Designing Deeper

Scott Francis
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Kontra, on Counternotions, posits that Apple’s design problems aren’t skeumorphic – they’re deeper than that:

In the end, what’s wrong with iOS isn’t the dark linen behind the app icons at the bottom of the screen, but the fact that iOS ought to have much better inter-application management and navigation than users fiddling with tiny icons. I’m fairly sure most Apple users would gladly continue to use what are supposed to be skeuomorphically challenged Calendar or Notebook apps for another thousand years if Apple could only solve the far more vexing software problems of AppleID unification when using iTunes and App Store, or the performance and reliability of the same. And yet these are the twin sides of the same systems design problem: the display layer surfacing or hiding the power within or, increasingly, lack thereof.

This is so spot-on.  And it is buried in the last paragraph of the post!  The whole post is worth reading – so read it!  But this last paragraph is what ties into business process management.  Specifically, what are the user interactions – the processes – these designs are supporting.  Make sure the design is supporting those processes, not just paying attention to superficial issues of taste.  The “taste” will become apparent if you strip away all the excess and the interaction is fluid and efficient.

I’ll take an example near and dear to my heart.  The IBM partner portal(s).  If I have a complaint about this collection of sites, it isn’t that the interface is a bit dated and corporate – it is.  The issue is that it is hard for me, as a partner, to transact business.  The flows that I am likely to need to execute are hidden from me in a byzantine layer of menus that I have a difficult time understanding. At odd times I’ll be asked to login again, but I’m not sure why.

Similarly, if I go to the Dell website to buy a Latitude laptop – why is it that I have to say that I am a small-and-medium business before I can see that laptop?  And why is the Vostro (a horrible laptop brand if ever there was one) thrust at me when I am looking for a Latitude?

In both cases – and also with Apple’s design issues the path to happy and effective users is found by thinking through what value the users are trying to extract, and how to streamline those interactions.



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