Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The key to simplicity -questions for Donald Norman

Some questions for usability guru,author, Donald Norman...

"Regarding "everyday things" like can openers, wallets, and nail clippers. I've found it's tough to be taken seriously when discussing how the designs are poor or clever. With a common response I hear of "who cares?" -How do you justify to people the importance of design in such
mundane things?

DN: Actually, everybody seems to resonate with these problems, often coming up with their own examples. But whenever I talk about these problems, I explain that the very same difficulties are true of all devices, including safety-critical devices in our factories, power plants, and transportation systems. If we can't even get the simple things right, I ask, how can we have faith on those more complex ones?

In your "Ask Don" feature, you ended your thoughts on convergence with:
"Today simplicity, tomorrow convenience. Tomorrow convenience, the next day simplicity." Do you feel there is hope that technology will close this gap? In other words, it would be nice if our cell phone would physically "change" into a MP3 player at our whims, but until reality catches up with Sci-Fi, is there a middle ground that technology can reach that will make make simple and convenient devices? (like a touchscreen interface that offers the tactical feedback of physical buttons)

DN: We are always caught in the bind of wanting our devices to be straightforward and simple, while simultaneously wanting them to do more and more things.

This is not a technological problem.

Technology can help only if it can adopt a simple structure so that controls for different devices are as similar to one another as possible, making the learning much easier. Multiple purpose controls are an abomination. It is possible to have a single device transform itself into independent devices for controlling different tasks. But here the key is to make the switch from the support of individual technologies and individual devices to the support of cohesive, organized activities.

When I watch television, I don't really want to watch TV: I want to watch a movie, or a TV show. Therefore, the "watching a TV show" control should automatically set up the TV, the cable box or DVR, the audio set, and let me control volume and selection of shows -- activities that require numerous separate devices, but should e smoothly controlled by one. Indeed, the "watching a TV show" controller might also control room lights and draperies. That's what happens in my home.

But, that's it. The "watching a TV show" controller should not select music channels, or control the bedroom lights, or the room temperature -- it should be configured for all and only the components that make up the TV viewing experience.

Similar strategies are required for all of our activities. Activity-centered design is the key to simplicity."   continued ...   (Via User Centered)

Simplicity and everyday things - User Interface Design, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Ergonomics

Simplicity and everyday things


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