summing up 77

i am trying to build a jigsaw puzzle which has no lid and is missing half of the pieces. i am unable to show you what it will be, but i can show you some of the pieces and why they matter to me. if you are building a different puzzle, it is possible that these pieces won't mean much to you, maybe they won't fit or they won't fit yet. then again, these might just be the pieces you're looking for. this is summing up, please find previous editions here.

Design machines, by Travis Gertz

There’s a lot of hubris hidden in the term “user experience design.” We can’t design experiences. Experiences are reactions to the things we design. Data lies to us. It makes us believe we know what a person is going through when they use our products. The truth is that it has no insight into physical mental or physical ability, emotional state, environmental conditions, socioeconomic status, or any other human factor outside of their ability to click on the right coloured box in the right order. Even if our machines can assume demographic traits, they will never be able to identify with each person’s unique combination of those traits. We can’t trust the data. And those who do will always be stuck chasing a robotic approach to human connection.

we often don't know our users. we don't know how they feel right in that moment, what problems they have, what solutions they're looking for. and this ignorance often leads us to design robotic experiences in a one fits all approach. and the truth is, we are designing boring, predictable and repetitive websites and digital products. an exuberance of data and patterns leads into mechanical and repetitive interactions with our users. we have to design better systems, we have to provoke and establish human connections in our technologies. or how else will we prove that we are better than a machine?

Intuitive Interfaces, by Jef Raskin

The term "intuitive" is associated with approval when applied to an interface, but this association raises the issue of the tension between improvement and familiarity. As an interface designer I am often asked to design a "better" interface to some product. Usually one can be designed such that, in terms of learning time, eventual speed of operation (productivity), decreased error rates, and ease of implementation it is superior to competing or the client’s own products. Even where my proposals are seen as significant improvements, they are often rejected nonetheless on the grounds that they are not intuitive. It is a classic "catch 22." The client wants something that is significantly superior to the competition. But if superior, it cannot be the same, so it must be different. Therefore it cannot be intuitive, that is, familiar. What the client usually wants is an interface with at most marginal differences that, somehow, makes a major improvement. This can be achieved only on the rare occasions where the original interface has some major flaw that is remedied by a minor fix.

you probably heard about often cited quote/joke that the only intuitive interface is the nipple. it's been around for quite some time in the ux/hci community. and it is funny, cute and completely wrong. no technology is intuitive. it is all just familiar or unfamiliar at first. what we want though from technology are interfaces and interactions that feel familiar, learnable and evident. an interface should teach us in ways we can get better, allow us to have new ideas and solutions to things and speak to us in ways we can understand. this doesn't mean that technology should never challenge or surprise us, it definitely should. but it should also grow together with the user.

on discoverability, by yours truly

if there is no way to discover what operations are possible just by looking at the screen and the interaction is numbed with no feedback by the devices, what's left? the interaction gets reduced to experience and familiarity where we only rely on readily transferred, existing skills.

it strikes me as quite interesting that we spend a huge part of our time developing digital products on static visual traits without thinking about how and where they are being used. but digital products are not just isolated tools, they are always used within an environment. and that environment has work collaboratively with our users. in order to achieve that interaction elements have to be discoverable. too often though vital elements are concealed in the user interface.


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