Book Review: 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People

Book cover of 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People
Book cover of 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

Author: Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D. Published: New Riders Berkeley, CA. April 2011. 256 pages.
[Source: This book was received as a prize at the World Usability Day 2013 meeting in Detroit.]

Adapted from reviews on with comments added by Sharon McDonnell

This appealing, short book brings together little nuggets of psychology, which the author makes immediately relevant to design decisions. The strength of this book is that the author cites more recent research about principles that you either thought you knew and were wrong, or that you thought you knew and were indeed right.

This book is easy to pick up and put down as each of the 100 things takes up only two or three pages with easy-to-scan charts, illustrations and pull boxes. The structure is terrifically usable: 100 “chapters” that are often only one or two pages long. In a book like this, the references are as valuable as the author’s own writing. I can look up the sources and make up my own mind if I have any questions. But most of the time, I appreciate the author’s explanations of the book’s segments:

  • How people see
  • How people read
  • How people remember
  • How people think
  • How people focus their attention
  • What motivates people
  • People are social animals
  • How people feel
  • People make mistakes
  • How people decide

I had some difficulty reading the text in the paperback as it was very faint, almost “grayed-out,” and no matter what light I tried to use, it was not sufficient to prevent me from getting a headache! I wonder if the author had done any usability testing on the book itself!

Despite the book’s usefulness, I ran across some things that could have benefited from better editing. But that does not decrease the usefulness of the book. And the text is dense yet concise, which makes for easy reading. From my standpoint, this book is a really good reference to keep on the shelf at my desk, no matter what research and design projects I might be working on.