Thursday, March 29, 2012

Interaction design.

I must say I have no love for the "discipline" of interaction design. In my myopic view interaction design is like plumbing. You only notice it when it's broken. Even when it's exemplary, I can hardly imagine gushing over it. I've yet to say during my 54 years "Wow, that was one amazing toilet flush."

One thing I know about information architecture I learned over 40 years ago. I think I might be the last inhabitant on this planet who knows it. But I still believe it, though I seldom any longer see it applied.

My father made me take speed reading courses when I was younger. It's something I've found so valuable--and I knew even as a pre-teen how valuable it would be--that I never for a moment regretted taking speed reading or having taken it.

I was good at speed reading, quickly reaching bursts of 3,000 words per minute and a sustained rate of 1,200 wpm. That's roughly six book-sized pages in a minute. With 75% recall.

During my first lesson, the teacher brought out "The Wall Street Journal." At the time the paper had eight columns across and very few visual interruptions. The teacher explained that newspapers were designed so that they could be read quickly. You could read down a column in a newspaper and your eyes didn't need to scan from left to right. You could read unimpeded right down the page, in other words.

Column width was created for a reason. There was purposeful interaction design behind it.

Today of course we set type based on aesthetics not functionality. We make things hard to read either because we inherently believe what we've written is unimportant or we don't know better or both.

I guess I don't mind, really, interaction design.

What I really don't like is blowhards who don't know what they're doing and shroud their ignorance in a lexicon that makes mysterious that which should be logical and simple.


Sam Engel said...

How about all the reverse type body copy you see these days?

Hasn't that been proven again and again to lower retention?

geo said...

Absolutely, Sam.
I just didn't want to go all Ogilvy on people.


Sam Engel said...

Would that be so wrong? There seems to be an abject lack of his common sense and salesmanship in advertising today.

Then again, do we really want you ranting about the merits of long copy in tomorrow's post—staying true to form with a 5,000 word megablog?

Actually, I'm starting to see some upside to that...

Tore Claesson said...

Well, there are designs that make it impossible to read, but don't forget that as we are getting more and more used to different type treatments we find it easier and easier to read things that say 50 years ago would have been next to impossible. It's too easy to condemn everything and anything that doesn't look like Jan Tschichold 1964.

As far as columns in newspapers go there are two parts to it. Clearly, with it's size, rather wide pages, it would be way too long to read. A column that is approximately the width of the eyes at a certain distance is actually ideal for a person with normal eyesight. The even narrower columns in newspapers also helped the layout people. It's easier to fit many bits of content on a page if you have a grid with many columns. Its quicker to make. The latter aspect is rarely mentioned.