Different Tech Mindsets

Different Tech Mindsets

oh look: a busted self-checkout station. surprise.

David Ramos makes an interesting comment in this post about Adobe Muse from a few weeks ago:

The quality of Muse’s code is not particularly relevant. Good code, bad code, no matter. Muse and other visual layout tools promote the idea that it’s possible to lay out a website exactly as one would lay out a page in InDesign: drop a paragraph on the left, scoot the headline over to the right, increase the spacing, and—et voila!—you’ve got a finished piece.

Not so.

Interaction design inextricably involves designing for change.

Browsers change. Maybe the screen’s just two inches wide instead of 24 inches. Maybe the person reading the site can’t see at all, and is perceiving the web through text-to-speech tools. Maybe the site suddenly has to accommodate twelve new articles. Maybe the site changes because a visitor comes along and taps a button.

I’ve got no objection to visual thinking. The notion that you can create fixed artifacts for the web, though, is folly, destined to create websites that are failing the moment they’re done. They promise control where, in the end, the designer has little.

Design, in this ever-shifting interactive world, isn’t about making artifacts – it’s about crafting the systems that make the artifacts, be they software systems, typographic languages, or methods for making images. Let go of single pages. Let go of tools like Muse. That’s when the magic really begins.

I like this series of statements; it encapsulates something that’s just been beginning to dawn upon me since I started bitching about designers’ refusal to code. In this comment, David hits upon a new truth I’m seeing in a several different places: a wider range of interaction desires than we previously recognized. The media’s current message is that “people want tools that let them do exactly what they want, without help.” It’s becoming rather apparent that’s not all. People want help.

Here’s an interesting example in the consumer sphere that disproves that in the same way.

This story at the Chicago Tribune asserts that many American groceries are beginning to take out self-checkout stations because their usage is dropping. Most people, in that scenario simply want this taken care of for them; they don’t want to be dumped into a system in which they need to understand what a bar code is, what a PLU is, the correct way to scan an item, and so on.

Similarly, in the type community, a frustrated user just voiced the same annoyance—that it’s too hard to understand type creation tools, that he doesn’t want to have to hunt all this information down. (When reading that thread, take it with a grain of salt. Type designers bicker about everything.)

Looking at this range of reactions, it seems like what we’re doing is not just seeing new ways to think about a person’s technological interaction, but we’re seeing a differentiation between ways of thinking about it, which is growing in recognizable characteristics.

Does this mean that companies and toolmakers will, sooner or later, ignore the vocal part of the technology-loving population, opting to fully serve less-able users? Will they recognize the blend of thinking styles, letting many types of interaction occur?

This points to entire social groups defined by technological comfort level, and an ecosystem of support groups between levels of comfort. That’s interesting.

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