Design Without Designers

Design Without Designers: Donald Norman on the limitations of data-driven and user centered design where radical innovation is concerned. He makes a compelling argument, i’m just not entirely convinced that innovation truly happens in a way where it could be so easily threatened by marginalizing the mythical lone genius designer.
See also this earlier column by Norman for interactions magazine, this response by Nicolas Nova and this recent piece by Wired on the nature and mechanisms of innovation and why our romanticized notion of lone genius inventors is removed from reality.

On Back-Buttons and Such

Regarding the argument that hardware back-buttons are a good thing in Jon’s piece i linked to earlier today: Those dedicated hardware buttons on Android and Windows Phone 7 devices are a curious thing. I completely agree with them in theory and on principle (usable and useful, widely understood concept, saves valuable screen real estate), but in practice i despise them. I don’t like using them because it feels disruptive to switch from touchscreen-interaction to hardware buttons. It’s not as much a problem with the home button, because when i press that button i’m normally done with whatever task i was doing, so it’s mostly okay to disrupt my interaction flow then. But with the back-button being such an integral part of moving inside an app on Android (and presumably Windows Phone 7 as well), i find it really disruptive. Furthermore it seems to me that the back-button invites lazy interface design and is often used inconsistently.

What i would like to see in iOS instead of a dedicated hardware back-button is a system-wide gesture for that action – similar to what Apple already does on the Mac with the three-finger-swipe. In addition, i would really love to have a distinct gesture for launching the iOS multitasking bar instead of (or in addition to) that silly double-click on home button. So, please Apple, could we get multitouch gesture support in your flagship touchscreen OS that’s at least on par with multitouch gesture support in your desktop OS? That would be swell.

On File Management in iOS

I’ll just quote extensively:

The iPad may not need a visible, all-dictating file system as we know it, but it damn well needs a filing system. This “post-PC device” depends on a PC, or on nasty workarounds like emailing or cloud services, to do what it’s supposedly replacing. (Unless literally all you do is read mail and browse. I’m pretty sure most of those people would like to write a document and file it away every once in a while too.) I get that this might be a lot to solve without repeating the failures of past systems, but it’s badly needed. If this isn’t addressed in iOS 5, one wonders what the priorities are in Cupertino.

[...] The iPhone is ultimately “still just a phone”. Most of the things it can do, like act as a bubble level or flute, is pure gravy; if your business didn’t buy it for you, you probably carry it to be reached and to mess around in Cut The Rope once in a while. The iPad is positioned directly as something that mostly replaces a laptop and is more powerful than the iPhone. The iPad is simply where the justified criticisms in the same iOS because of positioning really turn inconvenient.

“What do you mean I can’t organize my documents in a uniform way? I might not like exactly how computers work, but that’s what they do for me. It’s why I use them.”

Screw the debate about Flash, 7″ screens or device heft. The best thing Apple can do to take it beyond today’s PC is to bring it closer to today’s PC. They already have the innovative parts. The successor to flawed organization isn’tno organization. It’s time to salvage from PCs what still works so well.

As i wrote a while back: pretending this problem doesn’t exist won’t cut it. Revisiting how the Newton did it might be a good place to start.