Monday, January 14, 2008

Will User Interface Design Come Full Circle?

Bill Gates on UI ...

"The most covered aspect of Bill Gates’ keynote at CES last weekend may have been the joke video of his life after retirement (rapping with Jay-Z, working out with Matthew McConaughey) but the Microsoft Chairman also made some predictions about the future of technology. The Guardian summarizes:

The second digital decade will be more focused on connecting people,” he said, predicting it would also feature progress in training machines to react as people do, with “natural user interfaces” responsive to speech and touch.

So in the future your phone will have one button and you’ll just be able to talk to it and tell it what you want? Kevin Kelly points out on his blog that this future phone looks a lot like the phone of the past:

this 1907 Western Electric Model 317 Phone (in production for 30 years) has an ideal user interface. There is one “button,” the hand-cranked ON switch. There’s no other buttons, no menu, no screen. You just talk to it (the local human operator was the OS), tell it who you want to talk to, what you want to do.

As everyone who’s ever screamed in frustration at an automated customer service system or overcomplicated menu could tell you, the future of user interface design really may be in making machines respond more like actual people."    (Continued via BNET Intercom)    [Usability Resources]

One Button Phone - Usability, User Interface Design

One Button Phone


Blogger mo said...

"...the future of user interface design really may be in making machines respond more like actual people."

Except that this is an impossible task. I'm old enough to have experienced phone operators for real, and among the things they could do: connect you a heck of a lot faster if it was an emergency, respond with compassion and patience when you weren't familiar with the system, struggle to understand what you were trying to do and suggest alternatives you might not have considered to achieve your goals, laugh with you about the state of the world, tease, flirt, and call your daughter if it sounded like you were having a bad day.

Compare that to my most recent experience with an "advanced automated system" that insisted I choose between five goal options, none of which matched the reason for my call, and when I couldn't choose, returned me to the main menu.

No, I don't think the future of user interface will ever succeed in making the phone interface enough like a human interaction to be satisfying. I would settle for a system whereby I simply leave a message saying what I want and my phone number, and then someone - a real person who's listened to my message and understands what I want - calls me back when they have time. Perhaps they could give me a tracking number so I could see where I was "in line." But enough pretending to be human already. I've had my fill of it.

9:21 AM  

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