User experience

The best interface is one that’s not in-yer-face

4 minute read
By Camille Dorsemans

A website, a mobile application, a tablet, an interactive terminal or any other digital device... digital interfaces have become ubiquitous. We live in a world where the fear of being separated from one’s mobile phone is real, and user experience has become a vital differentiating factor.

SUR-FAKE 2015, photographer Antoine Geiger

In his 2015 SUR-FAKE series, photographer Antoine Geiger explores addiction to screens. In one of his images, a group of visitors at an art gallery, instead of viewing the pieces of art around them, are literally ‘glued’ to their smartphones, reflecting the obsession we experience around us.

Indeed, without realizing it, we look at our smartphones, on average, about 221 times a day. Golden Krishna, a designer who has worked at Google, Zappos, and Samsung and author of the best-selling book ‘The best interface is no interface’, points to the enormous impact that technology has on our daily lives.

In the office, in the bathroom, in the bedroom, morning, day, and into the late evening... apps capture all our attention and make themselves indispensable. "Are you sick? There’s an app for that! Need to pray? There’s an app for that! Dead? Well, there’s an app for that, too!"

When we saw a problem, we slapped an interface on it.

Golden Krishna

Golden Krishna denounces ‘screen-based thinking’. An example he gives is the Lockitron system: an application that unlocks a lock without the need for having to search for keys in his bag ... but requires 12 successive steps! It's about asking the right questions: Do users really want their door locked, or do they just want their home to be accessible to them? Google has been the first to realize that streamlining the result can result in the best design. Who would have thought that a site designed to save users time would be the most used?

It is by studying behaviour and asking the right questions that we can collect the most relevant data. The interpretation of data is the key to good design, giving users what they want, when they want it. Taking the example of the Lockitron system: a Berlin start-up has responded to the needs of users by creating kiwi.ki, a system that can open a door without hands thanks to wireless technology. And it works. How? It doesn’t matter. Users are more interested in the end result, obtained easily and quickly, than in the time they spend on an interface, clicking buttons.

Cyclist absorbed by his mobile phone by photographer Antoine Geiger in his SUR-FAKE series, 2015.

Photographer Antoine Geiger shows a cyclist on a vélib in Paris taking a selfie. The graphic treatment that makes his face absorbed by the screen of his smartphone reflects this dependence on the soul-sucking device.

Cohabitation between individuals and technology can make sense by building a world without a digital interface. Quoting Golden Krishna again: "It's time to think outside the screens".

Functional design and results reporting are two concepts that make the difference between good and bad design. This difference of approach is a more significant innovation than innovation by the screen. As a UX designer, we need to focus on developing the user experience and solving the real problems. Isn’t the goal to simplify and minimize interaction between an interface and the user? To make products integrate with our daily lives without taking over our lives?

Maybe one day we could just wait for the bus, have dinner with friends, go to the movies, play sports ... or just chat without being glued to those screens!

Camille Dorsemans
UX Designer, ekino, Paris.