Pictures under glass is not the future

What did you feel? Did it feel glassy? Did it have no connection whatsoever with the task you were performing?

I call this technology Pictures Under Glass. Pictures Under Glass sacrifice all the tactile richness of working with our hands, offering instead a hokey visual facade.

Is that so bad, to dump the tactile for the visual? Try this: close your eyes and tie your shoelaces. No problem at all, right? Now, how well do you think you could tie your shoes if your arm was asleep? Or even if your fingers were numb? When working with our hands, touch does the driving, and vision helps out from the back seat.

Pictures Under Glass is an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness. It’s a Novocaine drip to the wrist. It denies our hands what they do best. And yet, it’s the star player in every Vision Of The Future.

To me, claiming that Pictures Under Glass is the future of interaction is like claiming that black-and-white is the future of photography. It’s obviously a transitional technology. And the sooner we transition, the better.
A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design

I’ve likely linked to this before (it’s from 7 years ago), but I’ve always liked this description of the current obsession with pictures under glass UI paradigm. I love the tactile, the information provided by it far more than what is afforded on by sliding onscreen.

In the same way that industrial designers have shaped our everyday life through objects that they design for our offices and for our homes, interaction design is shaping our life with interactive technologies – computers, telecommunications, mobile phones, and so on. If I were to sum up interaction design in a sentence, I would say that it’s about shaping our everyday life through digital artifacts – for work, for play, and for entertainment.
Gillian Crampton Smith

Interacting in the Global City

In today’s global cities, public urban space is constituted in my different ways. Residents in the same neighborhood may have very diverse types of knowledge about their shared public space: The children know the neighborhood at ground level, the tech designer knows the Wi-Fi coverage at the cafes, the homeless know about the night fauna.

How do these understandings of urban space affect our view, use, and design of technology?

Documentary exploring the future of Interaction Design and User Experience

Documentary exploring the future of Interaction Design and User Experience [18-min video]

The 18 minute “Connecting” documentary is an exploration of the future of Interaction Design and User Experience from some of the industry’s thought leaders. As the role of software is catapulting forward, Interaction Design is seen to be not only increasing in importance dramatically, but also expected to play a leading role in shaping the coming “Internet of things.” Ultimately, when the digital and physical worlds become one, humans along with technology are potentially on the path to becoming a “super organism” capable of influencing and enabling a broad spectrum of new behaviors in the world.

Don Norman: The Design of Future Things

Sit back and grab lunch as this is a long one.

February 9, 2007 lecture by Don Norman for the Stanford University Human Computer Interaction Seminar (CS 547). In this talk, Don discusses his latest book, The Design of Future Things, which is about the increasing intrusion of intelligent devices in the automobile and home with both expected benefits and unexpected dangers.

Mobile Interaction Design Book


“Mobile Interaction Design shifts the design perspective away from the technology and concentrates on usability; in other words the book concentrates on developing interfaces and devices with a great deal of sensitivity to human needs, desires and capabilities.”
From the first chapter of Mobile Interaction Design, by Matt Jones.
“Perhaps, though, the real issue is not whether mobile devices should focus mainly on communication or information processing. There is a broader concern – should one device try to do everything for a user or should there be specialized tools, each carefully crafted to support a particular type of activity? This is the debate over the value of an ‘appliance attitude’ in mobile design. Should we focus on simple, activity-centered devices – ones that might well combine task-specific communication and information facilities – or look to providing a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ that has every communication and information management feature a manufacturer can pack into it?”
You can Download chapter 1 (pdf, 2.3 mb, 37 pages). Mobile Interaction Design is available from Amazon. Found via Putting People First

Toy Interface

Here is a good model for a successful interface, please excuse the poor quality photograph. I took my daughter out yesterday to try on some hats and naturally no trip to the childrens clothing section is complete with out her going and playing with the toys on the same floor. Catriona found this simple looking “bike” and within 30 seconds was zooming around kniping at the heels of the other store patrons. I was struck by the ease in which she was able to use this toy and despite my belief that she is near genius I have to believe that the construction of the toy itself had quite allot to do with her ease in using the bike’s “interface”.
The bike moves around without pedals by a simple rocking of the handle bars. This action creates momentum, allowing you to acquire speed, after which you are able to glide. For an old man like myself it’s pretty ingenious.
This device succeeds in ways that can be applied to other more “traditional” interfaces.

  • All the complexity is hidden (there is a gear and extra wheel underneath).
  • The interface that controls the motion is attached to an object that allows for natural interaction. Catriona expects to move the wheel, it’s her mental model of this device, so she naturally wants to play with the steering wheel. This allows her to discover how the interface works and because she has done it many times before the time to learn this device is greatly reduced.

Pretty cool. An additional feature that I didn’t try out was the “bikes” ability to scale. The sales lady said that it accommodate even people of my weight and size. She motioned with a smile for me to hop on. I declined the opportunity.

The Interaction Design Association

The Interaction Design Group (IxDG) has officially changed its name and organizational status and have incorporated as the Interaction Design Association – a non-profit, member-supported organization.
I use their news announcement as a means of introducing what is a decent collection of resources contained within their site. The IxD Discussion mailing list is a great first step in getting involved and a wealth of information. I prefer to not be involved with any email lists – I have a hard enough time managing my email without adding to that activity. Why not a threaded discussion list with rss feeds? Email lists seem so old- school. Luckily they do have an archive.
Interaction Design Association

Dan Harden gets it

“If there’s anything anyone in this field is chasing, it’s Apple’s quality and simplicity. Pick up an iPod, and you get it, you feel it, you sense it. But let’s not forget that these things are made in China. It’s nothing different from what everybody else is doing. The difference is that Apple will spend a lot of time and a lot of money to train quality-control standards. Unlike smaller companies, it can afford to get to the microlevels and really think through how a button feels. As a result, it has made digital audio seem so easy, so fast, so seamless.”
Read the whole Fast Company article

First Principles of Interaction Design

“The following principles are fundamental to the design and implementation of effective interfaces, whether for traditional GUI environments or the web. Of late, many web applications have reflected a lack of understanding of many of these principles of interaction design, to their great detriment. Because an application or service appears on the web, the principles do not change. If anything, applying these principles become even more important.”
AskTog: First Principles of Interaction Design  


“Sonicforms an open source research platform for developing tangible interfaces for audio visual environments. The aim of the project is to improve this area of musical interaction by creating a community knowledge base and open tools for production. By decentralising the technology and providing an easier entry point, artists and musicians can focus on creating engaging works, rather than starting from the ground up.”
This at first glance looks quite interesting. Will certainly take a closer look … later.
Sonicforms – open source tangible user interfaces

Emotional Design: People and Things

“Our studies lead us to suspect that just as we might be able to classify products along three dimensions of attractiveness (visceral), functional and usable (behavioral) and high in prestige (reflective), we can also classify people along these dimensions. Visceral level people will be strongly biased toward appearance, behavioral people towards function, usability, and how much the feel in control during use. And Reflective level people (who would seldom admit to be one), are heavily biased by brand name, by prestige, and by the value a product brings to their self-image – hence the sale of high-priced whiskey, watches,, automobiles, and home furnishings.”

Emotion and Design

“Scott Adams had some fun showing how product aspects, such as quality and functionality, can be neglected when attempting to emotionally connect a product with a consumer. This line of humor is based on the premise that quality and functionality cannot coexist with form and feel. The emotional impact of products is currently receiving a great deal of press, with several newly released books and articles emphasizing the importance of creating products that not only accomplish tasks, but also ‘connect’ with users.”
Read the article

What is Interaction Design? (Ivera)

Going through some research articles I had collected I cam across a nicely written press release from Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. I love the final two paragraphs from this piece:
“Interactive technologies need a new kind of design, a fusion of sound, graphic and product design, and time-based narrative. Developing this new kind of design will lead to a new aesthetic: one of use and experience as well as of form. Function and information (and perhaps entertainment) converge.
In the combination of communication and interaction design the real needs and possibilities to improve human existence are given a central place.”
Lovely. I’ve included the whole page for safe keeping. Full credit goes to the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea.

Read more

Interfaces for Staying in the Flow (acm)

More on flow. I talked about this earlier in a previous entry. Again, reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s popular book about what he called “optimal experience” is worth the effort. This particular article discusses design user interfaces that are most conductive to allowing users to get in the flow.
“Psychologists have studied “optimal human experience” for many years, often called “being in the flow”. Through years of study, the basic characteristics of flow have been identified. This paper reviews the literature, and interprets the characteristics of flow within the context of interface design with the goal of understanding what kinds of interfaces are most conducive to supporting users being in the flow. Several examples to demonstrate the connection to flow are given.”
Read: Interfaces for Staying in the Flow

A Definition of Interaction Design (Dan)

“Interaction design is the art of facilitating or instigating interactions between humans (or their agents), mediated by products. By interactions, I mostly mean communication, either one-on-one (a telephone call), one-to-many (blogs), or many-to-many (the stock market). The products an interaction designer creates can be digital or analog, physical or incorporeal or some combination thereof.

Interaction design is concerned with the behavior of products, with how products work. A lot of an interaction designer’s time will be spent defining these behaviors, but the designer should never forget that the goal is to facilitate interactions between humans. To me, it’s not about interaction with a product (that’s industrial design) or interaction with a computer (that’s human-computer interaction). It’s about making connections between people.”

Read the full article. Hat tip xBlog

Balancing visual and structural complexity in interaction design

People will complain about a visually complex page at the sight of it. But they will also complain if the information they need isn’t immediately available to them when they start using the site.

An article dispelling many of the overused misunderstood principles of simplicity that people believe (my self included at one time) would greatly aid the usability of a web site.

But from Edward Tufte:

High density is good: the human eye/brain can select, filter, edit, group, structure, highlight, focus, blend, outline, cluster, itemize, winnow, sort, abstract, smooth, isolate, idealize, summarize, etc. Give people the data so they can exercise their full powers — don’t limit them.

Clutter/confusion are failures of design and not complexity.

Read: Balancing visual and structural complexity in interaction design

The Origin of Personas

“Personas, like all powerful tools, can be grasped in an instant but can take months or years to master. Interaction designers at Cooper spend weeks of study and months of practice before we consider them to be capable of creating and using personas at a professional level. Many practicing designers have used the brief 25-page description of personas in Inmates as a