interface design – don’t be too clever

clever interface that no-one understands

I saw this elegant series of elevator buttons in a building I visited a couple of weeks ago. Most buildings run with B1, B2 or similar for their underground levels, and a G for Ground or L for Lobby.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense to call the ground floor level zero, and the underground levels should be negative numbers. A moment’s thought about it and you’d work out what was happening, but it’s obviously proven to be such a problem that someone in the building has added the sticker onto the interface to save people the trouble.

When you’re working out how to label everyday things, it’s not necessarily time to be clever at the expense of usability.

links on the current apple user experience

While I was driving recently, I needed the passenger to make a phone call. I had looked up the number, all that was needed was for the call to be placed. I handed over the iPhone, and the question was “how do I call?”.

I was able to describe it easily enough, but the experience made me think it was time to share a few of these links on the weaknesses of Apple’s approach to design.

Here are a few pages I’ve read recently. This all pre-dates Snow Leopard, iTunes 9 and the new iPhone OS 3.1, and is more about the sense of how the face of mobile phone technology has changed since the launch of the iPhone. Have a look at each, and see what your thoughts are on the Apple interface.

  • Frustrations with iTunes
  • the iPhone is not easy to use
  • Before Apple introduced the iPhone
  • I found the second post the most insightful: here’s where the idea came from, according to the author:

    At the 2009 IA Summit, Karl Fast articulated the value proposition of user experience design with sparkling clarity. "Engineers make things," he said, "we make people love them." And then he held up an iPhone as an example.

    The kind of user interface design that people are starting to expect is not something that is trivially easy to use, but rather something that delights them. The post goes on to talk about the move from an intuitive design to something that is fun to explore – the approach is more one of game design than of traditional interface design.

    What are your thoughts on the iPhone (especially if you have one) – is it easy to use, or is it fun to use? And which is better?