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The Design of Everyday Things

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Why burden other people when we can put the burden on the thing itself? Do I want to remember to take a book to a colleague? I put the book someplace where I cannot fail to see it when I leave the house. A good spot is against the front door so that I can’t leave without tripping over it. Or I can put my car keys on it, so when I leave, I am reminded.

The traditional measures of short-term memory capacity range from five to seven, but from a practical point of view, it is best to think of it as holding only three to five items. Does that seem too small a number? Well, when you meet a new person, do you always remember his or her name? When you have to dial a phone number, do you have to look at it several times while entering the digits? Even minor distractions can wipe out the stuff we are trying to hold on to in STM. What are the design implications? Don’t count on much being retained in STM