Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Economist discusses user experience

Courtesy of Putting People First, I found this great article on the need to improve the user experience of computers from The Economist.

A few excerpts:

Consider the Nokia 6680 mobile phone, says Adam Greenfield, an expert in computing culture at New York University and the author of “Everyware”, a book about the future of computing. He found that 13 clicks were needed to change its ringtone. “It's an interface designed by engineers for engineers,” he says.


Making computers simpler to operate would help the people who use them and the companies that produce them. Ease of use is one area where technology firms can differentiate themselves and gain competitive advantage.


But making computers simpler to use will require more than novel input devices. Smarter software is needed, too. For example, much effort is going into the development of “context aware” systems that hide unnecessary clutter and present options that are most likely to be relevant, depending on what the user is doing.


Cars fitted with sensors and cameras collect data on the driving styles of test participants, including their acceleration and braking patterns, assertiveness in changing lanes, and so on. The navigation computer then picks a route that accommodates each driver's strengths and weaknesses. The system works fine—but when drivers are told what is happening, they get angry. This suggests, says Mr Dey, that contextual computing needs to be discreet: such systems are, in effect, judging people and trying to influence their behaviour. Systems that manipulate people, he says, may have to keep quiet about it to work.
Good stuff.

1 comment:

Peter said...

It's nice to see UX getting some positive press lately. It's finally dawning on us that all of our expensive gadgets ought to actually be useful.