I started out expecting to write a blog on dashboards, but quickly found myself thinking in broader terms about user interfaces (UIs). Anyone that has spent just a brief amount of time in the software industry has been exposed to countless UIs. Stop and think about all of the applications and Web sites that you have experienced over your career. For me, it is easily more than 10,000. After 20-plus years, that’s a safe guess.
But, let’s step outside of “our software” and into the more esoteric realm of our day-to-day lives. We encounter many more UIs, as well. What about that microwave, coffee maker, your vehicle dashboard, credit card interface at the McBreakfast or even the security pad at the entrance to the office? They are all examples of UIs that we interact with every day.
So, let’s get it right out in the open: “The best user interface is no user interface at all.” There, I’ve said it. Now the heretical flaming can begin from the RIA pundits. I’ve heard it over and over through the years. However, it’s an interesting idea and doesn’t truly speak to an absolute magical way to control things (hint: that’s still an interface!) but to the notion of simplicity. Simplicity is the key to making a usable, understandable and productive interface. Continue reading