i have become donald norman

23Feb06

It’s funny because my quest to find the perfect cell phone / mobile device is really the most anti-norman thing ever. i want one device that satisfies all my mobile needs. i also want just one computer. i don’t want 1000 devices for each specific task, so in that way don and i may disagree.

however, i find myself agreeing with norman more and more because i find myself using smaller and smaller bits of software that are particularly suited to a specific task. there’s a ton of popular (not necessarily good) software out there that people use and talk about. often that software does way too much. and often because it does so much, it does none of it well or at least optimally.

so i have given up on applications like entourage, word, netnewswire and more. instead using highly focused, simple applications with interfaces fine tuned for a specific task. this really came to light when today i realized that despite how interesting it looked, i never bothered to download yojimbo, opting instead for several micro-applications each which replicates one of yojimbo’s many tasks.

one of the things that’s become apparent is that a focused, efficient application that is a pleasure to use does not necessarily follow the common interface guidelines for the device (pc, cellphone, whatever) it is running on. that is not to say that every application deserves it’s own totally different interface, just that some applications truly deserve them. take, for example, camera applications on cellphones. when that application looks like all the other cellphone apps, it’s usually a terrible experience. but when it looks and acts like a camera application, it’s often a joy to use.

apple has recognized this and often breaks its own interface if it’s appropriate. they’ve set an example and independent programmers follow it. they know when to use the apple interface and when it’s ok to break it. and because of that, many apps are stronger than web or windows or open source counterparts. although others can’t really do it with 3rd party applications, sony ericsson have done an excellent job of breaking their own phone interface for things like their walkman and camera application. they understand one ui does not fit all.

jesse summed it up well when he said norman was right, we will have a different devices for doing everything, but they are just software instead of hardware.

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