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Good design may be a dark design

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  • Rothgo
    Champion of the Unbalanced
    • Aug 2006
    • 6704

    Good design may be a dark design

    When I'm designing a user interface, whether that be to a software or hardware device, one of the standard mantras is "make it easy: the user just wants whatever done". i.e. the user has a task, "Device I bought to do task, do it please and don't ask me to validate every processing option you take along the way".

    What does that get us? We get stuff that is easy and quick to use. We allow person X (e.g. an artist) to undertake task Y (e.g. face morphing) to get a result (e.g. an interesting facial image within a larger artwork) that person X would not be able to do themselves, or would take much longer to do.

    That's grand: we get the advantages of one branch of skill/knowledge cross-pollinating into another to the benefit of all. At the moment, everything in the garden is rosy.

    Now, fast-forward a generation or more. Where are we? Well, we have a lot of good stuff and a tonne-load of bad stuff: making it easy also made everyone give it a try. Finding the good stuff is rather difficult. A new skill for a new generation. But if that was the only downside, it's well worth the cost.

    Alas what I think we're starting to see is a generation (this one? the next or the one after) who really can't do many tasks at all. Almost nobody knows what device Y actually does: why would you need to know or waste your time finding out? Its there and I can do what I want and so onto the next thing.

    How far can this go? A generation almost entirely ignorant of the underpinnings of what they do? I think I see a book in this... oh darn: "Dancers At The End of Time".
    OK, so it’s already written, but consider just how soon will it get here?

    So back to the original premise: is "simple to use" a good design?
  • opaloka
    digital serf 41221z/74
    • Jun 2006
    • 3746

    #2
    It often makes things more expensive for one, at least that's happened with cars, in N. America driving a manual is becoming a lost art, and the cost of a computer controlled automatic transmission is higher.

    On the other hand, in computers this process of 'dumbing down' created command and control languages in the first place, COBOL, BASIC, C, etc., as a way to avoid 'machine code', then assembly, now we have expensive and abstract interfaces to avoid coding OTHER interfaces in C! And the process continues.

    For end-users. shifting to a graphical interface might be problematic in the future IMO, because of what it might do to people's way of relating to the world. The way computing devices and the interenet have shaped up, the world can become a catalog of pictograms where we just point at what we want. So we get self-centered belief systems like those implied by that book/movie 'the secret'. Combined with the intense visual feedback system of display units, we have a kind of luminous stained glass window to gaze into. It might be a mistake though to overstate the importance of this kind of stuff.

    Neal Stephenson explores a lot of the ideas you bring up in his essay "In the Beginning was the Command Line":

    http://artlung.com/smorgasborg/C_R_Y..._I_C_O_N.shtml

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    • Morgan Kane
      Lost in the multiverse
      • Jun 2006
      • 1428

      #3
      I am afraid we have been deep in it for a long time.

      When i tunr the key of my car, i expect the engine to ignite ! Don't ask me why or how !

      And that' s just an example

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      • opaloka
        digital serf 41221z/74
        • Jun 2006
        • 3746

        #4
        Well, does everyone have to make fire? Of the guys who designed the first IBM PC, I bet none of them could make fire from sticks. If they spent all their time making fire from sticks maybe they wouldnt be such good engineers. So it's all a double edged sword so to speak. Maybe it's just a question of how far it goes.

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