[Bill handed out a four page paper to accompany the talk; the slides are available at http://www.slideshare.net/billder. Room is *packed*, lots of people standing.]
The article I handed out is the theory; we’re going to spend most of our time talking about practice here in the talk.
People are surrounded by technology, everywhere they look, in their homes, cars, watches; people are increasingly surrounded by interfaces.
The totally cool thing about this is that these are things we are creating right now. We’re making all this stuff that people use. It puts us in an interesting spot between people and technology.
The problem is that we don’t get to go home with people and tell them how to use it. People just look for visual cues; nobody reads the manual anymore. How do people figure it all out?
[He’s showing great slides with each of these paragraphs.]
People look for visual cues that help them relate the past and things they already know with the interface. As an example, here’s an oven. My brother moved into a new house two days before entertaining the whole family for Christmas. I got to watch them figure out how to use the oven. They were looking for a “start” button. I was thinking, “How stupid it doesn’t have a start button?” I went home and looked at my oven, and there was no oven there either. They were subconsciously trying to apply their past experience to the current oven.
Language is always evolving and spreading. For example, there’s a mouse pointer and a button painted on the back of a UHaul truck. The language that we are creating is spreading out into overall language. The mouse pointer is becoming an icon in advertising, like the yellow “sale” burst.
Symbols will start with one meaning [shows 0 and I for power on a power switch]. When we know what it means, you can tweak it. [shows another switch with a 0, I, and II]. There’s no effort involved here to see that the I means low and the II means high.
[Picture of a washer with a play/pause button]. You don’t need any explanation, you know exactly what this does.
Meaning can survive a long time. [Shows a table of contents from a 500 year old book against the nav bar in GMail.] The table of contents is a stacked list of short words; you know the nav bar is navigation in GMail not because of the colors of the words or the underlines; its because of that heritage of the table of contents.
We need to see what people see and we need to seek inspiration. What do painters do? They look at a lot of paintings. What do writers do? They read a bunch of books. We need to look at what other people are doing. It’s everywhere. Like the phones, cameras, etc. in your pockets.
It can come from ATM machines, kiosks at airports, alarm clocks, and so forth. [Duh]. Inspiration from what guides us [shows Apple power cords green/orange glow]. I love the Apple power cord.
[Shows a gas pump with confusing labels]
Inspiration from what intimidates us [shows an amazingly bad Washington DC train fare machine]
Inspiration from hacking it [shows a fax machine where someone put a sticky note over a button label that says “Start” because it was confusing]
Inspiration from mixing it [shows clip of football game with the first down line superimposed]
Inspiration from seeing the language [a good dryer interface]
We create and curate this language. Hopefully we’re learning what people like and dislike and changing our designs appropriately.
The language of interaction:
[Dan goes through his slides to show examples of these above points.]