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Winners and Losers In the World of Interfaces: 2013 In Review 116

Posted by timothy
from the more-than-just-a-pretty-picture dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A review of the top UX successes and failures of 2013 covers hot topics ranging from Snapchat to the Nest thermostat to David Pogue's departure from the New York Times. The author begins: 'In terms of UX milestones and missteps, 2013 failed to produce industry-altering innovations like 2007 with the introduction of the first iPhone or 2012 with the demise of Blackberry. Yet on another level, UX design in 2013 gave us a glimpse at the rapidly broadening definition of UX design as a structural concept and its role in the future of new media device design, content creation and even the status of product reviews created by leading tech journalists. In a critical way, I personally find this more interesting than blockbuster introductions that alter the technology landscape.'"
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Winners and Losers In the World of Interfaces: 2013 In Review

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I will admit it works better on iPhone than Classic but it's useless on traditional mouse pointer driven interfaces.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by larry bagina (561269)

      Who is reading slashdot on a phone and why? If that's not a sign of addiction and/or lack of a social life, I don't know what is.

      Fuck, next week is a new year. Resolve to take a bath and get some strange.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Because nothing helps loosen my bowels like an uninformed opinion and my laptop gets hot. Deal with it.
      • Sometimes I am at the laundrymat or in bed but can't sleep or waiting for the bus, or pretending to listen to a girlfriend, whatever.. My advise: use an RSS client from your phone. Looks fine.
    • Does anyone one else get the sickening irony of one of the great pro-Linux Web sites changing their layout to look like Windows 8?
  • bb10? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DavidClarkeHR (2769805) <david.clarke@hrg ... ist.ca minus bsd> on Friday December 27, 2013 @07:36PM (#45801943)
    Having used a Z10, the blackberry UI was definitely uninspired, but the gesture controls? Genius.

    Unlike the iOS gestures, the BB10 gestures actually increase my workflow.

    Still not as customizable as android...
    • Unlike the iOS gestures, the BB10 gestures actually increase my workflow.

      So they add extra burden into your workflow? ;) You probably meant "improve my workflow".

      • If you assume the flow is between "not done" and "done" then it means getting done faster. No problem here. :)

  • why are industry-altering innovations necessary?

    the whole expectation of continuous economic growth is flawed

    if you have a spare half hour, check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOMWzjrRiBg [youtube.com]

  • losers: everybody (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 27, 2013 @07:49PM (#45802029)

    As interfaces get more and more simplistic to suit 4 inch screens people jab at with their thumbs, losers are everybody.

    There's been a constant dumbing down of computing devices for at least 20 odd years now, until they actually not general purpose computing devices any more, but mere locked down tools to spy on our every move.

    • As interfaces get more and more simplistic to suit 4 inch screens people jab at with their thumbs, losers are everybody.

      There's been a constant dumbing down of computing devices for at least 20 odd years now, until they actually not general purpose computing devices any more, but mere locked down tools to spy on our every move.

      The scary part is that they are still not as dumb as most users. We've a ways to go yet.

      We're doomed.

      • by Carewolf (581105)

        The scary part is that they are still not as dumb as most users. We've a ways to go yet. We're doomed.

        Users are as stupid as you treat them.

    • As interfaces get more and more simplistic to suit 4 inch screens people jab at with their thumbs, losers are everybody.

      Obviously, the goal is a single button that simply does whatever you intend - the UX equivalent of Marklar [urbandictionary.com] (thanks South Park).

      I dub this the "Marklar Limit".

    • by istartedi (132515)

      Remember when the Internet was full or revolutionaries and free-thinkers? Most of them are still there; but it's like they're loitering on the platform. When's the next train coming? It can't get here too soon.

    • Same great interface as it ever was, in text mode or graphical.
    • As interfaces get more and more simplistic to suit 4 inch screens people jab at with their thumbs, losers are everybody.

      There's been a constant dumbing down of computing devices for at least 20 odd years now, until they actually not general purpose computing devices any more, but mere locked down tools to spy on our every move.

      Exactly, and this continues to baffle me.

      Phone-style controls make some sense on, you know, a phone. They make no sense on a large screen general purpose computing device, with real inputs like mice and keyboards.

    • by pepty (1976012)
      On the other hand it's easier than ever to purchase and set up truly general purpose computing devices now, from an FPGA for your raspberry pi to a 20 gpu cluster running on an open OS and free software. Most people want a truly general purpose computing device about as much as they want to be able to reconfigure their car as a log splitter and a cement mixer.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Reading this article I was left with the impression that it was written by a trendy "UX designer". My suspicion was confirmed when I scrolled to the bottom and found it was written by Charles L Mauro, president of MauroNewMedia; a company specialising in user interface design and UX optimization.

    User interface designers are usually the last people you want to get to design a user interface. They're the sort of people who produce crap like Metro, Unity, GNOME 3, the Gmail interface, the ribbon and can canc

  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Friday December 27, 2013 @08:04PM (#45802131) Homepage

    This article makes no sense. What the fuck does Facebook's political stance have to do with UX?

    Anyone who's ever used Facebook could tell you their UX is terrible, you don't need to bring politics into it.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday December 27, 2013 @08:12PM (#45802181) Journal
    I'm not sure the article is saying anything. For example, #1 on the list is the Nest thermostat. It has a lot of words talking about Nest, but nowhere in there does it explain why nest is so amazing. It has a pretty picture, but it's hard to see why it is qualitatively better than the old fashioned thermostat [langsheatingandair.com].

    Seriously, if you're going to write two paragraphs about why something is good, you ought to at least throw a sentence in there explaining why it is good. Below is the relevant paragraph from the article.

    Ok, we have heard enough about the Internet of things (IoT). The surprising fact is that, aside from all the hype, there is very thin working evidence that the IoT is actually happening. Like all new and potentially massively important technologies, IoT has lacked all manner of effective working business solutions. Then along came the Nest thermostat, which, aside from some seriously sketchy industrial design decisions that brought out a small army of design patent litigators, is a robust UX solution based on IoT technology. The UX of Nest was created by Tony Fadell, who contributed to the UX design of the original iPod (think original rotary wheel design).

    While the Nest UX has a number of fumbled task segments, overall it shows that a well-designed UX configuration can and does drive adoption of a new technology as compelling as IoT. Of course, the power of IoT only surfaces when devices like Nest connect to all manner of other things not produced by Nest designers and engineers. This means a vast universe of other things ranging from Department of Energy databases to your local heating oil provider to the locks on your doors. This can and will happen, but not until those who create the “Things” of IoT agree that the first rule of IoT is simply: “All devices must play nice with other things on the network.” This is no small matter, as the entire thrust of modern management science has been to NEVER collaborate with your competitors. So, now what?

    • The article claims Twitter is a user experience failure. That it's too hard to understand or something. Really? I can't think of much that is easier to understand that Twitter.....maybe someone else can parse the words from the article and explain them better than I did:

      To be clear, I love Twitter. I love it for its potential but am puzzled by its truly wonky and frankly mystifying UX design that rivals the early days of MS Word (okay perhaps an overstatement). This makes Twitter complex to learn and use. In this critical regard, Twitter’s simplicity as an information propagation engine is in direct opposition to its UX model. This relates to the simple question of how users actually acquire an understanding of any given technology-based service. It is well understood that failing to help users develop both conceptual fluency and procedural fluency means you have, wella Twitter UX design. Having a clearly formed mental model of a man-machine system (Twitter) whose fundamental function is information propagation is, as they say in DOD speak, “mission-critical.” What I mean by this is there is far greater anxiety and fear in using a system in which your inputs are going to be propagated instantly to others than in a system where your inputs have a circumscribed and easily controlled sphere of exposure. Twitter has a rather unique UX design problem, a problem it does not seem to understand. This is the fundamental structural issue with Twitter currently. The solution to this problem is actually a complex UX cognitive science question that will not yield to simple graphic design and navigation tweaking. This problem is going to hold Twitter back until it puts as much effort into its UX design as it did into the PR narrative running up to its IPO. Good UX is good business. Get on the program, Twitter, and your future is brighter than even Wall Street understands.

      • technobabble at it's finest...i mean really, that shit sounds like a bot wrote it.

        the author needs a UX for his point.

      • Wow. All that to explain Twitter of all things?

        What a pile of buzzword bingo. Looks as if he's had way too many lattes.

        For his next missive, he should toss the Mac Air, switch to decaf and write the entire article in one Twit. That should keep him out of trouble for a bit.

        • Wow. All that to explain Twitter of all things?

          Sadly, no.......all that and he STILL didn't explain Twitter.

          • by ApplePy (2703131)

            As I understand it, Twitter is a place where vapid idiots can post short throwaway bits of random verbal diarrhea for other vapid idiots to read.

            Will that suffice, sir?

            • Better than the article, certainly.
            • As I understand it, Twitter is a place where vapid idiots can post short throwaway bits of random verbal diarrhea for other vapid idiots to read.

              Will that suffice, sir?

              Nope, 146 characters.

      • by idunham (2852899)

        Besides criticizing Twitter, he praises newspapers.
        Several of his points are good, but...

        Random or structured search instantly possible (go directly to what you want without complexity or scan for higher level content without additional cognitive complexity. This type of information-seeking and process-switching is every site designer's dream although impossible to acheive.)

        Um, what?
        I can scan a newspaper page in probably 15-20 seconds (5-10 seconds for a very quick overview).
        Then read the relevant section

    • by doti (966971)

      not difficult, just sucky and useless

    • I'm not sure the article is saying anything. For example, #1 on the list is the Nest thermostat. It has a lot of words talking about Nest, but nowhere in there does it explain why nest is so amazing. It has a pretty picture, but it's hard to see why it is qualitatively better than the old fashioned thermostat.

      The "old fashioned thermostat" shown is the famous Honeywell Round, usually credited to Henry Dreyfuss. It's one of the iconic objects of 20th century industrial design. The Nest thermostat copies that design. That's it's big selling point. There are other thermostats with Internet connections.

      All it does is turn the HVAC on and off. It's not for use with systems where outside air intake is controllable with a damper or fan. It doesn't control fans separately from heating and cooling. It doesn't sense CO2

      • Interesting.

        The Nest is certainly pretty, but unless you have an iHouse, I don't think it would fit into the decor of your house as well as the Honeywell Round. The Nest is designed to stand out, which isn't really what you want in a thermostat.
        • by Animats (122034)

          I don't think it would fit into the decor of your house as well as the Honeywell Round.

          That was an important design consideration with the Honeywell Round. The outer plastic ring was originally available in many colors, back when Making Everything Match was considered very important in home decorating. It's still available ($26.98 at Home Depot for the heat-only model), only in beige. But you can remove the plastic ring and paint it to match the wall if you like.

          Honeywell has a touch-screen, WiFi, Android/IOS enabled thermostat which also measures humidity and can decide when to run in fan-

      • by hibiki_r (649814)

        How does a thermostat bring all of those features to the home, without first changing your entire HVAC installation? What most of us have in the home is a single HVAC unit, or at most two, with no parts that would allow any of the fun things you can do in a modern building. You need both an army of sensors and movable parts. If you build a home thermostat around those features, expect to not sell any, because it'd come only with new houses made for people that have quite a bit of money and much to say about

    • by knarf (34928)

      That Nest thing is treated the same way as the original iphone - as if it 'totally re-invents the field' and 'revolutionises ... (whatever)'. It is priced like an apple product, looks like an apple product and is obviously targeted at the apple core of the demography - people with lots of money to spend on things other people tell them they need to buy to earn their stay in their clan. It also attracts the same 'journalists' who fawn over the product without being able to rationally explain its appeal. A sm

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 27, 2013 @08:24PM (#45802257)

    Has anyone else noticed that the term "UX designer" and "UX" cropped up right around the time everything went to shit?

    Windows got Metro.
    Apple got iOS 7, and some really idiotic features in 10.9.
    Linux got Gnome 3 and Unity.

    I work in the graphics design industry, and whenever I see "UX designer" I almost immediately run in the opposite direction. Very, very few people can successfully use that term and back it up with stuff that actually works and works well. 99% of the time it's some self proclaimed asshole who thinks his ideas are the bomb, when they're really just a pile of rubbish. In fact, some of the best "UX designers" out there don't call themselves that and actually go out of their way to avoid the term. Those are the people who don't really call themselves anything- but you can tell from their portfolios that they know what they're doing.

    TLDR; UX is a side effect of good UI design. It is an unnecessary department created by failed web designers who want to feel important. Can we please get back to innovating user interfaces that people want and work well now? Because I'm tired of where everything is heading these days.

    • Good UIs have always been a rarity in the computing world. UX designers are just one in a long line of failures.
  • B.S. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lisias (447563) on Friday December 27, 2013 @08:27PM (#45802269) Homepage Journal

    What 2013 demonstrated us is that UX is not user driven anymore, but marketing driven.

    The User Interface is not trimmed anymore to help the user on solving his/her problems or executing his/her jobs.

    The User Interface is, now, trimmed to help someone else's job. And this job is to sell something to the user (at best), or simply take something from him/her (at worst).

  • UI is sometimes good.

    UX is ALWAYS bad.

  • And its at least 30 years old! This "UX" marketing droid needs to be taken out and shot.

    • Yeah, I was expecting him to give some explanation of cool things that make the Nest thermostat better. But he didn't.

      Maybe it's not better.
  • by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Friday December 27, 2013 @09:46PM (#45802661)
    "2013 failed to produce industry-altering innovations like [insert innovation #1] or 2012 with the demise of Blackberry"

    So the demise of Blackberry was an industry-altering innovation. Good to know.
  • The new BB10 series, it was almost as if they hired a bunch of high school developers to make an interface.
  • So, the Philips Hue is not an advancement in UX as it takes such a deeply ingrained idiomatic interface as the light switch and makes it more complex, adding another layer of control. Flip the switch and nothing happens. Oh, it was already on? Flip it again, grab the phone, adjust the light. Not what I call an improvement. Yes, it can change colors. Wow! So can a whole host of other technologies. Is it $5 per bulb or less? If not, then I don't want it. I have 27 bulbs within my current view in my small apar

  • iOS 7 - failure in moving away from all skeuomorphism. And I *like* Apple products. Steve would not have endorsed the changes... He was about beauty as well as function - that's why we have the graphic fonts of today. No - I am not a Steve "fan" just stating a fact. I run Linux and Android and HP WebOS - and when needed - Windoze too.

    • He was about beauty as well as function - that's why we have the graphic fonts of today. No - I am not a Steve "fan" just stating a fact.

      Steve was one person of many who was trying to improve fonts and typography on computers. Another was Donald Knuth.

      I'm not trying to detract from the fact that Steve did successfully push fonts forward, but we certainly would have high-quality fonts even if he hadn't been around (it would have just taken a bit longer).

    • Skeuomorphism in pre iOS 7 was kind of ridiculous.

      Good skeuomorphism: the fake mixer board in a lot of audio apps

      Bad skeuomorphism: contacts in iOS and OSX

  • by gumpish (682245) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @12:30AM (#45803277) Journal

    2013 failed to produce industry-altering innovations

    GOOD.

    UX: the field of taking something that's familiar and works well and replacing it with some as different and as "sleek" as possible regardless of the critical importance of visible affordances, constraints, natural mappings, etc.

    "We've replaced your boring 20th century 'steering wheel and pedals' interface with our new three shells interface. Drive safe!"

    The only people bemoaning a lack of "industry altering innovations" in user interface are the people who want to be paid to throw out every principle of designing things to be usable.

  • This article is just trash. I mean, the whole thing! It's just buzzword-laden bullshit that can't even be parsed into coherent thoughts. There is very little meat in this supposed roundup of interface wins & losses, and to top it off, it doesn't even mention the horrendously well-accepted "interface failures" which have been primary topics of discussion in the wide open world of UX this year.

    My take: anything involving the word "UX" this year has most assuredly been a GRAND success at the unstated m

  • by Anonymous Coward

    UX is the new Usability I guess. Surprised they didn't mention Windows 8 anywhere. That train wreck is singularly responsible for a massive augering in of sales. Smartphones didn't help, of course, but I saw dozens of people walk into Best Buy, look around for laptops running anything other than Windows 8, and turn around and walk out because they couldn't find any... and I don't even work there.

    • by tomhath (637240)

      UX is the new Usability I guess.

      Nah, Usability is a desirable goal; UX is a meaningless buzzword. It's more like "Knowledge Engineering". Management heard the terms and feared they would miss something really important if they didn't hire some experts. But there's no definition of what either UX or KE really is and certainly no way determine if a candidate is qualified to do whatever it is they're supposed to do. So people are hired, make a nuisance of themselves at meetings for a couple of years, then fade away.

  • by beachdog (690633) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @12:04PM (#45805943) Journal

    I found the original post article fascinating and then eventually trailing off into 5000 too many words.

    I appreciate the multiple effective Slashdot commentators accomplishment at semantically flensing the formerly elegant carcass of the OP missive.

    What however is the low energy high quality of life and strife relieved peaceful future that the Internet and connected humans need to facilitate?

    The author's OP missive at least noted some of the major twists in the confused battle. By my estimate, the now 20 year old failure of Yahoo mail to permit POP message downloading for free is the little tiny failure that no user interface redesign can correct. I am within a hair's breadth of taking my local mailing list for parents of disabled children elsewhere, thanks to the stupid Yahoo re-design.

    The author's description of Google's chrome-cast and Netflix binge watching are both interesting developments in the struggle to get media and infomation moving without the exhorbitant charges of patent licensing and copyright fee collection.

    A side comment that a paper newspaper is more energy efficient than a free newspaper furnished over the Internet is an interesting assertion worth exploring. I am concerned that the Internet system burns more electrical energy and has a larger fixed term in the y=mx +b linear equation of value than is recognized.

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