Lets face it when endusers are made to feel stupid because of using new products or apps it is not their fault. Endusers are not stupid they are human. On the other hand when a product is designed that reduces the self esteem of the enduser this is not the endusers fault! We have been learning over the last thirty years to greatly simplify and even eliminate in some cases documentation. Some companies do this to save money and others do it because they value people’s time and state of mind. Evolved designs do not need much documentation to operate. Case in point – the automobile. Many people happily operate their cars without ever looking at the manual at all. Manuals come in cars in an attempt to make complex systems safer, more usable and as on ramp to advanced features and maintenance specifications.
The flattening of the world internationalizes product usage, increasing the importance of simplifying or eliminating operating directions. The fastest and easiest way to learn, is to ask questions. Some of our devices now permit this in forms which bring smiles to some and frowns to others. Fortunately, the degree to which out products adapt to us instead of us adapting to them is increasing. However there are very many situations inexcusably where the customer is made to feel stupid.
This can be radically reduced by making out interaction with machines more like our interactions with people in one very powerful way. By making interactions both hands free and eyes free, through the better use and integration of sound. This will not be accomplished by simply replacing the keyboard, mouse and trackpad with a microphone, and continuing to use the same operating systems. Sound centric communication is potentially the largest killer app of all time if executed excellently because it will increase instead of decreasing the self esteem of all of its users. When adults encourage children to learn to speak they do not do it by making them feel like something is wrong with them. They encourage any attempts at all as much as possible.
We can design systems in the same way. Imagine your computer saying this to in response to you saying “print”.
So you want to print something?
You have been working on five different files int eh last twenty minutes which one do you want me to print?
By the way there are three different printers you use regularly I know about. The one in your house, in your office next to your desk and the shared high volume color one.
Which one do you want me to print to?
Do you want me to format it in your usual manner – two sided with page numbers?
And as you use it more it asks less questions and can summarize – “printing two sides to the color laser at the end of the hall, is that okay”. This completely eliminates the need for menus, windows, or possibly even being in the same room as your devices. Kind of like having a staff member. Breakthrough operating systems development has somewhat stalled. I for one am ready for a hands free, eyes free, menus free, windows free mode of operation.
This does not have to be instead of but in addition to. Why do you think we still have radios? Because we do not want to stop what we are doing to do something as trivial as checking the weather or printing a document. Now I hear some of you saying wait we have devices in our house listening to help us buy stuff isn’t that the same thing? Well yes they are on the path and at the same time they are also listening to you, in order to capture information making it easier to get things done in the future. Presently they are more about consuming than producing. Lets bring this technology to leverage ourselves in creating and producing.
In prior lives, as the primary sound guy at Apple after being the primary computer guy at Bose I have been part of this dance for a long time.