Monday, January 07, 2008

Motorcycle UX: Riding in the Fast Lane

Motorcycle controls and display UX ...

"As a UX designer, understanding what contributes to a great user experience, how to define who users are, what their mental models consist of, and what kinds of interactions encourage them to succeed—all of these things make me happy. But the thing that makes me the happiest is spending time riding my Moto Guzzi Breva 1100—a rare, handmade Italian motorcycle. For me, it’s the ultimate user experience.

Riding my motorcycle lets me experience the world through many senses: the fecund smell of Virginia farmland in June; the ripply heat of the Arkansas Delta region in the middle of a heat wave; the sound of a thunderstorm as I race to beat it, heading for shelter from the storm; and the feel of the road, the bike, and the wind as I ride wherever it is I’m going.

The ride is the thing about the experience, though. Yes, there’s also the hair-in-the-wind, live-to-ride, ride-to-live thing. However, one key element of motorcycling is its inherent dangerousness.

That’s why signals and information about status, situation, and progress are so important and need to be readily and easily discernible. Indeed, motorcyclists must perform so many actions and be aware of so many stimuli, they need to be able to think less and act more readily. As Melissa Holbrook Pierson writes, “People tell me I think too much, but I don’t see how such a thing is possible, unless of course it is either in the middle of sex or at the apex of a high-speed turn.”

Historically, bikes have presented indicators, controls, and other elements of information in analog displays like those shown in Figure 1. For example, such indicators display measures of speed, how hard the engine’s working, and perhaps state alerts like a light that indicates the transmission is in neutral or a light that flashes to indicate a turn signal is on. Informational elements have tended to be sparse. On some bikes, a geared odometer shows how far you’ve traveled to date—and perhaps, on more upscale bikes, there’s a mechanical tripometer that a rider can reset by turning a small knob on the speedometer housing.

Visual perception is key to safe motorcycling. A dashboard that fully takes advantage of people’s visual perception both enhances the user experience and can, in fact, save lives and preserve equipment. If a rider knows he is going too fast, he knows he’s taking on higher risk. A rider who sees an alert indicating a low-fuel condition knows he should find a gas station soon—or risk testing just how good his roadside assistance program really is."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

Analog Dashboards - Usability, User Interface Design

Analog Dashboards

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