Thursday, August 28, 2008

Project V - Interface

In my experience you can develop the most sophisticated technologies in the world, but if the user interface sucks, you're dead in the water. It's not a coincidence that many web agencies employ not only designers, but strategists, usability experts and interface architects.

So, we're at that point with Project V. Making sure the front end - the consumer front end - looks sexy. This is always a fine line between convention and creativity. No one puts navigation on the right hand side of the frame; few are brave enough to put a video screen anywhere apart from the top left hand corner, following the Western tradition that the eye starts reading a newspaper (and hence a screen) from the top right. I have undertaken usability studies in the past involving strapping machines to people's heads and mapping what they focus on on a computer interface. The results can be revealing.

Equally, the interface needs to be simple and clear, but the instinct of most software developers is to load functionality, just because you can. The old 80:20 rules applies. 80% of users are only ever likely to use 20% of the functionality on a regular basis. That's why the modern 'ribbon' interfaces on software hides the complexities of choice behind.

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