New Metaphors for Interface Design

19 Dec 2005 - 12:22pm
1207 reads
Dan Saffer

This has been making the rounds, if you haven't seen it yet:

"Sources for interface metaphors abound. In the past, we leaned
heavily on the world of the office and its folders and desktops,
because we thought we were building interfaces mainly for office
workers. But today, information work and information workers are
everywhere. The FedEx carrier is an information worker, collecting
data on packages picked up and delivered and submitting it to FedEx's
giant, very accessible, online database. Retail store clerks may be
information workers when they enter new inventory into the store's
database as they stock the shelves. Nurses are information workers
when they feed notes previously scrawled on illegible or inaccessible
charts directly to digital systems, making the data available to the
patient as well as the doctors anywhere, anytime.

This means new metaphors. Many will come from life sciences. Others
may come from the health care or other industries, as these become
information-dense environments. An interface for a next-generation
technology might come from the gaming world, where fast visualization
metaphors abound. What is sure is that someday our great-
grandchildren will look back and laugh at the unsophisticated ways we
accessed and navigated data."

It came out in what was (for me anyway) an unlikely source: the IEEE
(Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) magazine
Spectrum. But now that I think about it, with interaction design
becoming known in the world of consumer electronics and the IEEE's
roots in both electronics and communications, maybe not so unlikely
after all...


Dan Saffer
Sr. Interaction Designer, Adaptive Path

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