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Design

The Best Interface is No Interface

Golden Krishna
3
-min read
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This book is about our compulsion, as designers, to attempt to solve every problem with a smartphone or laptop. Krishna lays out three principles to help us move beyond today's screen-obsessed world.

The Problem

A User Experience (UX) designer is someone who's job it is to understand common, everyday problems and to use technology to solve them.

UX designers enrich the human experience through technology.

Addiction UX

Facebook once rolled out a 'personalised' version of their newsfeed but they quickly reversed course after a short time. They discovered the new News Feed was performing too well and that users were leaving the site faster than ever (not good news for advertising revenue).

Some younger startups that haven't yet been plagued by going public with an add-based revenue model still pursue this Addiction UX in hopes of a higher valuation.

Principle 1: Embrace Typical Processes Instead of Screens

As designers, as makers of technology, we're here to solve problems in the most elegant ways possible. Our research allows up to identify new and unique problems to solve, Our creative drive to discover what motivates our customers is a fantastic way to start. But then, we commit the common, terrible mistake: insight + insight + insight + insight = screen.

Great thinkers adapt. Great companies offer their customers the best possible solutions, whether they have a graphical user interface or not.

The best interface is natural.

Principle 2: Leverage Computers Instead of Serving Them

Let's give computers the ability to sense our needs with sensors and other signals. Machine input is the antithesis of the oft-used user input: "Hey guys can we use machine input instead of user input here".

Sensors are one way to provide richer information for machines. They can seamlessly enable a machine to read the needs of the outside world without a submit button. And there are many ways to gather the signals that lead to machine input.

Digital chores

On a given day, you could have software updates to download and install, passwords to reset, notifications to attend to, files and folders to sort, messages to archive, social media requests to confirm, calendars to update, credit card balances to check, information to verify, storage space to manage and monitor, documents to back up, messages to reply to, photos to upload, flights to check in . . .

Rarely do these digital chores involve creating or contributing to the world. Rather, they’re mostly made up of us serving the computer.

The goal is to eliminate these digital chores.

Principle 3: Adapt to Individuals

Most software immediately starts losing whatever value it adds to your life the moment you start using it. The features built for the average may have surprised and delighted you when you first used an interface, but over time their generic facelessness become more and more stale.

New doors are being opened by applying robust techniques previously used for tasks like trying to predict chaotic stock prices in financial markets. A new symbiosis between individuals and technology is just beginning, something that can create such seamless experiences that when the methods are applied to products thought to be at their peak, those products have been completely transformed. These people are working on ideas to create things that can continuously adapt to you.

By looking at you, the people like you, and how you compare with larger masses, we could understand what works best for you, how you’re different. And if we used those tools to tackle meaningful problems, the approach could positively impact your everyday life.

Proactive Computing

Voice input can be a guessing game of a limited set of possibilities with a powerful machine, not knowing what will do what.

Transitioning computing from reactive to proactive can actually have huge individual benefits.

Challenges

In some of the examples already mentioned in this book, the makers are using a simpler technique to handle failure: graphical user interfaces. As a backup. As a secondary experience. That shift from primary to secondary is one smart way to use training wheels toward a No Interface future.

Nest, a learning thermostat, always has a graphical user interface available front and centre. If your preferences and habits have changed, you can always go up to it and just turn the dial to the new indoor temperature you prefer. It’s always ready to learn again.