Sunday, April 26, 2015

Where we're heading with the Human/System interface


interface
ˈɪntəfeɪs/
noun
  1. 1.
    a point where two systems, subjects, organisations, etc. meet and interact.
    "the interface between accountancy and the law"


  2. 2.
    COMPUTING
    a device or program enabling a user to communicate with a computer.
    "a graphical user interface"


verb
  1. 1.
    interact with (another system, person, etc.).
    "you will interface with counterparts from sister companies"
  2. 2.
    COMPUTING
    connect with (another computer or piece of equipment) by an interface.
    "the hotel's computer system can interface automatically with the booking system"

It'll come as no surprise that my information sources, feeds, alerts, blog rolls are very often filled with tech, SEM, mobile, UX information and articles. I can often miss stuff due to overload and so on rare occasions I actively take some time out of the weekend to find a quite spot and try and have a good catch up.

One article I didn't miss was by Jefferson Graham (USA Today technology writer), titled; "My (rough) first day with Apple Watch" The reason this wasn't missed was it chimed with some of the thinking I've been having around design, intuitive design, human/machine system interfacing and where this whole area is heading. In his article he makes a particularly pertinent reference to the method of releasing Apple products into the arms of customers, i.e. no instructions needed. Jefferson says "...The company has always been known for creating products that were intuitive, and didn't need instruction manuals because they were so simple to use." This however seems not be the case with Apples latest offering. I reference this as an example of where as much as we might try the user interface currently faces many hurdles.

Back in the day, when I ran teams in customer service centres and sales centres I had the opportunity to observe first hand the impact, both good and bad of the human/machine system interface relationship. What I observed has coloured my thinking in all areas of design, usability and beyond.

I observed there seemed to be an upper limit of systems we could expect a co-worker to successfully work across and still be optimised in their outputs. There were fluctuations in the upper limit, such things as system experience and attitudinal elements but overall five different enough systems seemed to be the average that would ensure optimised outputs, seven for those with a good length of use of the systems and seven for those with a high attitudinal approach.

[A quick health warning here, I ran no formal insight work, and didn't run clean variant testing, my view was formed from on the job observation and analyses of co-workers performance. The systems I refer to include phone hardware where call coding would be inputted, reservation systems, availability systems, email systems, company website, share point etc.]

I reference this as whilst each of the systems they were required to work across had some greater or lesser degree of intuitive design, in concert this was lost, resulting in a very unintuitive set of interfaces.

Time however has moved on. We have been through dramatic moves forward in both visual, spacial and Human/system machine interface design.

THE INTUITIVE INTERFACE

...and yes we have moved on, however Timoni West from the  Department of Design Brooklyn and formerly a designer at Foursquare, makes a really valid point, she says; 
… don’t feel like every single action you design right now, in this Wild West time of interaction design, has to be completely intuitive. There are things we think are intuitive now that we learned using tutorials decades ago...
One of the finest of such examples are the early Apple tutorials showing us how to use a mouse, we didn't come out of the womb knowing how to do this and yet today the use of this tech has either been completely superseded or it's become intuitive!

Another such example is being told to "pinch glass", back in 2013 the very idea that by pinching a sheet of glass we could have direct control over resizing images seemed fanciful and yet today and the variants on "zoom-pinch" it seems second nature, one might say intuitive.

So what? We learn and that learning becomes embedded and becomes second nature, but where are we going with this? I think we're in an age of NO INTERFACE.

THE NO INTERFACE TIME IS UPON US