summing up 84

summing up is a recurring series on topics & insights on user experience and how we can make sense of computers that compose a large part of my thinking and work. drop your email in the box below to get it straight in your inbox or find previous editions here.

As We May Link, by Jeremy Keith

The web is just twenty years old and I’m not sure that we have yet come to terms with the power that this new medium grants us. When we create websites, it’s all too easy for us to fall into old patterns of behaviour and treat our creations as independent self-contained islands lacking in outbound links. But that’s not the way the web works. The sites we build should not be cul-de-sacs for the inquisitive visitors who have found their way to our work by whatever unique trails they have followed. We should recognise that when we design and publish information on the humblest homepage or the grandest web app, we are creating connections within a much larger machine of knowledge, a potential Turing machine greater than any memex or calculus racionator.

this is such a powerful idea i've been referring to a lot recently. the computer and the web are powerful tools which could fundamentally amplify our human capabilities. i am only afraid that we're not able to see and grasp the big picture yet.

Error Messages Are Evil, by Don Norman

Our technology is designed by technologists who know what is good for that technology, namely highly precise, accurate, detailed information. Well, that ay be good for machines, but what about what is good for people? People are bad at precision and accuracy. At monitoring dull stuff for long periods. Force us to do those things, to act like machines, and of course we will fail. You call it human error: I call it machine error, or if you prefer, bad design.

too often we punish our users for not being able to predict the system's design, be it a website, app or program. but make no mistake, this is not about eliminating feedback from the system. when needed, the feedback should change to a collaborative one, rather than a confrontational one – human computer interaction, not confrontation.

Wobbly Tables and the Problem with Futurism, by Philip Dhingra

I’m amazed by all the great advances that have been made in the past 15 years, but I’m even more amazed by areas that haven’t changed. But perhaps the silver lining in the Banality of Futurism is that the room for growth won’t be in fixing life’s inconveniences, but rather in the human condition.

a very interesting thought on how acclimated we are to quirks and nuisances in our user interfaces. the future will probably be as awkward as the times we live in today. i've referred to a similar issue in a previous episode.