19 November 2013

UX and the civilizing process

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Kevin Simler is clearly a highly informed and engaging writer. In this essay, he argues that “UX is etiquette for computers“.

“A focus on appearance is just one of the ways UX is like etiquette. Both are the study and practice of optimal interactions. In etiquette we study the interactions among humans; in UX, between humans and computers. (HHI and HCI.) In both domains we pursue physical grace — ”smooth,” “frictionless” interactions — and try to avoid embarrassment. In both domains there’s a focus on anticipating others’ needs, putting them at ease, not getting in the way, etc.

Of course not all concerns are utilitarian. Both etiquette and UX are part function, part fashion. As a practitioner you need to be perceptive and helpful, yes, but to really distinguish yourself, you also need great taste and a good pulse on the zeitgeist. A designer should know if ‘we’ are doing flat or skeuomorphic design ‘these days,’ just as a diner should know if he should be tucking his napkin into his shirt or holding it on his lap. And in both domains, it’s often better to follow an arbitrary convention than to try something new and different, however improved it might be.”

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