In his article A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction, Bret Victor counters the status quo and a recent video from Microsoft projecting the future of interaction. Victor argues that, while the future does encapsulate using our hands, the future is tactile and not touching glass or ‘Pictures Under Glass.’
He summarizes his argument as:
In this rant, I’m not going to talk about human needs. Everyone talks about that; it’s the single most popular conversation topic in history.
And I’m not going to talk about about technology. That’s the easy part, in a sense, because we control it. Technology can be invented; human nature is something we’re stuck with.
I’m going to talk about that neglected third factor, human capabilities. What people can do. Because if a tool isn’t designed to be used by a person, it can’t be a very good tool, right?
Growing a vast customer base for an online product is a complex process that encompasses marketing, product development, and luck. However, it is possible to stack the odds in your favor and to make the best of your marketing dollars by creating a product experience that fosters the organic growth cycle.
The Organic Growth Cycle
For all products, new customers are generated through a combination of paid and word-of-mouth marketing. In some cases, the majority of a product’s new customers come from organic, word-of-mouth marketing. While traditional marketing such as online advertising requires a constant input of resources, word-of-mouth marketing can essentially become a self-sustaining system, requiring little or no support—a sort of marketing Turing machine. Such a well-tuned organic growth cycle can help to grow a large customer base for any web product.
It has been five years since John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly launched their Web 2.0 Conference. The Web has changed immensely in that short period. Since 2004, web-enabled mobile devices have gained wide-spread adoption, all kinds of devices have started interfacing with the internet, events on the Web have started occurring in real-time, and we have increasingly been emitting data in our everyday life through our mobile devices, on websites, as well as countless other channels.
John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly have recently published a report, titled “Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On,” that reviews major changes over the past five years, sums up the current state of the Web, and predicts where it is going in the near future. “Web Squared” is the term that the authors give to the current state of the Web; it has evolved beyond the term “Web 2.0.” The paper sublimely encapsulates the past, present, and future, and it should be required reading for all product strategists and user experience designers.
A More Inclusive Web
To say that the Web has grown might be missing the point. The Web has grown not only in size, but more importantly, it has also grown to include many new ways of interfacing with it. In 2004, the primary mode of connecting to it was through a computer. Interacting with the Web involved a screen and standard modes of input such as a keyboard and mouse or trackpad. In 2009, we interface with the Web through innumerable novel devices that are fundamentally different from the old interaction paradigm. We may connect to the Web through widgets on an HDTV or through a touch interface on a mobile device. I like to think of these as varying nodes or portals that give us an interface to the many arms of the Web. For example, my TiVo now streams movies from Netflix directly to my TV. The experience comes complete with a TV-based interface as well as web-based interaction components. There are countless of other examples of new interaction portals:
John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly recently published a fascinating white paper on the evolution of the Web (PDF). The report, titled Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On gives an excellent analysis of the last five years of Web 2.0, current trends, and where the Web is heading in the future. Battelle and O’Riley write that “Web 2.0 is all about harnessing collective intelligence,” and in the future, it will be the semantic web, sentient web, social web, and mobile web combined. The web will increasingly happen in real time and will harness network effects to learn from the vastly expanding body of aggregate data that comes not only from users but also from sensors (like GPS). The applications based on these paradigms will provide new, elegant solutions to real-life problems. The authors write:
The “subsystems” of the emerging internet operating system are increasingly data subsystems: location, identity (of people, products, and places), and the skeins of meaning that tie them together… A key competency of the Web 2.0 era is discovering implied metadata, and then building a database to capture that metadata and/or foster an ecosystem around it.
LG ARENA won the IF Communication Design Award for the 3D S-Class User Interface featured on its latest handset, LG ARENA, which was awarded Gold in the Product Interfaces category. The interface, which won over all graphic user interfaces in several product categories, is used on LG’s other high-end phones, namely: Viewty Smart (LG-GC900), LG-GM730 and LG-GD900 Crystal.
Extending the conversation around its “blood, sweat and tears” process, Nokia’s design team tells the story of the making of its upcoming N97 homescreen. Discovering at the outset that, “of the total time you spend using your mobile phone, on average 85 per cent of that time is spent on your homescreen,” the team went through a robust three step process that consisted of:
Observation and data gathering on a global scale on perspectives of personalization.
Exploration of concepts and prototypes, including free-form design from customers.
Validation and testing of the proposed homescreen.
Core: the fundamentals which support the principle “form follows function”
Social: taking advantage of the platform’s intrinsic communication focus
Contextual: being aware of physical location (also, based on comments in the article, other applications)
Cloud: back-up and optimization
Multi-screen: functioning across multiple devices
Thinking of the user’s experience in these dimensions can bring a much more cohesive and useful experience, which I agree will be much more compelling. Of course, each of these elements can be broken down even further, and I think the contextual piece is extremely important.