The human factor in gadget, Web design [CNET News]

“Wonder why YouTube skyrocketed in popularity in less than two years?” asks Stefanie Olson on CNET News.

“One obvious reason is that the video-sharing Web site has kept it simple. YouTube doesn’t require a video player download or a special account just to watch a video. With just a click on a link, a video is up and running in a few seconds. It’s a people-friendly design, and that attention to simplicity has paid off.

Experts in the field of so-called human-computer interaction, however, say good design like the YouTube interface is the exception, not the rule. For every slick Apple iPod, there are a dozen washing machines with a baffling array of buttons. And for every simple TiVo interface, there are umpteen TV remote controls that look like something out of NASA’s Mission Control.

Now companies, universities and even government agencies like NASA are investing time and dollars as they take a hard look at how people interact with technology.”

The article and slideshow feature YouTube, TiVo, iPod, Google, Nintendo Wii, the USB cord and the Firefly phone as examples of user-friendly products, while pointing out the BMW iDrive, high-definition television sets, motion-sensitive toilets and the gestural interface from Minority Report as examples of bad design.

Safe choices for the bad design category, I would say: one universally derided product (the iDrive), two categories and one that doesn’t even exist. What about the many, many products that are really badly designed? After all, they claim themselves that “good design is the exception, not the rule.”

That said, the article gives a very good overview of the growth of the field of usability, user-centred design and experience design on the corporate level, and what these skills actually mean.

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