Gulf of Execution


  • Motivation:  Does the system provide actions that correspond to the intentions of the person?
  • Definition:  According to Don Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things, “The difference between the intentions and the allowable actions is the Gulf of Execution” (51).  Norman argues that we can measure this gulf by assessing how well a system allows users to perform their intended actions directly, without extra effort.  That is, do the actions provided by the system correspond to those intended by the users?
  • Result:  Users cannot easily and efficiently accomplish their intended tasks, and they may become frustrated and blame themselves.
  • Examples:  As discussed in lecture, consider a user who would like to adjust the temperature of the refrigerator pictured above [1].  Ideally, this task would be easy and intuitive.  But in this product, it is unclear what combinations of knobs must be adjusted to achieve the intention of lowering the temperature of the freezer.  Therefore, there is a problem with the Gulf of Execution in this refrigerator.
[1] Professor Gajos, COMPSCI 179 Lecture (02/08/2018)

Contributed by Michelle Vaccaro and Auriel Wright

About the author: Michelle Vaccaro

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