Screens have taken over our lives. They’re in our pockets, our cars, our homes and our offices. We check our phones over 150 times a day, responding to the addictive buzzes and rings from our apps. But as technology evolves, so should our ways to interact with them.
In The Best Interface is No Interface, Golden Krishna explains how we got to this point and what we can do to design more elegant experiences for a world beyond the screen.
Golden’s book is amusing, original and very educational. It’s a must read for everyone in the industry. To get you started, here’s what we got out of it.
UX design is not UI design
UX and UI look very much alike, don’t they? They both got the letter U (for User) and the other letter is probably not that important. Or is it? A User Experience is fundamentally different from a User Interface. But somewhere along the way, we confused the two. And instead of pursuing the best, most creative and most inventive way to solve a problem, we started to solve every problem with screens. In fact, blurring the two disciplines is probably one of the root causes of the commonly screen-obsessed approach to design. The result is that too much of our lives is dominated by tapping, touching, swiping and clicking.
Is that a phone in your pocket?
What if instead of designing systems to be touched and tapped, we made apps that worked best when our phones are in our pockets? When we empower some of the many possibilities for machine input that are already in our phones today, we can reduce the need to fill out form fields, read notifications and react to the addictive devices that seem to grow in our hands.
“We’ve seen huge leaps in consumer technology, but there’s an awful trend that is taking us away from what really matters.”
Golden Krishna, Design Strategist at Google and author
Look at the entire process
When we design software, we tend to sketch rectangles and squares. We design what it’s like to go from screen to screen in an app. But we forget about the environment in which someone’s using it and what he or she is actually trying to get done in the first place. We should ask ourselves questions like: what are people trying to get done? Why? What triggers the process? What’s going on around them when they’re doing it? In what environment are they doing it? What kind of objects or devices do they use?
Use machine input
So instead of taking people away from the job they’re trying to get done, can we bring them closer to it? Can we reduce the number of steps instead of increasing them? There are all sorts of sensors that already exist on our phones, and by combining them, we can get them to do a lot of the things we don’t want to do, don’t know we should do, or forget to do.
Learn from data to create a magic moment
Every user is unique with his own set of preferences, desires and interests. So why are we still designing software for an average? Instead of pushing data scientists in an analytic role, looking for patterns after they already happened, we can bring these people into the creation process and design digital experiences that can predict behavior and thereby adapt to individuals, instead of the other way around
A simple use case from the book
Ashley usually takes the train to go to work. Sometimes, she falls asleep on the train to work, and misses her stop. She tends to have her smartphone in her pocket.
It’s safe to assume that someone is on a train when:
A. GPS puts her on a train route
B. Accelerometer > 75mph
By gathering data for a certain amount of time, we know Ashley tends to spend weekday hours of 9am–5pm near a certain location. When she’s on a train route that leads to that location around 9am, it’s safe to make the assumption that she’s heading for work.
Ashley’s phone vibrates to wake her up just before her train stops on her way to work. Ah, delight!
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