How smart does your bed have to be before you are afraid to go to sleep at night?

Posted in 1990s, Theory, Ubicomp and Internet of Things, Visionary

Rich Gold, “How smart does your bed have to be, before you are afraid to go to sleep at night?” Ars Electronica, 1994

Can a house built with modern computer technology still be expected to work ten years from now? Do you currently have any ten-year-old computers in your house? Do you expect your children to live in your house? Your children’s children? Your children’s children’s children? Will your smart house still be smart then?

Do you consider living in an intelligent, fully computerized house to be work? Will there be computerized forms you have to regularly fill out to keep it working? Will you have to perform regular maintenance on it? How does this differ from work? Do you take vacations now from your house, say to simple cabins in the woods? Will you take vacations from your smart house to, say suburban houses?

If a smart house decides that it doesn’t like you, can it leave and find another employer?

The Rise of Mobile Cards

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Basics, Interface Design, Mobile

Cezary Pietrzak, “The Rise of Mobile Cards,” 2014

Born from the frustrations of using a smartphone, cards have quickly become the go-to design metaphor of mobile. They’re simple to understand and visually appealing, and they perfectly accommodate the interactive nature of the medium.

What is a Card?

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Interface Design, Mobile

Khoi Vihn, “What is a Card?” 2014

We used to sit down with software and point and click on things; now we carry software around and tap, swipe, pinch and zoom on things. As our computing habits have gotten more mobile and more physical, the metaphor of pages, which implies a more focused, dedicated frame of mind, has become less useful.

Cards offer an alternative metaphor that’s much more complementary to how we use phones and tablets.

Cheap Speech and What It Will Do

Posted in 1990s, Visionary

Volokh, Eugene, “Cheap Speech and What It Will Do,” (1995)

A database of, say, all apartments for rent in the city would be much easier to search through than a newspaper classified section: From a public access terminal, the renter could ask for an instant list of all the one bedroom apartments renting for less than $850 per month within three miles of UCLA, perhaps plus apartments that are a bit cheaper but a bit further, or more expensive but closer. The list should be more complete, because the information will be easier and cheaper to post. And the list should be timelier-the information will become available as soon as the landlord posts it, and can be removed as soon as the apartment is rented. Electronic classifieds are better on all counts than paper ones, and newspapers will have to adjust to a huge revenue loss when the paper classifieds stop coming in. The loss of classified revenues, coupled with the cost savings and opportunities for extra profits from electronic distribution, should help push newspaper publishers into going electronic.

JOSS: A Designer’s View of an Experimental On-line Computing System

Posted in 1960s, Hardware, History, Visionary

J.C. Shaw, “JOSS: A Designer’s View of an Experimental On-line Computing System,” (1964)

The choice of a character set and key positions for any on-line keyboard input device isn’t to be taken lightly, especially if one hopes to encourage senior technical people to use the keyboard in the direct solution of their problems. It is customary for these people to pay others to drive teletypewriters, keypunches, and even typewriters.

First Principles of Interaction Design (Revised and Expanded)

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Basics

Bruce Tognazzini, “First Principles of Interaction Design (Revised and Expanded),” 2014.

Effective interfaces are visually apparent and forgiving, instilling in their users a sense of control. Users quickly see the breadth of their options, grasp how to achieve their goals, and can settle down to do their work. Effective interfaces do not concern the user with the inner workings of the system. Work is carefully and continuously saved, with full option for the user to undo any activity at any time. Effective applications and services perform a maximum of work, while requiring a minimum of information from users.

Improving Usability with Fitts’ Law

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Basics, Usability

Gross, Jason, “Improving Usability with Fitt’s Law,” (2011).

Fitts’ law is a model that can help designers make educated decisions in user interfaces and web page layouts. It can be used in conjunction with design theories such as visual weight to give user interface items proper hierarchy and placement.

Transitional Interfaces

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Interface Design

D’Silva, Pasquale, “Transitional Interfaces” (2013)

Folks keep throwing around the word “delight” when referring to animation and cute interactions. Cool and great for those guys. Guess what though? Animation can be used functionally too. It’s not just an embellished detail.

Animation leverages an overlooked dimension — time! An invisible fabric which stitches space together.

How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design

Posted in 2000s, Articles, Cogniton, Theory

Klemmer, Scott, Hartmann, Bjorn, and Takayama, Leila, “How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design,” 2006.

This paper presents five themes that we believe are particularly salient for designing and evaluating interactive systems. The first, thinking through doing, describes how thought (mind) and action (body) are deeply integrated and how they co-produce learning and reasoning. The second, performance, describes the rich actions our bodies are capable of, and how physical action can be both faster and more nuanced than symbolic cognition. The first two themes primarily address individual corporeality; the next two are primarily concerned with the social affordances. Visibility describes the role of artifacts in collaboration and cooperation. Risk explores how the uncertainty and risk of physical co-presence shapes interpersonal and human-computer interactions. The final theme, thickness of practice, suggests that because the pursuit of digital verisimilitude is more difficult than it might seem, embodied interaction is a more prudent path.

No to NoUI

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Interface Design, Theory

Arnall, Timo, “No to NoUI,” 2013.

Invisible design propogates the myth that technology will ‘disappear’ or ‘just get out of the way’ rather than addressing the qualities of interface technologies that can make them difficult or delightful.

Intentionally hiding the phenomena and materiality of interfaces, smoothing over the natural edges, seams and transitions that constitute all technical systems, entails a loss of understanding and agency for both designers and users of computing. Lack of understanding leads to uncertainty and folk-theories that hinder our ability to use technical systems, and clouds the critique of technological developments.

As systems increasingly record our personal activity and data, invisibility is exactly the wrong model.

The Best Interface is No Interface

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Inspirational, Theory

Krishna, Golden, “The best interface is no interface,” 2012.

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. Following three simple principles, we can design smarter, more useful systems that make our lives better.

Magic and Software Design

Posted in 1990s, Articles, Inspirational

Tognazzini, Bruce, “Magic and Software Design,” 1993.

Perhaps no field other than magic is tied so closely to the field of graphical interface design: The people working at Xerox PARC in the 1960’s and early 1970’s were aware of the principles of theatrical magic when creating the first graphical interfaces, to the extent that David Smith named the interface itself the “user illusion” (Kay). We are designing interfaces for an interface system based on magic, yet there is almost nothing written about it in our literature. (An exception is a single page by Heckel.) Magicians have been struggling with the principles, techniques, and ethics of illusion for at least 5000 years (Burger). There’s a lot we can learn from them.

Metaphor and the Cognitive Representation of Computing Systems

Posted in 1980s, Articles, Cogniton

Carroll, John M. and Thomas, John C., “Metaphor and the Cognitive Representation of Computing Systems”, 1980.

Our starting point is the simple observation (dating at least to the time of William James, 1890) that people tend to try to learn about new things by making use of their past learning. New concepts are typically thought of in terms of old concepts-at least initially. We focus on a specific variety of this, the metaphorical extension from one structured domain into another. In particular we consider the role that metaphorical learning plays in the mastery of computing systems at various levels of “competence.” Professional programmers might learn a new system X by metaphorizing at least initially from what they already know about system Y. More casual or naive end-users might rely on metaphors drawn from more distant knowledge domains, e.g.. on what they have already learned about electric typewriters.

Mental Models and Usability

Posted in 1990s, Articles, Basics, Cogniton, Usability

Davidson, Mary Jo, Dove, Laura, and Weltz, Julie, “Mental Models and Usability,” 1999

An inaccurate mental model of what is happening in a system leads to errors. Many systems place too many demands on the humans that use them. Users are often required to adjust the way they work to accommodate the computer. Sometimes the result is a minor frustration or inconvenience, such as changes not being saved to a file. Inaccurate mental models of more complex systems, such as an airplane or nuclear reactor, can lead to disastrous accidents.

A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Inspirational

Bret Victor, A Brief Rant on The Future of Interaction Design, 2011

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.

The Ten Principles of Interaction Design

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Basics

Chad Vavra, The Ten Principles of Interaction Design, 2011

To steal a metaphor from E.L. Doctorow, “[Interaction Design] is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can still get to your destination”. When a task seems too big, start by picking two things, like a page and a button. Establish their relationship and interaction. Once that is done, pick something else that relates and keep going. Everything will come together thanks to the brain’s natural ability to spatially model the world.

How Print is the Future of Interaction

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Inspirational, Interface Design, Mobile

Mike Kruzeniski, How Print Design is the Future of Interaction, 2011

The literal analog affordance is no longer necessary, and yet, it’s the default path that so many interactive experiences follow. We don’t need to make an eBook look like a book for people to understand how to use it. The book isn’t the cover and binding, it’s the images and the text that make the story. Similarly, a movie doesn’t need to look like a DVD on a shelf to understand that it belongs to a collection, and an audio mixer doesn’t require cables and knobs to be capable as a tool, and a Notebook does not require leather and a spiral bind to be familiar. In the early days of interaction design when software concepts were best explained through heavy handed metaphors, the familiarity of these objects and textures was appropriate. However, the rendering of artifacts has outlived its usefulness as the definitive approach to UI design. As Designers we should be critiquing it for what it often is: shallow, meaningless, and often distracting from the information it surrounds.

The Robot-Readable World

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Inspirational, Robotics, Theory

Matt Jones, The Robot-readable World, 2011

Computer vision is a deep, dark specialism with strange opportunities and constraints. The signals that we design towards robots might be both simpler and more sophisticated than QR codes or other 2d barcodes.

Portable Cathedrals

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Hardware, Mobile

Dan Hill, Portable Cathedrals, 2011

Each mobile phone handset is not a mere product, perhaps like the other products that have traditionally adorned the pages of this magazine—as a chair is, or a lighting fixture is. Instead, each handset is a play in a wider global contest, a node in logistics networks of immense scale and complexity, a platform for an ecosystem of applications, an exemplar of the internet of things, a window onto the daily interactions of billions of users, of their ever-changing personalities and cultures, a product that consumers traditionally consider the most important in their possession, after the keys to their home.

The phone is an intimate device, not simply through its ubiquity and connectivity, its relationship with the body. While objects have long been cultural choices and symbolic goods, the mobile phone, being the most personal connection to the internet, is a device for generating symbolic goods, a vehicle for culture, a proxy for the owner’s identities. It is vast business and cultural phenomenon, all at once.

What the Telephone’s Unbeatable Functionality Teaches Us About Innovation

Posted in 2010s, Articles, History, Inspirational

Stefan Boublil, What The Telephone’s Unbeatable Functionality Teaches Us About Innovation, 2011

Design has become almost useless to mankind since so few people pursue single-mindedness as a foundational purpose, but would rather purposelessly chase multi-functionalism down a dark and long tunnel that may well lead to magazine covers, but to little else.