Interface without interfacing

This is a previously written post from 2012.

Interfaces, something your face looks at. But the best ones are the ones your face doesn’t.

The oldest and cheesiest example of an interface that didn’t interface might be the clap on. No buttons, you use your body to make something happen. What would the version of that be today? You walk into a room and the lights dim on, you walk out and they dim off. No switch, no fancy phone app to set it up. It just works, and you forget about the parts of your life that are automated, leaving you time to think about the parts that shouldn’t be.

This should be happening more. Instead we get fancy new shiny buttons and apps cluttering our phones we should be pressing and selecting things less, not more.

The nest is a great example of where this should be going, you install it, and it learns your habits until you don’t use it anymore and you forget that you ever had to switch the ac on when you came home.

Smart automation is where we need to go.

So what do we do with the interfaces that we have? Gmail? Facebook? Our phones.

People hate change, they moan any time the interface they love or hate changes because they have to learn. Change is necessary to adapt these interfaces.

Gmail and Facebook are both doing it wrong. Gmail hardly changes anything, it grows stagnant and there are hardly any new features that help you do less. Facebook runs the other end of the spectrum and instead of making thoughtful and invisible changes that help you, they change big things too much. You want change that is invisible, just like the interfaces should be.

  • I want foursquare to check me in to places I’ve already checked in to if I visit them.
  • I want my office to be cooler when there’s sun shining in the window.
  • I want to go into a coffee shop place an order, take my coffee and leave.
  • I want my car to unlock when I come close and to lock when I touch the handle.

Sounds like the future? These are all either possible now or already exist.

Update: Several years later and most of this still applies.

A few changes:

  • Gmail actually making changes, it is still yet to be seen if inbox is a change for the better though.
  • There are a more than a few cars with smart locks and push button starts
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