is and can’t see why anything should be spent on trying to improve something that already works. It ends up being much like defending the validity of your job.

How do you go about explaining that good interface design is important? What’s the best way to help people understand why they shouldn’t have to “figure it out” no matter how simple it might be to do so? Is it a hopeless crusade to convince users that they should care?

In my wisdom (and I consulted with GU on this one), you are in the wrong, for when “everyone else on the team is fine with a design the way it is” who r u to claim that they are all out of step and it is only you who is in step?

You ask: “Is it a hopeless crusade to convince users that they should care?”

Are we not in the profession of satisfying users? If users don’t care, then it is our solemn duty to deliver upon that absence of care. You should spend your efforts on more worthy causes, such as why you are building products with lamps and switches when you could develop a simple hierarchical menu with modal dialog box to do the same function.

“Does personalisation of interaction enhance or reduce the quality of the user experience?”

Yes, absolutely.

And I refer you to the Epilog of “Emotional Design” for proof (available at

When “The Don” is being serious, he can be found at Ask him questions at: . Also check out a full list of “The Don” Reveals All.

18 Responses to ““The Don” Reveals All: Part 1”
confused in colorado wrote:

Are KC and Tom just checking if people are reading? Or is this part of some sort of inside joke that I’m not a party to?

Kevin Cheng wrote:

Well, we always like to know if people are reading but if you’re wondering if we’re silly enough to imitate Don Norman, the answer is, “no”. Part of OK/Cancel has always been about giving an outlet for people in the industry and Don’s been generous enough to offer an answer some questions in a light hearted manner.

Don’t believe us? Go look at Don’s Site. So yes, this is really Don answering your questions - but you need to submit questions to get answers.

Tom Chi wrote:

Yeah, it is definitely neither KC nor I answering these questions. It’s pretty clear since The Don is actually a lot funnier than we are. Or at least KC.

MeriBlog : Meri Williams' Weblog wrote:

Halloween, Experiments and Beard-Certified Gurus

This has been linked all over the show, but it’s still important to note that 1049 federal rights depend on marital status. I wonder if anyone’s put together the number here in the UK — I know that some…

"The Don" wrote:

As for me, I keep a closed mind on the subject.


Tricia wrote:

Surely The Don didn’t mean to suggest that women can’t be gurus. Most of us don’t have beards and hence don’t qualify for beard certification.

Looking up through the glass ceiling,

"The Don" wrote:

A deep, responsible question, pointing out that we have erred in our naming of the certification of Guruhood. We are deeply bothered by this revelation.

We are strong defenders of equal oportunity Guruhood. Beards are discriminatory: you, Tricia, are indeed an astute observer.

We recant. The designation of “beard certification” will hereafter be called “board certification.”

Borgendorf wrote:

Or one could say that a Guru is so well versed in his or her craft, that he or she may be “bored certified” :)

Moi wrote:

Couldn’t we submit answers and Don supply the questions? That would be much more interesting, not to says, profound, maaan.

Here’s my answer (an obvious one to start with): 42.

Gabriel wrote:

RE: 42.

Hey! stop that. this site already has way too much internal jokes. Let’s end it before people start shout ni at each other. :P

Patrik wrote:

ecki, ecki, ecki (Gabriel knows what it means)

Moi wrote:

I wouldn’t exactly call 42 an “internal” joke. Type “what’s the answer to life the universe and everything” (without quotes) into Google.

Moi wrote:

Sorry, I forgot to say, I was inspired not only by Don’s, err, “unconventional” answers but also by the BBC’s magazine website, which has a “Lunchtime Bonus Question” -

"The Don" wrote:

Although I firmly beleive that there is no such thing as a stupid question, there can indeed be stupid answers. 42 is an example.

Not only is this a poor ripoff of Doug Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, but it isn’t even a prime number. Everyone surely knows that numerical answers to profound questions are always prime. (The correct answer is 37.)

(I have had long, disquieting conversations with Doug Adams about this. Interestingly, although he is now dead, this does not seem to have stopped the conversations, although they are now much easier: I no longer have to go to London to have them.)

So, sorry, I do not question stupid answers.

sabera wrote:

how effective is the Cognitive walkthrough methods for an indicvidual evaluation. please could you forward me any academic papers you may have or know of in the USability inpection methods area.


sabera wrote:

how effective is the Cognitive walkthrough methods for an indicvidual evaluation. please could you forward me any academic papers you may have or know of in the USability inpection methods area.


The Don wrote:

I believe that cognitive walkthroughs are seldom conducted with sufficient intensity or duration to have much benefit. Instead, I recommend the cognitive run. A thirty minute session is often sufficient, although some practitioners do it for longer. This is the best method for rapid individual evaluation that I have encountered.

This method finds the weaknesses very rapidly, often long before the thirty minutes have elapsed: if the individual is barely functioning at the end of the run, then the person should be rejected.

Rumor has it that this is one of the tools that Goggle uses to evaluate individuals who apply for jobs with them.

Alas, at this time, there are no academic papers published on this method, but perhaps this note will convince someone to write such a paper.

wiseguy wrote:

A wise man once said, “There are no stupid questions but there are a lot of inquisitive fools.” In the law the answer is always; it depends. When it comes to Gurus the answer is most appropriately; G - U - R - U (Gee you are you).

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