Tuesday, September 18, 2012

No Interface

Today the market offers SmartTV, SmartFridge, SmartCars, SmartPhones...and a host of devices with complicated and sometimes unnecessary user interface to make you look stupid. Agree?

I came across this wonderful post on UI, The best interface is no interface. The title says it all. It is almost as if the author knew how we feel about (over-designed) interfaces. More importantly, the author advocates 3 principles for the 'no interface approach' with interesting examples to prove his point. Here are some nuggets:

"Creative minds in technology should focus on solving problems. Not just make interfaces. 

As Donald Norman said in 1990 - 'The real problem with the interface is that it is an interface. Interfaces get in the way. I don’t want to focus my energies on an interface. I want to focus on the job…I don’t want to think of myself as using a computer, I want to think of myself as doing my job.'

It’s time for us to move beyond screen-based thinking. Because when we think in screens, we design based upon a model that is inherently unnatural, inhumane, and has diminishing returns. It requires a great deal of talent, money and time to make these systems somewhat usable, and after all that effort, the software can sadly, only truly improve with a major overhaul.

There is a better path: No UI. A design methodology that aims to produce a radically simple technological future without digital interfaces......

......Several car companies have recently created smartphone apps that allow drivers to unlock their car doors. Generally, the unlocking feature plays out like this:
  1. A driver approaches her car.
  2. Takes her smartphone out of her purse.
  3. Turns her phone on.
  4. Slides to unlock her phone.
  5. Enters her passcode into her phone.
  6. Swipes through a sea of icons, trying to find the app.
  7. Taps the desired app icon.
  8. Waits for the app to load.
  9. Looks at the app, and tries figure out (or remember) how it works.
  10. Makes a best guess about which menu item to hit to unlock doors and taps that item.
  11. Taps a button to unlock the doors.
  12. The car doors unlock.
  13. She opens her car door.
Thirteen steps later, she can enter her car.

The app forces the driver to use her phone. She has to learn a new interface. And the experience is designed around the flow of the computer, not the flow of a person.

If we eliminate the UI, we’re left with only three, natural steps:
  1. A driver approaches her car.
  2. The car doors unlock.
  3. She opens her car door.
Anything beyond these three steps should be frowned upon. Seem crazy?" 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Get Real

The gear shift is pushed higher. The throttle is pressed hard. The car leaps and zips along a beautiful highway. The car swerves dramatically a full 360 degree. The car screeches to a halt. Steve McQueen steps out of the car. 

This car.

BTW, I was kidding. About Steve McQueen.

Seriously, if ever there was a lemon it is the car above. No amount of dramatic television spots will move this beyond a taxi-wallah’s favorite. 

I have not singled out this brand for special treatment. This malaise of ‘stupid’ hyperbole cuts across brands and the evidence is there for all to see, on television and online. I must also admit that I have been part of such work. I must also admit that in all the instances, the client was told of the ‘stupidity’ of such an approach. But then, we were clobbered with logic, stats and the ultimate crutch of marketers, research. We had to quietly relent.

Call it mid-life crisis or burn-out or whatever, I am increasingly finding it difficult to be part of such an exercise. It is to my mind a case of 'good money behind bad money'. 

Is there a way to call the crap on this kind of marketing and advertising? 

Why don't marketers and agencies realize that there is merit in being honest and real? The creative possibilities are far more interesting with such an approach. The believability and empathy is also likely to be more. I am not saying no to hyperbole. But hyperbole for a product/service that is at best a ‘turkey’ should be avoided.

I recently read a charming post by an UX expert that beautifully captured this thought. Here are some gems from the post.

“Our best chance for establishing trust with our users is to be honest. After all, trust inspires confidence. And it’s confidence—not just a knowledge of differences—that compels decision-making.

Perhaps we should stop fixating on what makes us different and, instead, acknowledge the real aspects of who we are, what we do, and why people choose us.

We often overlook our own assets because they’re real. Real things aren’t flashy, polished, or perfect. That’s often what makes them an asset in the first place.”

Finally, there can be no better validation of this approach than from The Master. Recognize this?


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ideas are a product of discovery, not creation


The headline is a summation of what George Lois, considered one of the greatest art directors and 'the original mad man', had to say about ideas.

"I don’t think I create anything. I’m really serious — I discover the ideas.

If you understand how to think… If you have a background of graphic art, and you are a sports fan, and you’re literate, and you’re interested in politics, and you love opera, and ballet’s not bad either, and if you understand people… and you understand language, and you understand that product, and you understand the competitive products… and you put that all together in about ten minutes — the idea’s there."

Be open to experiences and you are likely to come up with interesting ideas. Learn it from masters like George Lois.