The Uncanny Valley of interfaces

17 Dec 2008 - 4:33pm
5 years ago
4 replies
377 reads
.pauric
2006

"The fact that you can create web applications that resemble desktop
applications does not imply that you should"
http://billhiggins.us/weblog/2007/05/17/the-uncanny-valley-of-user-interface-design/
"we must ensure that we design our applications to remain consistent
with the environment in which our software runs. In more concrete
terms: a Windows application should look and feel like a Windows
application, a Mac application should look and feel like a Mac
application, and a web application should look and feel like a web
application."

/pauric

Comments

17 Dec 2008 - 6:44pm
milan
2005

> terms: a Windows application should look and feel like a Windows
> application, a Mac application should look and feel like a Mac
> application, and a web application should look and feel like a web
> application."

I have the impression that things like Ajax, Air, Silverlight, JavaFX,
Gears, Portal technologies, composite frameworks etc. AND the rise of
other devices will
1) blur the distinction/barrier between web and desktop
2) make the *software product* vendor responsible for the design, not
the OS vendor anymore.

except for situations where the client/users assembles the UX themselves
(like in enterprises), then it will be somehow the responsibility of
everyone involved, but most likely it will be the people who finally
build the concrete solution who actually design it.

milan
--
milan guenther * interaction design
||| | | |||| || |||||||| | || | ||

+33 6 67 11 13 83 * www.guenther.cx

17 Dec 2008 - 8:08pm
rseiji
2008

> > terms: a Windows application should look and feel like a Windows
> > application, a Mac application should look and feel like a Mac
> > application, and a web application should look and feel like a web
> > application."
>
> I have the impression that things like Ajax, Air, Silverlight, JavaFX,
> Gears, Portal technologies, composite frameworks etc. AND the rise of
> other devices will
> 1) blur the distinction/barrier between web and desktop
>

And I would add mobile devices (phones, internet tablets, iPod Touch, etc).
Widget for example, runs over this blur line. Applications coded like web
apps, but distributed like "traditional" applications.

> 2) make the *software product* vendor responsible for the design, not
> the OS vendor anymore.
>

About mobile devices yet, mobile OS still "rule" the design.
Not only because of ready-to-use components, but all the OS interactions and
experience influences a lot in the perception of the application.

Cheers,
--
R. Seiji Sato
Interface Designer
http://www.rseiji.com
+55 11 8297-2930
São Paulo, Brasil

22 Dec 2008 - 5:04pm
DrWex
2006

I read this blog article and have been thinking about it. In a sense I
agree - one ought not to be slave to imitation. And I do see the point
of not trying to imitate something when you can't do it well enough.

But I find myself at a loss to say what a Web application *should*
look like. One reason for designing Web apps that look like desktop
apps is that there isn't a large body of practiced designs in the Web
application world. If slavish imitation is bad, so too is innovation
simply for the sake of difference. Trying to use something that should
be simple - such as a calendar/scheduling widget - can be an exercise
in frustration because every single airline, hotel, travel
reservation, and restaurant site feels like it has to do things
slightly differently.

How much time should we expect our users to be willing to put into
learning our new Web App Way when all they want to do is get their
email/banking/shopping/investing/scheduling/whatever done?

So, yeah, I design Web apps that look a lot like Windows desktop apps.
It's probably not optimal, but it's also probably better than forcing
people to struggle through novelty for the sake of NOT being like a
desktop app.

Best,
--Alan

On Wed, Dec 17, 2008 at 4:33 PM, pauric <pauric at pauric.net> wrote:
> "The fact that you can create web applications that resemble desktop
> applications does not imply that you should"
> http://billhiggins.us/weblog/2007/05/17/the-uncanny-valley-of-user-interface-design/
> "we must ensure that we design our applications to remain consistent
> with the environment in which our software runs. In more concrete
> terms: a Windows application should look and feel like a Windows
> application, a Mac application should look and feel like a Mac
> application, and a web application should look and feel like a web
> application."

22 Dec 2008 - 5:40pm
.pauric
2006

I guess its worth remembering that the Uncanny Valley principle alludes to the point where something is 99% similar and that final 1% delta causes a severe level of disruption. In the case of robots, a level of disgust... interfaces; cognitive fumbling?

I agree that ease of use overrides a consistency directive/requirement. What Bill Higgins talks about is where an interface looks almost identical to a non-native application but also operates subtly different; e.g. a web app looks like a desktop but double click & single click operate differently between desktop & web. I tend to see how that difference can cause severe disruption to workflow as every cognitive actions starts to come in to question (for novice users?).

The idea points to a space where web apps have desktop like workflows but are visually distinctive, maybe more cartoonish for example, enough so that user are still somewhat explorative and not in rote desktop flow mode.

So, use best interaction/workflow practices from any platform but be wary of trying to 'photocopy', it can cause more harm than good.

/pauric

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