I have often dealt with the design and implementation of graphical interfaces in my career, forever trying to focus on what is called User eXperience (UX) compared to the purely aesthetic aspect of a UI, which after the initial “wow” effect, is often more counterproductive than neutral, concerning the use of the product.
The challenge is to provide specific categories of users with an interaction-experience with their applications, that is as natural as possible. I chose the term “natural” instead of “simple” for a reason: the first is clearly objective, the second is ruthlessly subjective.
During my course of study, I came across an optional exam, called “Human-Machine Interaction”, which, together with the Web Technologies exam, has certainly left me with two lasting memories. The first concerns how these two exams are optional and not mandatory in Computer Science studies while the second, instead, is a book by Donald A. Normann entitled, “The Design of Everyday Things” (in Italian known as “The Masochist’s Coffee Pot”), recommended by the course professor on human-machine interactions.
It is a book that does not talk about graphic interfaces, but rather the usability of objects in everyday life and how often aesthetic requirements make objects difficult to use. Years have gone by now (too many I would say), since that exam and the first reading of that book, but the problem is still very current and in my opinion, cannot be solved with the current trends in the standardization of graphical interfaces for business applications.
Of course, the transition from Desktop to Web development has largely helped to “streamline” UI, but more thanks to screen adaptability and browser restrictions, rather than real reasons related to UX, in which so many psychological factors come into play and which we cannot ignore.
So what should we do? If you are passionate about technology and TV series like me, you will surely have seen the Silicon Valley series, a parody that’s sadly not too far from reality, about how startup businesses are sometimes ridiculously far from wanting to solve real problems and “make the world a better place”.
In one of the fifth season episodes, Jared (Zach Woods) is interviewed together with Richard (Thomas Middledtich), CEO of the Pied Piper, the startup that the series talks about. They are taken by surprise when asked, as COO of the company, to explain why their main competitor should have been afraid of them. They answered, somewhat embarrassed: “Manure”.
Obviously, he is asked what he meant, and an embarrassing moment becomes a chance to explain how London faced a great horse manure crisis in 1894, that had invaded the streets. At the time, horses were the main means of transport and with the arrival of so many people in the city following the industrial revolution, it created a problem.
While everyone was scrambling to find a manure solution, probably without considering the problem was at the source, Henry Ford demonstrated a new technology, the car, substituting the old one, the horse, would solve the problem. Of course, it was necessary that this technology be available to the masses and therefore at an affordable price.
Today, we have the computation power to use artificial intelligence algorithms to imagine new ways of interacting with “machines”. We can already see them in the form of Alexa, Siri, and Cortana. Take a look at how our youngest children interact with these technologies. My child just turned two and during the lockdown I bought an Alexa device with a display to facilitate long-distance communication. Today, he used it to ask for songs, animal sounds, the alphabet, and numbers. The ease with which he does it is impressive.
Let’s try to imagine, in a business context, how this technology can replace classic forms and pages, and how the main artificial intelligence applications, such as speech and intent recognition, speech synthesis, video and image analysis, linked together by an environment that facilitates company data integration, can become a valid decision support system for managers and entrepreneurs. Not allowing the machine to take decisions, but provide support for them so that together, with the irreplaceable intuition of human beings, can help make better decisions, faster, helping us gain the most precious thing we have: time.
This is the reason Ellycode was founded: the realization of the desire to eliminate a ghost that for years, while I was designing and building graphic interfaces, has haunted me. Eliminate the “manure” from my applications, making human-machine interaction more natural and human.
Curious to know how? Keep following us and we will find out together!