Prelim Bloopers

User Interfaces

For technology to be useful to human beings (or other creatures), it must be ACCESSIBLE. The technology provides functionality, but only if it is clear to the user how to control that functionality. While the term "user interface" is relatively new (probably dating from 1968 when the "graphical user interface" (now used by billions of electronic devices) was first demonstrated by SRI scientist Doug Engelbart), the notion is much older. A simple light switch is certainly a user interface between a person and a source of electricity and a light bulb. Ditto a thermostat for controlling a home's temperature or a controller for a lawn sprinkler.

Computer hardware and software technology have evolved in giant strides to enable us to enjoy enormous convenience, productivity, and enjoyment. How enjoyable their use is depends to a great extent how accessible and intuitive they are to use. Unfortunately, advances in functionality have not been matched by advances in usability. Part of this has occurred because the advances in capability have not been matched by similar advances in designs that let mere mortals access that capability. Designers have often run roughshod over common sense, thus disenfranchising millions or billions of potential users (who have plenty of intelligence to understand WELL-PRESENTED functionality).

We at TechnologyBloopers will be frequently calling attention to poor user interfaces. In many cases the providers of the technology have spent too much time on making it work, to the detriment of making the use of it simple enough to actually let people use it comfortably. Not everyone will agree on the problems or the solutions, but pointing them out clearly can lead to big improvements.