Reading Note #3-1 About Face Chapter2

Overall I could not agree more with the author’s view and discipline. The power of the Software is that it is flexible. It is so flexible that it can be both ‘implemented ‘ this way and ‘represented’ that way. In my opinion, rising of the interaction design field is based on the this characteristic, which can be problematic or helpful, depending on how well represented model is designed. Previously industrial design was enough. But the famous discipline of “Form follows a function.” is not directly applicable to the SW.

However, there is very interesting thing for me that I would like to share and get your guy’s opinion. At page 36, the author argues that “Mechanical-Age representations degrade user interaction.” However, in my opinion, the evolution of technology changed that it may not be the case.

For example, a tangible human-computer interaction can be successful, if it resembles mechanical-age metaphor. An multi-touch interaction, which is common nowadays, is a good example. For example, there is a photo viewing application that adopts an coffee table metaphor. Many photos are displayed in the table. The user rotates or zoom-in using hand gestures. It is successful, because it uses an established metaphor, which don’t need to be learned by user.


Some could argue that this established metaphor is not mechanical-age representation. Though judging whether something is of mechanical-age oriented or not can be quite difficult, I will give another example. In the book, address book is given as an example of mechanical-age thing. However in my opinion the iPhone address app is adopting the physical address book representation in their side tap.


Maybe I am interpreting the point in the book too narrowly, thus serving my selfish need of reading review. But in my opinion that shows how a change in the technology can change the validity of the design principle.

Another point I would like to share is that I think the iCal version of representation is better than the outlook version. In my view, we have seen so many calendars, we know its relative position in the calendar, given the dates like 1st, 10th, 20th and 30th. When we are using outlook, we are losing this acquired advantage. Why do we have to lose it? As author insisted, “Significant change must be significantly better.” I don’t think that I am right and the author is wrong. It just shows the ambiguity of the evaluation, which is, in my opinion, the biggest issue in interaction design. Developing 100 versions of interface variation is easy. Selecting 1 and abandoning 99 requires Steve Jobs, who himself showed a lot of capricious changes of view over the same thing.


2 thoughts on “Reading Note #3-1 About Face Chapter2

  1. I agree that there is definitely ambiguity in deciding whether a representation is mechanical-age or information age, and this also causes ambiguity in evaluation. Sometimes, the mechanical-age or even “stone-age” ways are simply more natural for the human body. Meanwhile, the information-age ways carry so much new possibilities that might or might not work.

  2. There is a lot of value in metaphors – they do help users learn. But they also have the potential disadvantage that they can be constrictive. This is a trade-off we can be aware of and optimize to maximize learning and minimize unnecessary constraints.

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