Thursday, September 25, 2008

Simplification

Life is incredibly complicated and stressful. Our grandfathers woke up, went to the mine, toiled hard, returned home, took a tin bath, ate supper and went to bed. Out grandmothers got up, made breakfast, clothed the children, did the shopping and cleaning, prepared supper and went to bed. Perhaps there would be some interaction in the evening - reading the bible, listening to the Home Service, playing games. precious, candlelit moments.

Now, choosing what to watch on television takes more human processing power than a day's worth of decisions in those long gone days.

Clearly, we live in a better world, but at a price. The sheer range of choices we face are difficult for our single thread brains to cope with as we live in an increasingly complex world.

That's why a PVR that remembers that you like certain programmes is so appreciated. We like intelligent machines because they give us less to do.

One of the great challenges for the future of TV is simplification - how to make the plethora of choices that are available to us all manageable.

Google is a wonderfully elegant version of this. One logo, one search box and one button generates billions.

But this does not seem to be translating itself into the TV world. Internet TV search engines like Blinkx are suddenly becoming complex interfaces. They can't help themselves. More is more... Their interface is, er..., 'rich'. To me it's confusing and cluttered - and doesn't work in either IE8 nor Chrome.

I do take credit for the current default layout of the logo and player on the left and playlist on the right - this is how the original High TV player looked in 2002, and it has been much replicated. It works well for reasonably simple interfaces, but it's still a web interpretation of how TV should be navigated.

I'm no designer, but over-complicated interfaces should be secondary to the content. Joost, Babblegum and many others have learned this to their detriment, but YouTube is hardly a friendly interface. However, it has range, and this trumps usability.

The medium may be the message, but the medium is yet to be defined.

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