I was watching a young child play with one of those massage chairs the other day at a furniture store. Now they had never seen one of these before, but I was amazing to see how they responded. They sat down on the chair, and immediately began start pressing the buttons. Seeking out the largest buttons first, and then the green ones. A few attempts and they had the chair powered up. They then started to cycle through the options in order to find the settings that suited them, using the details on the LCD display. Now this child is not able to read yet, so the words on the buttons are meaningless. The amazing thing about this was that within a few minutes they had the chair configured the way they wanted it. They just muddled through it and with the use the graphics on the LCD to configured the chair. In some ways they had the chair operational in a shorter time period than some adults.
Now I question why? Is it that as adults we are predisposed to certain ways of thinking? Or is it that we are more conservative with our exploring in fear of “breaking the technology”?
The lesson here as pointed out by Ben Winter-Giles kids see things in a much purer focused simple application, they trust 100% that the device will work and that they will work it out, its just a matter of trail and error of examining al the buttons and icons.
Keep it Simple
Are we over engineering things? The advert of the current crop of web applications is to have simple function products that only do one thing (eg Basecamp, 88miles RubyURL and the list goes on and on). Whether its a Ruby application or uses a mashup of the API to string it all together as required, they have one thing in common, a simiple interface.
But in terms of interface design the aim should be to make it easy to use and easy to find things and not have to have the visitor relearn the web to use the web site they are on (as per my previous post). Right that’s what we do you all say, Well no we don’t..
This brings me to some examples are web applications that you would think would look similar in functionality. Lets look at professional social networking sites (no not Myspace or Bebo) but Linkedin.com, Xing.com and Ryze.com. Okay they have been around for a while, don’t worry I’m not discussing that they are new and funky (this week). But lets quickly look at the different ways the same basic interface is approached:
Plain, easy to see and find things, it’s all in separate defined blocks; all where we expect to find the relevant items. The focus is the Resume (which is using the mircoformat hresume if you didn’t know see Steve Ganz blog). There is lots of white space, the page elements are simple and do only one thing. No time wasted here.
Very similar to Linkedin. But with a slightly different information focus on the community aspect (groups) and the messaging and communications aspect. Again its al cleanly defined. It does have a few strange labels, that make you think about the content behind them. Its does have very distinct functional areas on the pages, that generally are easy to use. Little time wasted.
Okay I hate this site. The only good thing about the design is the sectional menu. The rest of the pages are a visual mish-mash of confusion that is constantly completing for your eyes. It doesn’t help that the designer doesn’t seem to have remembered to use different size fonts to separate content and the like. With this site I have to stop think, I have to muddle, I have to work out what does what. Frankly in the high-speed nature of the web, this site on usability down hill side. Even Myspace or Bebo have a better interface.
It’s not that hard. Let remember keep it simple, make it do one thing, focus on the core, make it intuitive, design like a child.
Are we on the right track with the web, or should it all be complex, we have big brains we can take it or do we? What do you think?