Saturday, May 28, 2005

It's the design, stupid

An interesting comment, in italics below, from P_SW11 in response to my post about "simplicity", with my thoughts, in plain, after each of his points: You are confusing design simplicity with user IQ, they are not inversely proportional. If it was, geeks would rule the world. Um, no, I'm not. At least, not in my mind. Perhaps I didn't make my point clearly or perhaps you missed the humour in "simple phones for simple people" as a tagline. As I believe you've said before, who would have thought an MP3 player with no off switch would lead the world? In many ways, of course, geeks rules the world for the first few generations of technology and then good design comes along to let the late adopters have the benefits too. Did you try putting a wifi network together before Windows XP, or before Apple put wifi in as standard? Good design principles remove the irelevant, misleading or ambiguous - E.R.Tufte writes clearly on these points for systems folk. In most cases. Although you'll be sure to remember the era of mini-stereos with 101 knobs and buttons of all kinds, driven by the need for boys to have things to fiddle with. Personally, I prefer the simple approach, witness my constant desire for a common approach to government website design so I don't have to look for the search bar (and, yes, I believe you need search - I haven't found a website of value that doesn't need search). Here's a place to go to satiate your need for design. Is design the be all and end all? Do we just know it when we see it? Do you have the same ideas about design as I do? Do you sometimes want something to just "be" rather than "be designed"? Complicated processes, design, systems and communications inhibit take-up. Why put a handle on a door you have to push open? Bad design decisions offend and just annoy. True, from my point of view at least. I think often of the Far Side cartoon showing someone trying to get into the School for the Mentally Gifted, leaning hard on a door that says "Pull". I always wonder why some doors have handles on both sides, perhaps it's something about symmetry - it's the ones where you have to look at the door frame to figure out which way it goes that bother me most; or where there's push and pull in a foreign language on each side - as if it shouldn't be obvious. If we can't get the "open door" interface right, how do you expect to do things that are harder? Maybe it's a lack of thought. Maybe different people have different ideas about design. Watching one of the new RollsRoyces roar by today, I realised that it is truly a "stunning" design, not stunning in the sense of beautiful, but stunning in that it forces a reaction, often emotional but not necessarily one of adoration. Is that bad design? Design a system for those of us who don't want to have relationship with our Govt, that is easy, fast and clear to use. I think you should read some of my previous posts. But, you have a relationship with government and a "system" will not cover up the complexities or, at least, not yet. Less is definitely more It certainly is.

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