Kamis, 31 Januari 2013

Designing interfaces from the outside in

User interfaces are a pet peeve of mine.

I’m one of those people whose VCR always blinked 12:00. Not because I couldn’t figure it out but because I resented that I had to.

Basically, I have neither the time nor the inclination to read manuals. If I’m paying good money for a consumer-facing product then it better not require an engineering degree to use it.

Not surprisingly, then, I think UI design is every bit as important as product; maybe even more so. Because if your user experience sucks, make no mistake; I will be walking and talking to your competitors.

It wasn’t until I entered the glamorous world of software development that I came to the following conclusion: Interfaces are complicated because development tools require an engineer (or similarly brilliant individual) to use them.

Of course this is a sweeping statement and I’ll gladly debate it but the point is this: Someone with unique skills and knowledge about user-centric design should be creating interfaces. Not someone who knows the product from the inside out.

I know in a traditional model this can create a lot of churn but companies like Crank Software have come up with a way to decouple the roles of embedded engineer and UI designer, allowing them to work in parallel while focusing on their individual core competencies.

I spoke to several members of the QNX concept development team when they were heavily embroiled in creating the latest technology concept car. It was obvious when talking to the engineers and the UI designers that Crank’s Storyboard made both jobs that much easier and the process a whole lot quicker. The end result, achieved in a very short time frame, speaks for itself.

This is great news for people like me who curse like sailors whenever using a remote, microwave, GPS, treadmill, camera, and so on. Indeed, I'm counting on teams like QNX and Crank to ensure the digital car is an enjoyable and intuitive  experience. If not, I do know who I'm gonna call.

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