The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'hci'


The next thing after the study of human-computer interaction might be feline-computer interaction. Now there are iPad games and painting apps ostensibly designed specifically for cats, and hackathons to develop apps for cats, and now, on the first of April, HCI guru Jakob Nielsen has published a study into Essential Design Principles for Felines. The study found that Fitts' Law holds for cats as it does for humans, but that apps for cats require larger tap targets, should respond to swiping and use blinking and animation copiously, and should have a pause mode triggered by the user lying on the tablet. Unsurprisingly, the game Fruit Ninja performed fairly well with feline users.

While it is possible to write apps for existing tablets optimised for feline users, I suspect that human-oriented tablet hardware may be somewhat suboptimal for them. Certainly sound systems designed for humans (whose hearing range extends to barely above 20kHz when young, and deteriorates with age) would sound muffled to an animal whose hearing range goes well into the ultrasonic (apparently up to 75kHz). Designing a screen for a cat's eyes would probably result in a very different device than one for humans (though, since humans have to develop and debug them, there would have to be some overlap). Needless to say, scratchproofing would also be a consideration. Also, it remains to be determined whether there is any way of allowing a cat to select different apps (or different activities) from a device, or indeed whether a non-tool-using animal such as a cat could conceive of a tablet as being anything other than a random phenomenon it reacts to.

cats design hci tech 0


In user interface design, sometimes worse is better, as in the case of the Bloomberg Terminal, a proprietary computer terminal used by financial traders. The Bloomberg Terminal's interface, which hasn't been updated for a decade or so, is generally seen as cluttered and ugly. Proposals for more elegant redesigns have been knocked back, because the existing users like the macho ugliness of the interface and the aura of hardcore expertise it bestows on them:

Simplifying the interface of the terminal would not be accepted by most users because, as ethnographic studies show, they take pride on manipulating Bloomberg's current "complex" interface. The pain inflicted by blatant UI flaws such as black background color and yellow and orange text is strangely transformed into the rewarding experience of feeling and looking like a hard-core professional.
In other words, the Bloomberg Terminal is one of a class of items whose bad design is a feature serving a higher-level social function; in this case, the function is that of being a badge of proficiency or status, and an artificial handicap to keep usurpers out. In this way, it functions somewhere between the tail of a peacock (which is expensive to grow and makes one more visible to predators, but having one (and being alive) also acts as proof of fitness) and the regalia and rituals of Freemasonry back when it was a force to be reckoned with. Of course, secrets are inherently leaky and can hold power only for so long, so sooner or later, perhaps someone (possibly Apple or Google?) will come along with a more elegantly-designed system that will demystify what it does and, in doing so, hole Bloomberg's boat below the waterline (unless they do so first).

(via Daring Fireball) aesthetics antipatterns design hci machismo psychology status 8

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