Your current filters are…
by Don Norman
Welcome to the world of atoms. Remember when the mantra was that bits were more important than atoms? That we could dispense with physical things because information was all that mattered? Well, that was nonsense then and it is nonsense now.
The human body is part of the physical world. It savors touch and feeling, movement and action. How else to explain the popularity of physical devices, of games that require gestures, and full-body movement?
Want to develop for this new world? There are new rules for interacting with the world, new rules for the developers of systems. But the new rules still follow the old principles. Let’s not throw away the old lessons of interaction. In fact, these become even more important than ever before. And yes, there are some new things to learn as well, new technologies to master, new words to learn.
Today the need is for complex, rich, emotionally satisfying things. It is no longer just about function and service. Those are still important, but they are taken for granted. Today we must add convenience and comfort, fun and excitement, pleasure. We needed to develop applications that both delivered real value but also was high in emotional value, experience, and engagement.
Design (or if you prefer—user experience) is at a crossroads. In our globalized, hyper-connected world, users no longer need to wait for us to create experiences for them. As we debate the value of design thinking, the usefulness of the next API, or strive to craft the ultimate cross-platform experience—users are sorting this out on their own, using whatever service or technology is “good enough” for them at the time.
What happens to your brand, your product, and your bottom line when users choose “good enough”, over your carefully crafted product or service? Is it a sign of failure, a missed opportunity, or a chance to dive head first towards a new reality?
The relationship between digital and physical products is larger than if it exists on a hard drive or a shelf. It’s the tension between access and ownership, searching and finding, sharing and collecting. It’s a dance between the visible and the invisible, and what happens when we’re forced to remember versus when we are allowed to forget. How does this affect us—not just as makers, but as consumers of these products? Does collecting things matter if we don’t revisit them? We may download, bookmark, tag, organize, and star, but what then?
A digital Zen master would say that if everything is starred, nothing is. We’ve optimized the system for getting things in, but how do we get something good out? How can we make meaningful connections between all of this stuff, and make constellations out of all these stars?
2nd September 2011