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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Describe Your UI in One Sentence

Comments (12)

You are going to hear me talk a lot about user interfaces and human computer interaction in 2008.  It’s an area that I’m intensely interested in as I think the way we interact with computers 20 years from now will make our current UI / HCI paradigms look as quaint as DOS and 3270 emulation mode looks today.

One of my friends working in this area is Bruce Wyman, the director of technology at the Denver Art Museum.  Bruce periodically writes a blog called DAM Technology and recently put up a post titled The Sapir-WIMP Hypothesis.

""The more easily you can talk about a user interface, the more easily you can understand how to manipulate it." … it’s been a fundamental part to how we’ve approached a lot of our interface works in the galleries here at the museum. I think the amount of time someone is going to devote to whatever experience we create is pretty minimal and that having complex interfaces and interactions quickly chew into that engagement time. So, wherever we can make the interface immediately intuitable or simplify the experience so that are no incorrect actions, the better of we are and the quicker someone can get into an experience."

Sometimes you need a paragraph to describe the UI.  But keep it short. 

  • Brian Hart

    You're not saying the command line is dead with your DOS/3270 comment, are you? Terminal windows are still a core way I interact with remote machines, and there are some actions where a DOS window is still the ideal interface.

    The training hurdle with DOS or terminal windows is higher, but it's often a much more direct way to tell the computer what I want than a web interface…

    • Brian Hart

      BTW what interfaces have you come across that really “wowed” you? Flickr is amazing, and bugtracking tool JIRA is really nice, too. Most Google sites, too, for their simplicity.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Oh – well have a CLI forever. That's not what I'm talking about. Think of a completely different way of interacting with the computer (e.g. no keyboard, no mouse, no windows.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_bergs2126 steve_bergs2126

        So what are you thinking? Verbal interfaces like those on Star Trek? Brainwaves? Something else?

        This video, posted in August 2006, shows some interesting UI work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcKqyn-gUbY. Some of this stuff seems to be included in the iPhone (I think – I don't own one). The presenter shows a full QWERTY keyboard on the multitouch screen but I don't believe that this will ever take off – tactile feedback is a key component of the keyboard interface.

        Is there particular research or literature on this topic that you're reading?

      • Steve Bergstein

        So what are you thinking? Verbal interfaces like those on Star Trek? Brainwaves? Something else?

        This video, posted in August 2006, shows some interesting UI work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcKqyn-gUbY. Some of this stuff seems to be included in the iPhone (I think – I don't own one). The presenter shows a full QWERTY keyboard on the multitouch screen but I don't believe that this will ever take off – tactile feedback is a key component of the keyboard interface.

        Is there particular research or literature on this topic that you're reading?

        • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

          Lots of different things. More in the new year as I get detailed about it. There is a lot of HCI stuff going on in academia that is starting to finally spill out (e.g. MIT, CMU).

  • Peter Cranstone

    We came up with a new twist for the UI. We integrated contextual menus into the browser in real time. As the web service recognizes who, what and where you are, the service sends out personalized contextual menus that show up in the browser. The upshot is that the consumer doesn’t have to learn a new interface – it’s the same familiar one, except this time it’s far more relevant to “me”.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_bergs2126 steve_bergs2126

    So what are you thinking? Verbal interfaces like those on Star Trek? Brainwaves? Something else?

    This video, posted in August 2006, shows some interesting UI work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcKqyn-gUbY. Some of this stuff seems to be included in the iPhone (I think – I don't own one). The presenter shows a full QWERTY keyboard on the multitouch screen but I don't believe that this will ever take off – tactile feedback is a key component of the keyboard interface.

    Is there particular research or literature on this topic that you're reading?

  • http://www.conversationware.co.uk matt lambert

    Everyone says “please make it intuitive” when talking about the UI – and they really mean is “can you make your new software look like the old stuff”.

    http://www.conversationware.co.uk/tag/gui the third post in this list is most relevant.

  • Graeme Thickins

    this is a great thread you got goin' here, Brad! I particularly find interesting the comment about “making it intuitive”….

    this becomes a big issue with all the talk about the future being hybrid apps

  • Dave

    The map from the UI to linguistics is most important when you first learn it. After you have learned it, what is most important is its mapping to, and its facility in perceptual-motor function, and that usually cannot be expressed very well in language.

  • http://www.ajira.com Nari Kannan

    “A User Interface should be the simplest way to accomplish something with a system, most natural to the user and the actions”

    It;s interesting how some good interfaces have accomplished the simplest part first and the most natural way is now evolving as technology and speed of computing improves. DOS Interfaces were the first to so the simple part, then the mouse interface improved on it and now something like thw Wii extends it in three dimensions.

    Museum interactions can make more progress on the Natural part since the range of interactions are more limited than say, a Database Management software. Google achieved this very simply by limiting the default interaction to just one, a single box into which you type in things and click search.

  • leeander

    UI: the way used by a specific product to communicate with humans

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/brian_hart1973 brian_hart1973

    You're not saying the command line is dead with your DOS/3270 comment, are you? Terminal windows are still a core way I interact with remote machines, and there are some actions where a DOS window is still the ideal interface.

    The training hurdle with DOS or terminal windows is higher, but it's often a much more direct way to tell the computer what I want than a web interface…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/brian_hart1973 brian_hart1973

    BTW what interfaces have you come across that really "wowed" you? Flickr is amazing, and bugtracking tool JIRA is really nice, too. Most Google sites, too, for their simplicity.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/graeme_thic3654 graeme_thic3654

    this is a great thread you got goin' here, Brad! I particularly find interesting the comment about "making it intuitive"….

    this becomes a big issue with all the talk about the future being hybrid apps

  • matt lambert

    Everyone says "please make it intuitive" when talking about the UI – and they really mean is "can you make your new software look like the old stuff".

    http://www.conversationware.co.uk/tag/gui the third post in this list is most relevant.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dave3657 dave3657

    The map from the UI to linguistics is most important when you first learn it. After you have learned it, what is most important is its mapping to, and its facility in perceptual-motor function, and that usually cannot be expressed very well in language.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Lots of different things. More in the new year as I get detailed about it. There is a lot of HCI stuff going on in academia that is starting to finally spill out (e.g. MIT, CMU).

  • Nari Kannan

    "A User Interface should be the simplest way to accomplish something with a system, most natural to the user and the actions"

    It;s interesting how some good interfaces have accomplished the simplest part first and the most natural way is now evolving as technology and speed of computing improves. DOS Interfaces were the first to so the simple part, then the mouse interface improved on it and now something like thw Wii extends it in three dimensions.

    Museum interactions can make more progress on the Natural part since the range of interactions are more limited than say, a Database Management software. Google achieved this very simply by limiting the default interaction to just one, a single box into which you type in things and click search.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Oh – well have a CLI forever. That's not what I'm talking about. Think of a completely different way of interacting with the computer (e.g. no keyboard, no mouse, no windows.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_bergs2126 steve_bergs2126

      So what are you thinking? Verbal interfaces like those on Star Trek? Brainwaves? Something else?

      This video, posted in August 2006, shows some interesting UI work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcKqyn-gUbY. Some of this stuff seems to be included in the iPhone (I think – I don't own one). The presenter shows a full QWERTY keyboard on the multitouch screen but I don't believe that this will ever take off – tactile feedback is a key component of the keyboard interface.

      Is there particular research or literature on this topic that you're reading?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/leeander3673 leeander3673

    UI: the way used by a specific product to communicate with humans

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/peter_crans3620 peter_crans3620

    We came up with a new twist for the UI. We integrated contextual menus into the browser in real time. As the web service recognizes who, what and where you are, the service sends out personalized contextual menus that show up in the browser. The upshot is that the consumer doesn’t have to learn a new interface – it’s the same familiar one, except this time it’s far more relevant to “me”.

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