How far have we come?

3 Oct 2006 - 4:08am
7 years ago
14 replies
553 reads
Chris McLay
2005

I just had a strange coincidental moment I thought it appropriate to
share...

I'm re-reading a paper by Michel Beaudouin-Lafon, "Designing
interaction, not interfaces." 2004 http://doi.acm.org/
10.1145/989863.989865

In this paper he basically argues for HCI to become Interaction
Design (I'm simplifying). He compares the original Macintosh computer
from 1984 with the current iMac (2003) - despite the massive growth
in computing capacity, over 3,000 times, and storage capacity, over
200,000 times, the basic interaction is still the same after 20
years– a mouse, a keyboard and a desktop using windows, icons, menus
and a pointer.

As I'm reading this I see a brochure in my in tray - “25 years of
CHI. Look how far we have come… Imagine how far we can go.” with
pictures of children golding pictures of a keyboard, a mouse, a
drawing tablet, and palm-top device with a qwerty keyboard and an
anthropomorphic robot.

Most of these were cutting edge 20-25 years ago, sure they have
evolved and improved, but by how much? I don't really want to bag HCI
or CHI, but it was such a solid comparison / co-incidence it honestly
made me think how far have we really come?

(or maybe CHI just needs some better marketing?)

--
Chris McLay ...// interaction & visual designer

Email chris at eeoh.com.au
Web http://www.eeoh.com.au/chris/

Comments

3 Oct 2006 - 11:39am
Robert Reimann
2003

To play devil's advocate to the "how far have we really come?"
question the way it was stated: automobiles have had steering wheels
and foot brakes for at least 100 years. Does that mean the UI of
automobiles is somehow insufficient or antiquated? 20 years of keeping
the mouse and keyboard tells me that these are mature input
technologies that probably do the job well enough for most tasks
involving computers.

Ironically, it seems all too common for CHI folks to obsess about the
*technology* of user interfaces (just look at the number of CHI papers
discussing novel input and display methods). Remember when the
hyperbolic tree graph was hailed as the wave of the future for content
navigation?

I'm far more interested in where we have come in understanding our
users, and how we have used that knowledge to improve the behavior and
overall usefulness and desirability of products and systems. Answering
that question usually has little to do with input or output
mechanisms, and everything to do with what behaviors the product has,
and whether these and the information presented to the users match
their mental models, expectations, and desires.

--
Robert Reimann
President, IxDA

Manager, User Experience
Bose Corporation
Framingham, MA

On 10/3/06, Chris McLay <chris at eeoh.com.au> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> I just had a strange coincidental moment I thought it appropriate to
> share...
>
> I'm re-reading a paper by Michel Beaudouin-Lafon, "Designing
> interaction, not interfaces." 2004 http://doi.acm.org/
> 10.1145/989863.989865
>
> In this paper he basically argues for HCI to become Interaction
> Design (I'm simplifying). He compares the original Macintosh computer
> from 1984 with the current iMac (2003) - despite the massive growth
> in computing capacity, over 3,000 times, and storage capacity, over
> 200,000 times, the basic interaction is still the same after 20
> years– a mouse, a keyboard and a desktop using windows, icons, menus
> and a pointer.
>
> As I'm reading this I see a brochure in my in tray - "25 years of
> CHI. Look how far we have come… Imagine how far we can go." with
> pictures of children golding pictures of a keyboard, a mouse, a
> drawing tablet, and palm-top device with a qwerty keyboard and an
> anthropomorphic robot.
>
> Most of these were cutting edge 20-25 years ago, sure they have
> evolved and improved, but by how much? I don't really want to bag HCI
> or CHI, but it was such a solid comparison / co-incidence it honestly
> made me think how far have we really come?
>
> (or maybe CHI just needs some better marketing?)
>
>
> --
> Chris McLay ...// interaction & visual designer
>
> Email chris at eeoh.com.au
> Web http://www.eeoh.com.au/chris/

3 Oct 2006 - 12:00pm
D O'Grady
2006

Remids me of a talk by Bill Buxton that I saw recently:
http://www.billbuxton.com/#talk
"On Appearances and the 3 Rules of Real Estate. iCore Summit, Banff,
Alberta, June 8, 2004."

I think Buxton covers some of the same ground as Beaudoin-Lafon, but
he also suggests some interesting directions for the future.

- Diane

On 10/3/06, Chris McLay <chris at eeoh.com.au> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> I just had a strange coincidental moment I thought it appropriate to
> share...
>
> I'm re-reading a paper by Michel Beaudouin-Lafon, "Designing
> interaction, not interfaces." 2004 http://doi.acm.org/
> 10.1145/989863.989865
>
[...]
> Most of these were cutting edge 20-25 years ago, sure they have
> evolved and improved, but by how much? I don't really want to bag HCI
> or CHI, but it was such a solid comparison / co-incidence it honestly
> made me think how far have we really come?
>
> (or maybe CHI just needs some better marketing?)
> --
> Chris McLay ...// interaction & visual designer
>
> Email chris at eeoh.com.au
> Web http://www.eeoh.com.au/chris/

5 Oct 2006 - 10:51am
Chris McLay
2005

Esteban Barahona wrote:

> sounds interesting but that link seems broken...

Try this one:
http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/989863.989865

You'll probably need to be an ACM member to get the whole paper.

--
Chris McLay ...// interaction & visual designer

Email chris at eeoh.com.au
Web http://www.eeoh.com.au/chris/

5 Oct 2006 - 11:02am
Chris McLay
2005

Diane O'Grady wrote:

> Remids me of a talk by Bill Buxton that I saw recently: http://
> www.billbuxton.com/#talk
> "On Appearances and the 3 Rules of Real Estate. iCore Summit,
> Banff, Alberta, June 8, 2004."
>
> I think Buxton covers some of the same ground as Beaudoin-Lafon,
> but he also suggests some interesting directions for the future.

Buxton's talk is good, and you're right it is similar to Beaudoin-
Lafon. Beaudoin-Lafon's main argument is for a change in approach to
HCI - a broadening away from HCI to include context and
phenomenology. Buxton's push is similar, but seems more targeted at
inspiring his specific audience.

Going back to the question: How far have we come? Not far really...
but there's more potential...

--
Chris McLay ...// interaction & visual designer

Email chris at eeoh.com.au
Web http://www.eeoh.com.au/chris/

5 Oct 2006 - 11:23am
Chris McLay
2005

Robert Reimann wrote:

> To play devil's advocate to the "how far have we really come?"
> question the way it was stated: automobiles have had steering wheels
> and foot brakes for at least 100 years. Does that mean the UI of
> automobiles is somehow insufficient or antiquated? 20 years of keeping
> the mouse and keyboard tells me that these are mature input
> technologies that probably do the job well enough for most tasks
> involving computers.

In many ways I agree with this, we are a long way from replacing the
keyboard in terms of the technology of this kind of input. Simple
pointing devices have more flexibility, but I doubt the tech will
change hugely. These are technological changes though, not changes in
core interaction.

> I'm far more interested in where we have come in understanding our
> users, and how we have used that knowledge to improve the behavior and
> overall usefulness and desirability of products and systems. Answering
> that question usually has little to do with input or output
> mechanisms, and everything to do with what behaviors the product has,
> and whether these and the information presented to the users match
> their mental models, expectations, and desires.

Even here I think we haven't moved far in actual application. There
are good examples, and some better theories, but I'm not sure how far
we've come.

Going back to an Apple Mac example. I've read the Apple Human
Interface Guidelines for over almost 15 years, and the key concepts
have not changed. Specifics have as technology has advanced - use of
colour is a good example. In many ways it seems like we've just been
trying to catch up and emulate what the Mac did in 1984, and bring
everything else up to scratch.

This worries me.

It makes me wonder if interaction design can change this. I think it
has the potential to. I wonder if it can. I wonder how we make sure
it can.

--
Chris McLay ...// interaction & visual designer

Email chris at eeoh.com.au
Web http://www.eeoh.com.au/chris/

5 Oct 2006 - 3:24pm
jbellis
2005

Chris,
One could make either case, lots or little progress, depending on what
program you're using today. More remarks below.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Chris McLay" <chris at eeoh.com.au>

> In many ways it seems like we've just been
> trying to catch up and emulate what the Mac did in 1984

I'm not a Mac expert, but I accept this premise that a lot of the solutions
were ordained in '84. (or should we call it Web-20?) Even if it's not
perfect, it could easily claim to be into "diminishing returns" on user
friendliness.
>
> It makes me wonder if interaction design can change this. I think it
> has the potential to. I wonder if it can. I wonder how we make sure
> it can.
>
If the Mac is in fact a success model, its success in large part stemmed
from (reasonably good UI decision makers on top of) a controlled
environment. That being the case, I think the solution, given our current,
uncontrolled environment is:
1. Inculcate the principles in high school.
2. Continue to insinuate the best decisions into frameworks. (To me,
patterns have to be sought out, whereas frameworks, bring a lot of patterns
with them.)
-Jack

6 Oct 2006 - 3:55am
Chris McLay
2005

>> It makes me wonder if interaction design can change this. I think it
>> has the potential to. I wonder if it can. I wonder how we make sure
>> it can.
>
> If the Mac is in fact a success model, its success in large part
> stemmed from (reasonably good UI decision makers on top of) a
> controlled environment.

I think so, but I think it has more so come from very passionate
designers at the top - Jobs, Raskin, Ives and I'm sure many others.
The best design is more important than almost anything else to these
people.

> That being the case, I think the solution, given our current,
> uncontrolled environment is:
> 1. Inculcate the principles in high school.

A bit slow but ok. How about we start teaching and developing
creativity instead?

> 2. Continue to insinuate the best decisions into frameworks. (To
> me, patterns have to be sought out, whereas frameworks, bring a lot
> of patterns with them.)
> -Jack

I think these are good ways to disseminate good ideas, but they don't
result in good ideas - this is still trying to play catch up to the
original good idea...

I quite like the idea of promoting creativity as a skill as a longer
term solution. Shorter term I think we might need to focus on
changing how design is perceived. Many people recognise that good
design has made the iPod a success, but too many people see this
success as only aesthetic and marketing design. The bigger picture of
how nicely the whole thing works was also carefully designed and
guarded by Apple...

--
Chris McLay ...// interaction & visual designer

Email chris at eeoh.com.au
Web http://www.eeoh.com.au/chris/

6 Oct 2006 - 10:53am
jbellis
2005

Chris,
It might be time to rename the thread because we're now aiming at much
different targets. Tablets might be nice, and voice recognition, and flying
cars, too, but I don't think that lack of creativity is the limiting factor
in how far we have or haven't come in user experience. I think that applying
the basics that we've already created is the limiting factor.

I also don't happen to believe in all this "teaching creativity" crap. Kids
start out creative, and learn not to be. Some survive their "education" with
their creativity intact. Business classes, such as learning "brainstorming,"
are not about creativity.

-Jack

----- Original Message -----
From: "Chris McLay" <chris at eeoh.com.au>

> I quite like the idea of promoting creativity as a skill as a longer
> term solution. Shorter term I think we might need to focus on

6 Oct 2006 - 11:23am
Chris McLay
2005

On 06/10/2006, at 11:53 PM, jackbellis.com wrote:

> It might be time to rename the thread because we're now aiming at much
> different targets. Tablets might be nice, and voice recognition,
> and flying
> cars, too, but I don't think that lack of creativity is the
> limiting factor
> in how far we have or haven't come in user experience. I think that
> applying
> the basics that we've already created is the limiting factor.

I'm not going to disagree with you - applying what we already know
would help some apps. Applying it well with an understanding of where
it came from would be better. But in the end all this does is bring
everything up to the same standard that was set around 20 years ago.

> I also don't happen to believe in all this "teaching creativity"
> crap. Kids
> start out creative, and learn not to be. Some survive their
> "education" with
> their creativity intact. Business classes, such as learning
> "brainstorming,"
> are not about creativity.

Well thanks for keeping it constructive... I don't know what "all
this teaching creativity crap" is, and I certainly said nothing about
business classes or brainstorming.

As it happens I also believe most kids start out creative, and I also
believe that this can be encouraged and nurtured. My point was that
we are better off teaching kids to learn, think and be creative than
we are giving them a new set of principals or fundamentals that are
right now, but most likely won't be right in their future.

--
Chris McLay ...// interaction & visual designer

Email chris at eeoh.com.au
Web http://www.eeoh.com.au/chris/

6 Oct 2006 - 3:51pm
jbellis
2005

Chris,
My sincere apologies for appearing to attack another position that wasn't
yours, as if it were. I was addressing the broader efforts I hear about that
attempt foster creativity.

But as to things that "likely won't be there in the future," that's
precisely the point on which we disagree. I think that user experience is
based on all the things that started in approx '84, and will persist for a
long time: explicitness, persistence, retaining investment in work,
accuracy, supporting multiple metaphors, allowing any order, ad infinitum.
These will be necessary even if we stick our computers in our ears as some
do their phones.

I personally think that history shows us, that just as the appearance of
newspapers has persisted for hundreds of years, the point-and-click
interface may be perfectly suitable for another 20 years. (I first wrote
"50" but backed off, so maybe I'll be quoting you in 2026, when software
uniformly achieves explicitness or no longer needs it because stuff goes
right into our brains, but I'm doubtful.)

-Thanks, Jack

----- Original Message -----
From: "Chris McLay" <chris at eeoh.com.au>

>I certainly said nothing about
> business classes or brainstorming.
>
> As it happens I also believe most kids start out creative, and I also
> believe that this can be encouraged and nurtured. My point was that
> we are better off teaching kids to learn, think and be creative than
> we are giving them a new set of principals or fundamentals that are
> right now, but most likely won't be right in their future.

6 Oct 2006 - 7:34pm
Chris McLay
2005

On 07/10/2006, at 4:51 AM, jackbellis.com wrote:

> But as to things that "likely won't be there in the future," that's
> precisely the point on which we disagree. I think that user
> experience is
> based on all the things that started in approx '84, and will
> persist for a
> long time: explicitness, persistence, retaining investment in work,
> accuracy, supporting multiple metaphors, allowing any order, ad
> infinitum.
> These will be necessary even if we stick our computers in our ears
> as some
> do their phones.

May be it's a matter of terminology and semantics, or specifics, but
this is why I was advocating improved knowledge and training in the
areas of design and creativity. The type of things that don't change
are low level, but how we need to apply them does change, and this
requires high level skills an understanding.

Maybe WIMP interfaces are pretty amazing for desktop work - maybe we
just need to refine their poorer implementations...

Chris

7 Oct 2006 - 12:37pm
Michael Albers
2005

When I teach my technical communication classes, I tell the students
they must include graphics. I get totally blank looks and finally
someone asks where do they get them. They have absolutely no idea
how to even roughly sketch out a graphical idea. And I don't require
a finished diagram, all they need is something that could be passed
to a graphic artist. A technical writer doesn't need to know how to
draw, just know what needs to be drawn.

Of course, the last art class most kids have is around 8th grade. And
that was fine art, not technical art. Their entire vision of creating
stuff is writing double spaced text which says what the teacher told
them to say.

>I also don't happen to believe in all this "teaching creativity" crap. Kids
>start out creative, and learn not to be. Some survive their "education" with
>their creativity intact. Business classes, such as learning "brainstorming,"
>are not about creativity.

Mike

-------------------------------
Dr. Michael J. Albers
Professional Writing Program
Department of English
University of Memphis
Memphis TN 38152

8 Oct 2006 - 8:32am
jbellis
2005

Mike,
I'm very interested, but looks like we're moving way past Ux so maybe we
should continue offline. All of my techwriting is profuse with diagrams and
annotated snippets of screen sections, so I share your concern about
illustration skill. Similarly, I find myself lamenting that today's kids
have no mechanical aptitude whatsoever. But I wonder if all of this is just
the intellectual equivalent of every generation complaining that "kids today
are no good." And maybe illustration-even crude clipart/callout- has always
and will forever be a special aptitude. And then there's the side issue, is
illustration creativity?

Arguing for the opposition, I am in endless awe when I pop around the web
and see the concentration of skill and breadth of talent. Witness Wufoo.com,
tiddlywiki.com, et al. I believe these are kids relative to my age. Which is
the true picture?

Is it the case that knowledge and power is more leveraged now... by fewer
people, and the rest are starting to become morons, if not in absolute
terms, then relatively... your classes and the ranks of my occasional
techwriting coworker are swelled by incoming dopes, but the geniuses abound
nonetheless? I never stop seeing the accuracy of the book/movie The Time
Machine by HG Wells. Every day it takes fewer and fewer people to supply the
means of subsitence.

-Jack

----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Albers" <malbers at memphis.edu>
To: "discuss" <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Saturday, October 07, 2006 1:37 PM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] How far have we come?

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> When I teach my technical communication classes, I tell the students
> they must include graphics. I get totally blank looks and finally
> someone asks where do they get them. They have absolutely no idea
> how to even roughly sketch out a graphical idea. And I don't require
> a finished diagram, all they need is something that could be passed
> to a graphic artist. A technical writer doesn't need to know how to
> draw, just know what needs to be drawn.
>
> Of course, the last art class most kids have is around 8th grade. And
> that was fine art, not technical art. Their entire vision of creating
> stuff is writing double spaced text which says what the teacher told
> them to say.
>
>>I also don't happen to believe in all this "teaching creativity" crap.
>>Kids
>>start out creative, and learn not to be. Some survive their "education"
>>with
>>their creativity intact. Business classes, such as learning
>>"brainstorming,"
>>are not about creativity.
>
> Mike
>
> -------------------------------
> Dr. Michael J. Albers
> Professional Writing Program
> Department of English
> University of Memphis
> Memphis TN 38152
>
>
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9 Oct 2006 - 10:18am
Doug Murray
2005

There was brief mention late last week of a Bill Buxton talk, "On Appearances
and the 3 Rules of Real Estate. iCore Summit, Banff, Alberta, June 8, 2004."
When I went to Buxton's site, ( http://billbuxton.com/#talk ), instead of going
to the talk mentioned, I was drawn to "What if Leopold Didn't Have a Piano."
Wow! The title refers to Leopold Mozart, the father of Wolfgang Amadeus. Many,
many insights related to this thread, from the pace of adoption (the mouse
wasn't widely used until 30 years after it was invented), to a reminder of why
we do what we do (it's not the hardware, it's not the software, it's the
people). (Real progress should be measured by how people's lives have improved,
not by how much the hardware or software have changed.) He also points out that
having the right design is far more important than getting the design right.

Bill Gates hit the jackpot when he signed Buxton on as the Principal Researcher
at Microsoft.

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