Briefly about Natural User Interfaces
I had always considered an exemplary user interface is the one easy to navigate without heavy cognitive load. I have never thought about my skills and previously learned experience as a strategic point for a successful digital human interpretation. The better we, designers, leverage and translate human experiences into the digital interface, the better results we reach between the interaction of the user and a product.
Nill Gates said, “With NUI, computing devices will adapt to our needs and preferences for the first time, and humans will begin to use technology in whatever way is most comfortable and natural for us.” With more advanced software environments and tools, we have started to observe more products inherit the concept of mindfulness, humane, and natural behavior. Nowadays, society does not limit their abilities and skills to adopt the technology; people strive to have as many personalized and comfortable environments around themselves. Thus, understanding and carrying out the concept of a natural user interface is crucial at every step of the design process.
So, what is the Natural User Interface?
Natural User Interface involves human mobilities such as touch, gestures, or voice. This design thinking stands for leveraging the human experiences of the physical world. Unconsciously, humans lean towards using the interface that does not use much conscious attention to it. The product’s design that seamlessly interprets human nature is more progressive and advanced.
Why is it essential to implement and keep in mind the NUI thinking during the design process?
Designing for the users with ordinary human skills and domain-specific skills.
As we think about the NUI, designers can concentrate on a broad audience of users, who already know “how to” speak, or touch. We can undoubtedly think of these skills as they are the most common in the majority of society. For instance, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa feature an interactive voice to work as a voice assistant to users/humans. By integrating NUI thinking and common human skills, we, designers, avoid a big step of educating the users on new skills. Thus, saving time for users and resources of the product business!
When designing for a broad range of users with a common set of skills, we should not forget about a user with domain-specific skills. Designs should interpret the appropriate design solutions to match a specific level of expertise of a user. “A NUI should have a clear learning path and allow novice and expert users to interact naturally.”
Eliminating cognitive load
Don’t Make Me Think is a book by Steve Krug, who brings up a concept of web usability which does not make a user think. This concept might seem direct at first; however, I think the author meant to make users have a minimum cognitive load but feel more confident and free of worries while using the app.
To minimize the cognitive lead while using the concept of NUI, we, designers, must make sure our users have enough basic skills to interact comfortably with the product. When we take advantage of our users’ existing skills and knowledge, they know what to expect from the product. As a result, the user expresses natural decision-making without any doubts or worries. In my opinion, the goal is not to make the user think or learn less; the goal is to remember that we design for humans, not for automated machines. The user is one who gives life to digital products.
To wrap up
Would I use and consider NUI concepts? Yes, sure. Following the logic of NUI as an external extension to our user’s experience, not the actual UI of the product, we can reach via design paths both experienced and novice users. In addition, it is worse considering providing the information relevant to the user’s current interaction, familiar visual indicators, and high-frequency interaction, such as constant feedback. The goal is to provide the environment (via digital interface) to meet the needs and resolve the challenges, “not outsmart the user”.
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