Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The best technology is invisible

I was invited to attend the Frontiers of Interaction conference in Florence today. It is a fantastic event, sort of the TED of Italy, with speakers coming from all over the world. If you close your eyes, you would think you are in Silicon Valley, then you eat at the coffee break and you realize you are in Italy ;-) The best of both worlds.

Anyway, the talk I enjoyed the most was one by Amber Case, titled Cyborg Anthropology and the Evaporation of the Interface. I was pretty much in agreement with everything Amber said, which is a rare case for me...

One slide hit me so much that I felt I had to take a picture.

The best technology is invisible.

I could not have said that better.

The beauty of this statement is that it comes from a UX designer. The goal of people in this field is to build the best user interfaces. What is the best UI? The one that does not exist. It is there, it does things for you, but you do not see it. It is like magic. The UX designer destroys the UI. It makes it disappear.

It has always been my mantra (yep, I have a usability background too, apparently we like to destroy our jobs as well ;-) and I tried to apply it to Funambol every step of the way. Synchronization should just work. You take a video and it magically appears on all your devices, without you touching a button. No need to click on sync. Ever. We pushed it so far that at a certain point we realized we screwed our chances to add an advertising layer (well, you need real estate for it, if the UI does not exist, it is hard to put a banner anywhere...).

Still, I believe it is the best way to build a user interface. Make it magical. User will like it because they will not see it. The robots out there are working for us, life gets easier, I do not have to upload anything, I save five minutes of my life every day to do what I really like instead.

The best technology is invisible. It just works. The machines are working for us, not the opposite. It is how the future should be.