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Tim Brown On Current Design Challenges 213

Posted by timothy
from the equipment-with-tiny-black-on-black-text dept.
prostoalex writes "Tim Brown is the CEO of IDEO, design company that is quite famous for its work on designing office chairs, Palm computers, Microsoft mice, Nike shoes, etc. MIT Technology Review interviewed Tim Brown on current challenges in the design world, exciting fields for a designer to be in, current annoyances in the user interface design."
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Tim Brown On Current Design Challenges

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  • by xtal (49134) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:06AM (#6293000)

    The idea that people are going to use their mobile devices to do things like watch movies is just wrong. I think this is as the reason that the Japanese i-Mode has been so successfulâ"its applications are very small.


    I'll agree using a cell phone to look at movies and pictures is stupid.

    However, i-Mode services took off because anyone can easily make themselves an i-Mode application and have it run. Here, I am limited to very expensive applications and only ones that have been endorsed by my digital cell provider. Meaning that I have never so much as LOOKED at any of those features. I'm not going to spend a quarter to send a instant message. I'd balk at a nickel. I'll just call - I pay a flat fee for voice, to a point. Text uses a FRACTION of that bandwidth.

    The phone companies want to be in the applications business, and so long as they control the content, these services are just a bad joke. That's the secret of i-Mode.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:23AM (#6293092)
      It appears that Tim Brown has actually managed to make the leap from the mess that was WAP in Europe two or three years ago. Basically it took a large, online medium (The web) and tried to just force it onto a mobile device. As he notes, it didn't work and no one wanted it. WAP is dead.

      Seems as though the major 3G vendors in Europe could do with contracting Tim, though. All of them are desperate to push their mobile platforms as some sort of miniture web platform. But as Tim notes, do you really need or want to watch streaming video on a mobile? It seems that they are all so wrapped up in the technical side of things that someone forgot to ask the people they're trying to sell too.

      My personal opinion is that 3G will fail to take off until the vendors drop all pretense of it being some sort of mini-web device and actually recognise that people do not want to watch a postage stamp sized weather report video.[1]

      What do I know; I don't have billions of Euros in 3G licences I'm desperatly trying to claw back.

      [1]: This is an actual advert from 3 here in the U.K. An example of a phone being used to watch a weather report. It looks very nice, sure, but what extra information does a little colour 3D map with clouds on offer instead of a spoken report?
      • by GGardner (97375) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:37AM (#6293176)
        actually recognise that people do not want to watch a postage stamp sized weather report video.

        My favorite example of this is a Nortel ad that was running frequently last year. It had a guy who was going to be speaking at some big meeting, but forget his speech at the office. He used his mobile videophone to have his office assistant read it to him quietly, and he repeated it to the unknowing audience, with the phone sitting hidden on the lectern.

        Now, what use is the live video in this case? I can get the same functionality today with my plain-old 2G phone (no video, of course). If you just need to repeat what someone is telling you over the phone, you sure don't need the live video. If this gee-whiz, look-how-cool-the-future-is example, unconstrained by reality, is the best 3G can do, isn't it in a whole heap of trouble?

      • by gilesjuk (604902) <.giles.jones. .at. .zen.co.uk.> on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:48AM (#6293244)
        All the adverts I've seen for 3G devices revolve around gimmics. Ooo look you can watch some video, you can phone your mates and have a laugh showing them things.

        Currently 3G is an executive toy and needs a decent application. There are some instances where video calls could be very useful, doctors, police etc. but for the masses there has to be something that makes it worthwhile. Many people are happy with text messaging and instant messaging when online.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          In particular, there are two classes of advert. Smut, and Stupid. Any 3G advert you saw until very recently fit into either of those two catagories. A mutli billion Euro investment being sold on the basis of Smutty and Stupid. Quick, hire me that advertising agency!

          As you say, 3G is an executive toy. In its current form it is the answer to a question nobody asked. An example I heard recently was from the CEO here at $WORK [1]. He was at a trade show, and came across a 3G vendor who was showing off
      • WAP is not dead (Score:3, Informative)

        by rexguo (555504)
        Although originally designed for mobile web surfing, WAP is now used a lot by content vendors as delivery mechanism for pictures, ringtones and java games. Even Nokia does it with their Club Nokia WAP site and its insert-coin download stations. The reason is simple. The users pay for the WAP pull, and all the vendor has to pay for is a simple OTA bookmark or something similiar. So WAP is far from dead, and has found its usefulness in areas that it wasn't designed for. Just like what the WWW is.
    • His point doesn't disagree with yours - the reason why i-Mode works is because people have been able to produce services for it that are different, and appropriate to the mobile platform.

      TR: Are there historical parallels to this phenomenon?
      BROWN: Sureâ"it's the whole horseless carriage scenario. Early cars looked like carriages, early TVs looked like radios. Every time somebody brings you something thatâ(TM)s new, it looks like the old thing. Itâ(TM)s only the second or third generation
      • What would be good would be a browser that could work out what was interesting, and strip out all the rest. This is a nontrivial requirement though, and maybe I will just have to restrict my browsing to those sites that I know to be set up for my small screen.

        This is exactly what XML could be really useful for, in theory. In the best of worlds proper content markup would enable you to browse your material in whatever way you wanted.

        Sadly, McLuhan's ideas makes this pure utopia. The medium and presentati

    • I work at a company that has built a product that is micro designed to work on mobile phones and other devices via the mobile Internet. The challenges are quite amazing, because, as we know, the web doesn't fit well on a 1" by 1" screen, or even a little bit larger. There are also a host of other issues that need to be addressed, and the challenges mount. But, I believe, we have come up with a successful solution that is device indenpendant and network agnostic. You can visit the Beta of this product at
  • by Lieutenant_Dan (583843) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:08AM (#6293014) Homepage Journal
    I think that the designs implemented could be further enhanced by having the blueprints and patents available to the Open Source developer community. Their dedication and strict attention to detail would allow these corporations to tap into new markets.

    We must consider what the impact on the global market that these products will have. Will they be able to reduce the inflation while increasing the gross national product? Only with a strong currency can a country have a voice.

    By communication with its neighbors, any country can forge alliances and trade agreements that increase its population's well-being. Their health is one valuable asset when one wants to compete against some of the established powers.

    Medical progress in turn will be accelerated by the sharing the knowledge and a strong investement in R&D. Only then can we liberate the world from all the ails and diseases.

    So in summary, if the patents are made open source, we can probably find a cure for cancer.
    • I don't think ergonomics is holding us back.

      I do like the other idea, that a cancer in society is preventing a cure for cancer in our bodies.

      That is divine irony.
    • So in summary, if the patents are made open source, we can probably find a cure for cancer.

      That's a tautology. Of course we wouldn't need as many lawyers then.

    • I think that the designs implemented could be further enhanced by having the blueprints and patents available to the Open Source developer community. Their dedication and strict attention to detail would allow these corporations to tap into new markets.

      That's the funniest thing I've read all week. Either it's a hilarious troll, or a comment on how little Slashdotters know about human factors. Or maybe, the article is a troll, the guy who moderated it as "Interesting" is the idiot.

      • But isn't that the goal of the GPL? Not just software, but all information wants to be free!

        This would include designs, building plans, books, etc.

        Remember RMS said it is morally wrong to make proprietary software. Logically this would also include designs, building plans, etc.

        Information wants to be FREE!!!!
  • Feature Creep (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lothar (9453) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:09AM (#6293019)
    "Well, one big problem is feature creep. Companies feel pressured to add features, because they want to put a check mark in every check box in the product review magazines"

    That seems to be true anywhere these days. Feature creep is at least as bad when it comes to software.
    • "Well, one big problem is feature creep. Companies feel pressured to add features, because they want to put a check mark in every check box in the product review magazines" That seems to be true anywhere these days. Feature creep is at least as bad when it comes to software.

      How often do you hear "I don't use software X because it lack feature Y". I am not saying it is a good or bad thing but you can't blame developper for giving user what they ask for.

  • Microsoft Mice? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Intellimouse = biggest waste of my money, ever. I've blown through 3 of them, and one of the times, the woman on the phone at M$ had suggested I had a "stolen" mouse, because the Product ID wasn't authentic.

    I laughed and told her I don't buy my mice from shady men on the street. Yay @ crappy story.
    • I still own a working TrackMan trackball mouse from roughly 1993, and my present most-used mouse is a Logitech MX300. No problems here. I've heard even linux zealots talking about how their "MS Mouse works fine". Nevermind the fact that they're low-resolution, bulky, and prone to having problems with gathering dirt on the pads that actually touch the desk (I'm talking primarily from my experience at my last job, where every mouse was an optical intellimouse explorer except the Logitech I found at the des
  • IDEO designs? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Surak (18578) * <surak@ma i l b l ocks.com> on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:10AM (#6293027) Homepage Journal
    Well, first off, these guys only designed the original Microsoft "dove bar" mouse, none of the current designs. Other designs include the [ideo.com] and of course the Palm V, which is looking a bit tired these days. Interestingly enough they also designed the Handspring Treo and the the Handspring Edge. [ideo.com]

    Their design philosophy makes sense, but doesn't always lead to good designs. IMHO, the Microsoft Dove Bar mouse was one of the worst designs as it had a lot of usability problems -- the buttons (esp. the big one) were notorious for sticking, and the odd differently sized left and right buttons left much to be desired.

    • the buttons (esp. the big one) were notorious for sticking

      That may not be within IDEO's realm. The sticking may be a functional problem. IDEO created the outside design, but they did not engineer the inside of mouse. Maybe MS incorrectly designed the spring mechanism or picked cheap parts for button.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The other classic example is digital watches, where the cost of adding extra features is so low, that you end up with all these features through this incredibly low bandwidth interface that nobody can ever remember.

    Insert Douglas Adamas joke here.
  • Network Selection (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigBadBri (595126) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:14AM (#6293049)
    "Iâ(TM)d want my tablet or my PDA or maybe even my phone to use the best network available wherever it is. So if Iâ(TM)m in my office, I donâ(TM)t want to be using the cell network, I want to be using WiFi, because I can get ten times the bandwidth that way. But as soon as I walk out of my building, I donâ(TM)t want to have to say: OK, Iâ(TM)m flipping from one to another. For this to happen, service providers like Verizon would have to say: we're going to manage you your experience, whatever network that youâ(TM)re on."

    Why expect the network to handle this?

    The OS should be able to monitor WiFi signal strength, retried packets, etc., and make the decision to switch to the mobile network automatically.

    And a periodic retry of the WiFi network isn't going to cost the earth, in processing or in battery life.

  • by vizualizr (462581) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:15AM (#6293051)
    I have absolutely no expertise in interface design, and almost as little REAL expertise in hard-core technology, but I am a designer by profession; I'm a Landscape Architect - mostly designing neighborhoods, resorts, and other places where we live out our day to day lives.

    One challenge we face in the design projects I'm involved with that I'm fairly certain translates to the kind of design Brown talks about is the "lowest common denominator" problem. We can design some public plaza space or neighborhood that is absolutely award-winning, and on the cutting edge of the design world. The problem is, we often have to (at our client's direction) water our design down to something that the average Joe can understand.

    The general populace tends to be slow to accept radical changes to familiar things like the way a suburban street or a park feels. They have an expectation that has built up over several years, and things that are different (and often much, much better) seem strange, and are sometimes rejected outright. We fear change. Change is bad. The same is often true for things like community zoning boards (made up of average Joe, average Bill, and average Jane).

    Its an interesting problem, and the major challenge for us is to keep our designs current and progressive without succumbing to the temptation to just arbitrarily "dumb down" our work.
    • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:34AM (#6293161)
      The general populace tends to be slow to accept radical changes to familiar things like the way a suburban street or a park feels. They have an expectation that has built up over several years, and things that are different (and often much, much better) seem strange, and are sometimes rejected outright. We fear change. Change is bad. The same is often true for things like community zoning boards (made up of average Joe, average Bill, and average Jane).

      I'm sorry but this demonstrates an aspect of designers that I find somewhat annoying. If you are designing for the average Joe, Bill and Jane, and they aren't happy with your designs, it's your fault, not theirs.

      It's like when I'm working on a piece of multimedia/website with a graphic designer and they come up with some original concept that the client rejects on practical grounds -- the designer goes into a big huff and thinks the client is stupid.

      Some designers always tend to think their ideas are the best in the world. Really good designers design what people want and are humble about it. Some designers seem to think that because they can come up with original ideas they are in some way "brilliant", but there are a lot of people with a lot of good ideas and good ideas are not restricted to designers. As my old boss used to say, "ideas are cheap".

      (Sorry if this comes over a bit strong. I don't really mean this as an attack on you personally, it's just one of my pet peeves.)
      • "Really good designers design what people want and are humble about it."

        No, account managers give the client what they want. Designers try to give the client what they need to effectively communicate the message. Sometimes the two don't mix, particularly if you work with a client who feels the need to be creative themselves and art direct the piece. Designers are brought on as consultants, amongst other things, not pixel monkeys paid to make "kewl" photoshop effects. We understand color, pacing and co
        • No, account managers give the client what they want. Designers try to give the client what they need to effectively communicate the message.

          Ah. So designers don't try give their client what they want? Sorry that was something I had failed to understand. Now I am enlightened.

          Of course, most clients are stupid. Tusk! Clients, hey? Who need 'em?
          • by ThaReetLad (538112) <sneaky@blueRABBI ... minus herbivore> on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @10:55AM (#6293762) Journal
            The problem with clients is that they usually don't know what they want. They know what they DON'T want, and have one or two fuzzy ideas about some small irrelevent aspect of the end solution. Part of my job is creating GUI's for a large scientific application, and the biggest argument we get into with the client (ie marketing) is over the colour of the damn icons, rather than how you actually access feature x. They key to good design has got to be functional simplicity with useful words like paradigm, metaphor and ergonomics.

            What I want out of a mobile device is something which gives me directions to the nearest pub when it hears me say "Damn, I could murder a pint"

            And another thing, why are mobile phones generally still things you hold up to your head to use, rather than always coming with usable wireless headsets?
            • And another thing, why are mobile phones generally still things you hold up to your head to use, rather than always coming with usable wireless headsets?

              Usability. Because one gadget is harder to lose than two. Because one gadget is easier to charge than two.
          • Designers try to give the client what they need AND what they asked for, but many times the client is not clear on the concept because they don't have time to think through ALL the issues associated with a given design field.

            Most clients are NOT stupid - they lack vocabulary and understanding, and any designer that fails to understand that IS stupid.

            As for "watered-down designs" - that's natural. Most designers want to be visionary, to create something unique, a design that is both communicative and an e
      • About 25% of the people are complete morons (literally imbeciles). They DO NOT know what is good for them, they don't know ANYTHING. This is a fact. Even those who are not total idiots are still quite dumb and they are unlikely to know what is good or bad for them. Can you plan the Walmart layout (down to where individual products are placed)? Probably not, but you are the client, aren't you? But somehow designing a public plaza is a very simple thing, something that an average Joe can do (and I am not talk
      • I strongly agree with the parent: good design is too often held back by an unadventurous client.
        What you're confusing is what the client wants and what the end-user wants. The job of a good designer is to turn the client's needs into something the end user can effectively use.

        At our company we recently had a major redesign of our website (which is the major point of access for most people to our products). But instead of letting the designers focus on what users want, a lot was dictated by marketing, brand
    • by spakka (606417)

      We can design some public plaza space or neighborhood that is absolutely award-winning, and on the cutting edge of the design world. The problem is, we often have to (at our client's direction) water our design down to something that the average Joe can understand.

      What is there to not 'understand' about a public plaza, even for an 'average Joe'? Or, do you just mean that most people dislike your designs?

    • by Salamander (33735) <jeff AT pl DOT atyp DOT us> on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:41AM (#6293200) Homepage Journal

      Reading your post, the phrase "too clever by half" comes to mind. If the client doesn't want some avant-garde artsy design, you should know that up front; if you're overshooting their design comfort level and then having to "water it down" you're wasting their time and money. The problem is, everyone who studies design wants to be on the cutting edge, but there's really only room for 10% (at most) to be there; the rest should get used to working on less exciting projects unless/until they can prove that they deserve to be one of the few who get to do the good stuff. It's the same as in programming - a few get to strike out in bold new directions, the rest earn their stripes by making derivatives or lesser enhancements.

      It's not about people thinking change is bad. You only say that because you want to be the one making the changes, and I suspect you'd seem just as conservative about unasked-for "screwing around with stuff" in areas outside your own specialty. Do you use any software? How would you like it if the entire UI changed, just because someone thought they had a better idea? How about if your ZIP code or telephone area code kept changing, just because someone came up with a more "logical" way to assign them? If some traffic designer had the "bright idea" to make some of the streets in your neighborhood one-way, would you just say "cool, change is good"? Hmmm. What this is about is balancing change with consistency. Too bad if that leaves you frustrated because there aren't enough opportunities to do what you want to do.

      • as a designer, i find your analysis on target. nobody wants to pay for thinking about the problem, it's requirements (both client and user), and the path to a finished solution (planning the process). ideo is fortunate enough to be able to dictate to a point, but smaller offices have to sell every line item. additionally, too many designers think of themselves as artists as opposed to engineers, something more than a few historic figures have thought of themselves as. engineers have to consider the entire p
    • We can design some public plaza space or neighborhood that is absolutely award-winning, and on the cutting edge of the design world. The problem is, we often have to (at our client's direction) water our design down to something that the average Joe can understand.

      That's not a problem. That's a solution. The problem is that "absolutely award winning" designs "on the cutting edge of the design world" tend to be designed for other architects, instead of the people who actually have to use the space. So t
      • Tell me, have you read How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand or A Timeless Way of Building or A Pattern Language by Chris Alexander? They explain this situation in far more detail than I could here.

        Amen to those. I'd add to the list The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, and From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe. They changed the way I look at design. When you realize how malleable buildings and cities are, you begin to design everything for change. Building, testing, revising, and
    • "We can design some public plaza space or neighborhood that is absolutely award-winning, and on the cutting edge of the design world. The problem is, we often have to (at our client's direction) water our design down to something that the average Joe can understand."

      One of the problems I have with this meaning of "design" is that we create stuff in order to *use* it. If the average user can't figure out how it works, the design is a failure no matter how innovative it is.

      I submit that the real challenge
  • Computer interfaces (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:16AM (#6293057)
    I really wish someone would give these guys a pile of cash to redesign computer GUIs. I can't be the only one that is sick of the slow pace of development of computer interfaces. We really haven't progressed much since the work of Xerox Park.

    What we need are some designers - who are not technies or nerds - to sit down and completely redesign the interface from scratch. Forget the "windows" metaphor, forget "icons" and clicking with the mouse - really start from first principals.

    If you've ever sat down with someone who hasn't used a computer much and watch them struggle to do the simplest things, you'll understand how bad current GUIs are. The trouble is people that use computers are so used to their bad design that they fail to notice it. For example, when I press the on button, I want it to turn on. Instantly. I don't want to have to wait several minutes for it to "warm up" like the old TVs used to. And when I press the off button, I want it to turn off. Instantly. And if I press the on button again, I want to see the same stuff on the screen as when I last switched it off. And that's just the functionality of the on-off button!

    It's 2003 for christsakes. Why am I still using an interface that was designed in the 1970's, when computers had a tiny fraction of the power and functionality they currently have?
    • A computer will never be truely user freindly until it under stands plain spoke words and gives us what we want, not what we asked for.

      Since most of us do ot really know what we want, a truely user freindly interface is a myth.
      • by skaffen42 (579313) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:41AM (#6293199)
        A computer will never be truely user freindly until it under stands plain spoke words and gives us what we want, not what we asked for.

        Dude, you just described my relationship with my ex-girlfriend! I thought we were incompatible, but now I realize she just wasn't user friendly enough!

      • A computer will never be truely user freindly until it under stands plain spoke words and gives us what we want, not what we asked for.

        Sorry, but that's just bol**cks. Try subsituting anything else in there:

        A car will never be truely user freindly until it under stands plain spoke words and gives us what we want, not what we asked for.

        A telephone will never be truely user freindly until it under stands plain spoke words and gives us what we want, not what we asked for.

        etc.

        You seem to be suggest
      • A computer will never be truely user freindly until it under stands plain spoke words and gives us what we want, not what we asked for."

        Good luck, even *people* can't do that consistently. I very much prefer the precision of a keyboard to the slippery ease of voice interfaces. I want *control* of my machines and I expect to work hard enough to get it.
    • In other words, make desktop PCs behave like PDAs do. I think that the expected behaviour of computers by non-tech-literate people is similar to a PDA - it 'just works', powers up instantly etc.

      I guess you could do something similar to the Palm - low-power refresh of the DRAM while the unit is off. I'm not sure of the power requirements for keeping 512mb of DRAM refreshed, though.

    • We really haven't progressed much since the work of Xerox Park.

      If you are going to try to use a historical reference, at least get it right: it was the Xerox PARC, as in Palo Alto Research Center.

      (I know, it's off-topic, but I find it annoying when people try to make references like this to show their old-school-itude. These are the same ones that use "CARRIER LOST" to show their 1337 BBS skillz. Bah.)
    • > TR: How does technology influence design?...
      TR: What's wrong with product design nowadays?


      How can we get design to have more of an influence on developing technologies?

      Rather than the inverse as they ask it. Of course that's easy to ask, HARD to answer.
    • Hang on a minute here...

      Humans are learning creatures. Machines are simply that--Machines.

      It is far simpler to have a human adapt to an interface than to attempt to build the ultimate interface that would be universally accepted.

      By creating a system that is abstracted from reality (windows/desktop/icons) allows us all common ground, as there is no real example of this sort of thing in the real world anyway.

      Heck, the mouse and the keyboard are both *arbitrarily* designed devices. Each it built to perform
      • The Newton tried to understand and learn from the human. The Palm had grafitti--You were forced to learn it's dialect of writing. You know what? Millions learned grafitti, even "non-techies". My wife, learned grafitti in about an hour, and can really rock writing on a palm. The Netwon never really caught on, in part due to it's handwriting recognition skills.

        Not only that (which is a condition arguably defeated by later versions of the Newton and other modern recognition systems) but in many ways I like g
    • I really wish someone would give these guys a pile of cash to redesign computer GUIs. I can't be the only one that is sick of the slow pace of development of computer interfaces. We really haven't progressed much since the work of Xerox Park.

      What you will get is a computer with a color screen and a pointer device, windows, icons, and menus. What we know as computers today is a result of years of evolution. There is not much potential for radical change unless there is a radical change in the way comput

    • "Forget the "windows" metaphor, forget "icons" and clicking with the mouse - really start from first principals."

      Why do people always suggest we dump the WIMP metaphor as if it's some insightful, intellegent suggestion? Do you not realize that not only would the GUI have to change, the hardware would too. WIMP developed from the use of the mouse and keyboard, not the other way around. We don't need a revolition in the way the GUI functions using the mouse and keyboard, we need a revolution in the way i
    • by gosand (234100) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @10:06AM (#6293367)
      What we need are some designers - who are not technies or nerds - to sit down and completely redesign the interface from scratch. Forget the "windows" metaphor, forget "icons" and clicking with the mouse - really start from first principals.

      Not going to happen. That is like asking Alexander Graham Bell to design a cell-phone. You have to go in with knowledge about the function of a product. If not you either get something that looks great but doesn't do anything, or a single-purpose device. Computers are neither of those.

      If you've ever sat down with someone who hasn't used a computer much and watch them struggle to do the simplest things, you'll understand how bad current GUIs are. The trouble is people that use computers are so used to their bad design that they fail to notice it.

      I have, and it is frustrating for everyone. But is it the design that is wrong, or the person? My mom didn't know anything much about computers until a year or two ago. She still struggles with the interface. My 8 year old neice picked it up very quickly. Don't blame the interface when the problem might be in the mind of the user. After all, in another generation there won't be anyone alive who remembers when there weren't computers.

      For example, when I press the on button, I want it to turn on. Instantly. I don't want to have to wait several minutes for it to "warm up" like the old TVs used to. And when I press the off button, I want it to turn off. Instantly. And if I press the on button again, I want to see the same stuff on the screen as when I last switched it off. And that's just the functionality of the on-off button!

      This is functionality, not design. Yeah, this would be a nice thing, but it has nothing to do with the interface design. You have to wait for the hardware behind the curtain to catch up to this idea. So you want a big, embedded computer. We'll probably get there some day, but it has nothing to do with UI design.

      It's 2003 for christsakes. Why am I still using an interface that was designed in the 1970's, when computers had a tiny fraction of the power and functionality they currently have?

      Umm, because the interface doesn't rely on the power and functionality of the device? So which is it? You want a super-powerful, multi-function computer that is instant-on that everyone intuitively knows how to operate? Gee, anything else? Maybe we could fit them on the head of a pin too. How about infinite storage?

      I am all for forward thinking, but let's put a little more emphasis on the thinking part.

    • For example, when I press the on button, I want it to turn on. Instantly. I don't want to have to wait several minutes for it to "warm up" like the old TVs used to. And when I press the off button, I want it to turn off. Instantly. And if I press the on button again, I want to see the same stuff on the screen as when I last switched it off. And that's just the functionality of the on-off button!

      Thats called Hibernation mode. Its here already. I think on some recent systems you can even make it the defa
    • Believe me, there is more money in UI design than you can possibly imagine. However it's not really getting us anywhere...

      Everyone wants a new UI but no-one can imagine what it will look like.
    • The spacial desktop metaphor (WIMP, etc.) is actually very good for people who have never touched a computer, because it uses concepts that they already know : moving physical objects around, associating them, etc.

      The current state of the art system GUIs are a lot worse in that respect, because they are a lot more abstract : the file managers of XP and OSX for example are based on the "browser" concept, that is not spacial at all. It's more efficient for most, but probably more difficult for beginners.

    • Xerox Park (Score:2, Funny)

      by BigBadBri (595126)
      You're either thinking of Xi Rox Park, the infamous Korean design guru, or Xerox Parc, the noted egghead concentration in Palo Alto.

      Sorry - just had to do it.

    • People have tried. Jef Raskin [jefraskin.com] has quite a few thoughts about new UI in his book The Humane Interface. You can see some of these in play in The Humane Environment [sourceforge.net], an open source project started by Jef to illustrate some of his ideas.

      David Gerlernter [scopeware.com] also has some ideas about changing the UI based on timelines and visual representation.

      As far as your wish about things staying open between powerdown and booting again - I'm not sure whether or not Apple's new user switching persists during shut down, but

    • "Well, I can tell you what doesn't workâ"and that is to have a whole bunch of people who are deep in their own technical domain but have no interest in engaging with the others. Then you end up with this "siloing" effect, but itâ(TM)s the joins between different disciplines where all the difficult stuff happens."

      very simply, take your pile of cash, organize some osf foundation seminars on user interfac design, both experimental, and practical, and educate those closest to the technology. bottom u
  • Apple? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by peterprior (319967) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:16AM (#6293061)
    I would be interested to see what this guys opinions on apple designs are, and why they are so goddam desirable.
    • Because Apple and IDEO (and a couple others like FrogDesign) hire from the same very, very small talent pool.

      Look at the job histories of Industrial Designers who work at the top of the top firms, they sort of move around the same firms. In short, the top few firms "get it"
    • Re:Apple? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Draoi (99421) <draiocht@NospAm.mac.com> on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @10:00AM (#6293313)
      I would be interested to see what this guys opinions on apple designs are, and why they are so goddam desirable.

      I'd suspect they'd be positive, seeing as IDEO also designed [ideo.com] Apple [ideo.com] products [ideo.com], though all of these were pre-Jonathan Ive.

      This guy designed the Duo Dock. Cool ....

  • by bigmouth_strikes (224629) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:17AM (#6293066) Journal
    TR: What kind of people do the best design?

    BROWN: Well, I can tell you what doesn't workâ"and that is to have a whole bunch of people who are deep in their own technical domain but have no interest in engaging with the others.


    Heh, good thing you don't find many of those around /. or any programming sweatshop :)

    Seriously though, this is dead on. Too often UI design are developed by the same people hacking the low level stuff or the business side of an application. At the end of the project, usually 6 weeks after schedule, they have to release what they used for testing since there is no time to sit and think about usability.

  • Good lord, I'm glad you clarified who Tim Brown was, otherwise I would have thought he was an aging wide reciever [yahoo.com] for the Oakland Raiders.

    Double plus good that that name wasn't attached to an article about black holes, then.

    Disclaimer: If you don't watch football, you won't find this funny and shouldn't waste your mod points. You might not even find it funny if you do watch football because, well, I'm half-awake right now and can't be a good judge of what's funny.
  • by Epeeist (2682) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:38AM (#6293178) Homepage
    He talks a lot about usability, which is fine.

    Here in the UK we are presently involved in implementing the Disability Discrimination Act, which is about Accessibility. How do you design for this?
    • well, Tim has two options. One, we can be really avant garde about it and replace all staircases with ramps and elevators, or two, we can move it to a country that doesn't care. Knowing these design-types, they'll go for the former and build the room in the shape of a giant wheelchair which is only visible from the sky.
    • Here in the UK we are presently involved in implementing the Disability Discrimination Act, which is about Accessibility. How do you design for this?

      It's a very interesting issue, but you wonder if it can be taken too far. You can't design everything for everyone, and to some extent you shouldn't try too hard. A new innovative design for keyboard shouldn't be stymied because it's not so good for a guy with no hands....that poor guy has to look elsewhere for his text entry solution.
  • by Mignon (34109) <satan@programmer.net> on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:54AM (#6293269)
    Background here [ideo.com] and demo here [ideo.com].
  • by howman (170527) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @09:54AM (#6293280)
    As an Industrial Designer specializing in User Interface for the integration of the virtual and the physical, the two bigest problems I come up against is first convincing the manufacturer of the value of Interface design, which is getting easier I am happy to say, and secondly convincing them that a product that is a 'Swiss Army Knife' is perhaps not such a great idea. It is much better to have a product which does one thing well rather than a product that does a million things half assed.

    We constantly see this in applications and new technology where the engeneers come up with all this facinating stuff and try to cram it into a device hoping customers will overlook the lack of need and only see the prettyness.

    As product designers we are at a cross roads where we are only now starting to understand which services and abilities people want grouped together in a single appliance. This is not limited strictly to produts. We are seeing it in services as well. Things like digital television, cell phone service plans as well as in cell phones and PDAs.

    Cell phones are great with a camera built in, perhaps even the ability to take a 5 second video, but there is realy no need for a cell phone which is a video camera, no matter how cool it may be to own one. Video cameras do a much better job of capturing video. In the same way you would not want a video camera which had cell phone capabilities... well perhaps you would, but unless your part of a profitably large enough group of consumers, you probably won't get it.
    • There is a clear benefit in having versatile devices. If they are done well. I use an old Palm IIIxe, a cheap, almost featureless, cell phone. I don't have any portable music player, dictophone (used to have one some time ago) or a camera.

      The reason for my slowness in adopting these technologies is that I don't want the Batman belt. I agree to carry with me only one (maximum two, if the second one is in my backpack) electronic device. Today it is my Palm IIIxe.

      New Palms (or Clies, or PocketPCs) are simply
    • "Cell phones are great with a camera built in, perhaps even the ability to take a 5 second video, but there is realy no need for a cell phone which is a video camera, no matter how cool it may be to own one. Video cameras do a much better job of capturing video."

      Hear, hear. Think "modular". Gimme a cell phone which will let me plug my video camera into it for the 1-2min/yr that I need to transmit videos instantly. Better, just gimme a cell phone that will let me plug all *sorts* of stuff into it as need

  • It took "...11 studies by 27 scientists at four universities..." to design --Tah-Dah!-- a chair [ideo.com].

    Clap, clap.
  • Self-contradictory? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by twifkak (177173)
    Ok, there's no doubt this guy knows what he's talking about, and TiVo's great :), but some of what he says seems to contradict itself.

    First he says we want actions on PDAs to be quick:
    That tells you a lot about the kinds of interactions that people want to have with mobile devices. They want to be quick. They want to be able to do something thatâ(TM)s just sort of chunked up into small things.

    And then:
    His belief in simplicity was what got Palm edited down to four buttons, and that was ultimately
    • Now, I like the Palm, but his description of it makes it sound like it's a multistep process to get anywhere, which isn't quite "quick" to me.
      Well, there's a few types of quickness:

      * the four buttons- that also can 'wake up' a sleeping unit- mapped to the most used PDA functions were probably a bit innovative. (Dunno if there's prior art for that or no) These get you into your tasks very quickly

      * everything else is a bit slower of course...power on, go 'home', then start the program.

      But you're missing a
  • There's something about e-mail that demands a reply, demands a response. But when youâ(TM)re getting thousands of these things, it becomes an impossibility to respond to everything. So weâ(TM)ve got to shift the etiquette, and maybe make e-mail more like publishing: that is, you send something out and you might get one percent response. I think that the paradigm of e-mail as letters, as objects, is inappropriate. I'm waiting for a shift to the timeline, rather than the object, as the organizing pr
  • From the article:

    Weâ(TM)re quite good at remembering when things happen./i>

    I would argue rather strongly that in fact that is utterly wrong. In the short term we might be, but over time we loose more and more track of when exactly something happened, even order at times!!

    And like someone else pointed out, email is already sorted by date. That doesn't make it any easier to find stuff older than a week. Then I have to sort by sender and start looking backward.

    I think the final solution might b
  • On the whole this was more sensible than what I've come to expect from "design", but this guy needs to listen to himself and go talk with the technologists a bit more. For example, we've already got that automagical thingy to switch between WiFi, and cell data: it's called routing, dude. Plug all your media in at once, assign sensible link costs to each, and the routing engine will figure out that WiFi is the best route to everywhere when it's in range and fall back to cell when WiFi stops working becaus
  • Continuing to come up with ideas that make Steve Jobs and friends "shit their pants" ...
  • by tomhudson (43916) <.barbara.hudson. ... bara-hudson.com.> on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @01:06PM (#6294898) Journal
    technology does not differentiate PCs these days.
    OMG, don't tell that to a Mac user. Or people running Linux. Or *BSD. Or AIX. Or those with multihead displays. Or touch screens. Or voice recognition. Or high-speed connections. Mind you, if he thinks technology doesn't differentiate PCs, maybe I can sell him an old 286 at today's prices :-)
    So weâ(TM)ve got to shift the etiquette, and maybe make e-mail more like publishing: that is, you send something out and you might get one percent response. I think that the paradigm of e-mail as letters, as objects, is inappropriate.
    So now he's telling us that he wants to make email more spammy?
    one big problem is feature creep.
    Right, after telling us that you want to change email into a "publishing" thing. Feature creep, or maybe feature creap :-).

    So, after he's done, and your email no longer works as email, you'll be able to use something called imail (internet mail), which will be what we used to call email.

    This is just change for the sake of change.

    design is a funnel-shaped thing

    design is a holistic way of thinking
    Maybe we should point him to dictionary.com so he can make up his mind what design is?

    Their web page might be titled "Master of Design" but I think they left out the letters "b, a, t, o, and r"

    Yeah, I know somebody's going to mod this as a flame or a troll, but this guy's supposed to be influencing design, and he comes across as Faith Popcorn.

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