Post by Hannes Vilhjalmsson on Feb 3, 2009 19:10:44 GMT -5
This week we were talking about the importance of making sure the interface didn't take you out of an optimal "flow" experience (where you can concentrate on your objectives without being aware of peripheral problems and distractions).
Think of interfaces that break you concentration on your objectives (focus on human-computer interfaces, but you can mention others as well) and explain what causes this break. How could the interface be improved? Do you think it is possible to achieve "flow" with this activity if the interface was better designed? Could this have anything to do with constraints that could be provided through other means?
Any overly complex software package springs to mind, be it AutoCAD, Navision, Blender, Photoshop etc.
One problem with interfaces are options. The more options the user has (as we found out in class), the less productivity is experienced. This becomes really clear if you have two or more methods of performing the same (or very similar, with similar results) actions to accomplish the same result.
Blender is in comparison to the others a minimalist interface, but taken a bit too far in such a way that through intuitive means there is a lack of choice, while everything can be performed through an expert-interface (the keyboard). This is equally bad since a lack of choice may frustrate the user just as much as an abundance of choice.
Many games are flawed by an interface that requires users to specialise in the interface before they can even play the game adequately. Many RPGs share this flaw, which isn't really seen as a flaw by the RPG players themselves, but more so by new users.
The same may be said about console games since many of the recent console games where the Nintendo control apparatus has been adopted is used requires the user to memorize complex control combinations where two, three or even more keys must be pressed at once at a certain time to acquire the desired effect. The complexity has risen to such a level that only a small group of the console owners becomes a real target group for these games - usually the „hard-core games“.
Post by Eirikur Ari Petursson on Feb 8, 2009 12:13:20 GMT -5
Having a complex interfaces with a lot of information and option is just bad. I don't like to start for example a game where the interfaces are taking all the space with some gigantic toolbar or multiple options that is blocking the view of whatever i am looking at. I really want to get the whole sensation and the thrill that the game is trying to let the user experience, no user want's to be suffocated in some multiple options and i think this is a big flaw.
I think a good way to make everyone happy is just to give the user the option of deciding for them self for what it is that they want to have on there interfaces, like everything or nothing at all or maybe just turn on/off this and that when they need it.
I also agree with Thor on software like Blender where you only get lost in all the options and don't have slightly clue about all the options that using the keyboard gives you.
"Less is more" is often very true in all sorts of interfaces. Keep close the things the user uses often, other things may be more hidden. The best interfaces (the most invisible ones) are the ones the user does not have to think at all about next move its just right there in front of him. Interfaces also have to be easy to learn and recall into memory. Like driving a car - it would be terrible if we had to spend half an hour to remember how to work the thing before we could drive off.
I find many web interfaces very bad. The navigation is often very hidden so the user has no idea where she is and what do to get to the starting spot (when using the back button one need to go through all previous pages, often very annoying). This can easily be fixed (and often is) by putting navigation information on top of each page. I agree with previous posts that graphics software tend to be complex especially because I am not a professional user of these systems.
Another thing to have in mind when designing an interface is that an image can say more than a thousand words. Eg. icons are very important. Good icon design is very valuable. I tried out the Pirates of the Caribbean game the other day and the icon design there was terrible. I could not find the button to quit the game (it is a kind of an image of a mouse with the left button red) nor were the other buttons very descriptive.
Speed is also a very important issue. If the user has to wait for a long time for the system to react upon his actions the flow is clearly disturbed very much.
One bad interface that comes into mind is the TV's remote control. How many buttons are there that will never get used but only make things more complicated. Cell phone interfaces can also be very bad and completely interrupt flow, like writing a text message and then the phone rings. When the phone call is over the text message is lost.
Post by gudleifur05 on Feb 8, 2009 18:10:23 GMT -5
I must agree to some of the others about Blender. There are too many options for a beginner. I'm sure that the system is great, once you have got a hold of it, but often too many options for a newcomer might actually scare them away. Many homepages suffer from the same symptoms. For instance I might mention www.hugi.is which is a great community but for a newcomer I won´t know where to start. Also there is the same thing with www.facebook.com.
To at least some extent it would be nice to let the user choose what part of the interface he/she uses but not be thrown in the interface pit in the beginning. An interface must be simple especially for new users and in that way the user can extend the interface as he learns more and more on the system. A simple example is www.bbc.com where you can customize the homepage for your needs.
There are alot of complex and disturbing interfaces out there. But also many solutions.
Like the World of Warcraft screenshot showed in class the other day was very crowded and complicated. But when you start the game as a beginner the HUD (Heads-Up-Display) is often simple to begin with. Then as you learn the game and play it more ambitiously you may want more information and option shown in front of you as you play. Then its your decision what information you want to add to your display, where and how it should look like. There is also possible to download addons for many games that have preconfigured what information and options are in the HUD and how they are presented, often based on experienced players.
Movies in theaters and television break also your concentration. Like theaters in Iceland have a "half-time" break so people can stand up and buy more popcorn and soda and go to the bathroom. This will lower your experience and take you out of the optimal flow, like when there is a really intensive scene and then suddenly the lights go on and the "half-time" break has begun. Like most other countries these breaks do not exist. The theaters are mostly better designed for people when going to the bathroom in the middle of the film, so they won't disturb the other audiences as much.
This happens also in TV like on Skjár 1. Many advertisments in middle of a movie or an episode but that is accepted because you don't pay for the program.
Birna mentioned bad design on the TV remote control. I must agree with her on that, but I myself have an old 29" Sony that I have owned for more than 10 years that has a remote control that is two sided and is in a holster. So that you can choose to have less and important buttons or all functionality just by switching sides, I think that design is very good, but I haven't seen that design often. Probably because it is more expensive to design it.
I think it’s very difficult to design interface that works for everybody. You have mentioned Photoshop. Photoshop is very good example of interface that is very complicated at the beginning but is great for advanced people. There is a lot of shortcut buttons and if you are good, you can do lot of things very fast but for beginners it’s difficult to find out how it works, how the layer stuff works, and what this entire icons do. So I think Photoshop is grate product with high learning curve. It’s the same thing that Microsoft is trying to do with their new Office. Everything that you need should be in front of you.
There are several factors that contribute to a good interface.
One is consistency; an example that instantly springs to mind is keyboard shortcut consistency across applications. In Mac OS X, there are several shortcuts that work for basically any application, such as command-w and command q for closing a window and quitting the application, respectively, and some that work in many applications, such as command-b, command-i and command-u for making text bold, italic and underlined, respecitvely. Now from an application such as InDesign (CS3) you would - on account of its functionality - expect to behave consistently within this scheme, i.e. you press command-b to make a text selection bold. Only this does not render your text bold but pops up the "text frame options" dialogue instead... your flow is, of course, broken.
By no means do I feel that InDesign is a badly designed application; besides, the hotkeys are highly customisable and the way it behaves by default is probably an effect of a decision to rate consistency among versions of InDesign across platforms and across its own version history as more important. Still, this particular "flow-breaker" could be easily changed by adapting the default keyboard shortcuts. To make this particular problem visible and relevant in the design process, the designer would have had to introduce the constraint that the basic text-editing shortcuts be consistent with the system-wide shortcuts. Maybe this was actually done, but overridden due to a conflict with other constraints that were less flexibe...
(Regarding constraints and design I recently came across an interesting text: www.lucs.lu.se/Henrik.Gedenryd/HowDesignersWork/ch3.pdf - part of a dissertation. The author argues that the designer has to introduce flexible constraints that help them explore possible solutions but can be retracted if they are inhibitive or if the circumstances change)
Post by kristjanbb02 on Feb 8, 2009 20:14:24 GMT -5
Once again mostly from games point of view for me bad (display/hud) interfaces... ... have important numbers or text that require you to look at and think about ... have unimportant and irrelevant facts that require you to short through them to find the important once ... have animations or non-subtle update flashes except for the most important events ... have all sort of pointless decals and flashy distracting graphics ... make poor use of the screen and are all over it ... can not be customized to throw out irrelevant junk or add something that just you find useful ... block (or appear to) the view or excessively stand-out (and often near the screen center)
While good interfaces.. ... use bars or similar graphical representation for vital information so you can sort of see it through the corner of your eye without looking ... are very minimal with nothing that you do not need ... can be customized to some extent (level of information detail, size, etc) cause people are different ... subtle color selection, transparency and artwork while clear enough so not to be hard to read ... use just the right amount of screen-space with more important facts closer to center and slightly bigger without going too far into the center
Then there is input interaction that may sometimes be required. Say your in the virtual world and then you have to input a number into virtual security numpad, open lock or something. Then you do not want to change all the keys you are using. Preferably if you are using awsd+mouse you want to keep using that method in a logical manner when possible. Not having to let go off the mouse and start using the arrow keys or something. All sort of "mini"-interfaces inside games tend to break the flow all to often and go all too forgotten by the quality assurance team.
Finally it is how you interface (input wise) with the world, movements and such and it's feedback walking into walls and such. While some may write this off as physic or "that's just how it is" non-sense. I still think this is THE interface into the virtual world. Finding the golden-line between fast (choppy) and smooth (sluggish) input is what makes the game so much more immersive and less frustrating to interact with. Similar feedback need to be smooth, but yet firm and accurate to a degree. Also the game response needs to be predictable even if it uses totally unrealistic physic model. Apparent random behaviour such as in "randomly" (or just illogically) resolving collision can be fun and interesting to begin with, but quickly just gets annoying since it breaks your concentration since you have to re-evaluate what just happened every time.
Post by David H. Brandt on Feb 10, 2009 2:45:20 GMT -5
The first "bad interface" that comes to my mind is that of the runner-up web search engines, i.e. the-Google-wannabees. Yahoo and Lycos for example have always provided the user with a cluttered, multi-purpose interface cramming all sorts of news, events, software offerings and the like in the user's face.
Google on the other hand takes an extreme minimalistic approach to user interface design and emphasizes getting the user to what he wants, faster than anybody else. This "flow"-enhancing approach has basically devastated the competition, which still runs around like headless chickens trying to peddle free email and US sports news on their users.
Another interesting product in the same category is the Google Chrome browser. Prior to Google Chrome, I found IE and Firefox to be adequate for my browsing experience, but after using Chrome for half an hour I discovered that both of them were really bad interfaces.
Google also added some interesting usability enhancements, such as redesigning the "start page" concept. Instead of starting your browsing experience by firing up a heavily overloaded and mostly pointless news site, as would be typical for most, Google dynamically creates a start page based on the user's browsing history, that gives immediate access to the user's most likely web sites. By using large icons that render the contents of the web sites, the user can instantly spot and travel to the site of his choice. I find that almost all of my web browsing activities start with choosing one of the icons or links that Google predicted for me. This is another case where Chrome has shed light on the fact that predecessors are simply "bad interfaces".
Yet another example is the comparison of the "new tab" feature in IE and Chrome, which once again shows that IE is a "bad interface". In IE, opening a new tab will take forever-and-a-day, immediately killing your "flow" before you have even managed to start your task. Then eventually you start up with an empty or useless tab, and have to start trying to put it to good use. In Chrome, the tab fires up instantly and immediately presents you with the Chrome dynamic start page, i.e. quick links to everything that Google thinks you are likely to be looking for, and nothing else.
There are many other small usability touches that Google adds in Chrome. Google f.ex. points out the futility of the "search bar" in IE (i.e. "bad interface" by integrating searching into the "address bar" in Chrome. They also allow tabs to be elevated to window status and back again with ease, which is especially useful for complex intra-web applications. They furthermore separate each tab into it's own process, which is yet another subtle performance booster: It turns out that as the number-of-tabs grows in other browsers, the performance and stability of all tabs decreases significantly. Thus more evidence: "multi-tab" browsing in f.ex. IE is a "bad interface".
In my opinion, "KISS" (Keep it simple, stupid) is the way to go. Streamlined navigation with few options. Possibly with a more advanced navigation/options for those who are into that. When I launch a video game, I'd like to be able to start playing as quickly as possible, yet be able to do some customizations etc. later.
A perfect example of a horrendous interface is "Blender". I just cannot understand how they could make the UI so d**n complicated. It also breaks all rules of UI designs, the buttons are all over the place, and come in all kinds of different sizes. This has to be the worst UI I have ever seen. Sorry Blender :-) Maybe it's comfortable to use once you've mastered it and discovered the plethora of keyboard shortcuts, but I can't be the judge of that.
An example of good interface is the revamped UI of the Office 2007 applications. The "ribbon" is a great idea and it works wonders. All the most common actions just seem to be right in front of you whenever you need them to. I also really like the UI Apple makes, especially the UI of the iPod Touch. You've only got two physical buttons on the device and the multi-touch screen, yet you can do some many things. And all the actions come naturally, in my opinion. Almost as if the device reads your mind and knows what you are trying to accomplish.