I was reading my usual news, and saw an announcement for a new widget for my laptop. This one happens to be a tool for Bart schedules (we’re near a Bart station, and it makes it handy to go into San Francisco or to the airport), so I wanted to check it out. There was a link to the author’s philosophy of software design (really, interface design), and I’ve just spent too much time reading it, but it’s worth it.
He makes a reasonably plausible distinction between manipulation software, communication software, and information software (including learning), and focuses on the latter. The article then goes on to say that navigation to find what you want is the key, and minimizing it is critical (“interactivity is harmful”). He argues that the interaction design field has erred too much on interaction, not on meeting needs (though I’d argue that’s implementation, not the theory).
I am a sucker for articles talking about good design, particularly ones that use examples to make the point clear (he redesigns Amazon and Southwest Airlines, among others, with subtle wit), and can articulate the underlying principles (e.g. context sensitivity, one I argue is underused in mobile, but he has more general principles).
Ok, it’s long, and it does go off into some unnecessary side tracks from a ‘take home’ perspective, but there are some real gems. One I like is his contention that in general, you should present the user with a default answer that’s close to what the user would expect, and then make it intuitive to ‘critique’/modify the representation to get what you want, using the representational formalisms that have been created for this application.
IF you are responsible for designing the end-user experience, be it instructional, informational, or mobile implementations, it’s probably worth at least looking at the examples, and better yet skimming through.