This week’s readings covered orchestration and maintaining user flow, and eliminating excise. The main points were that steps must be taken to ensure that an interface neither disrupts the flow of a user’s work, nor adds unnecessary work. A good interface should go unnoticed.
I was particularly interested in the section on modeless feedback. Having useful information readily available without having to navigate to other windows or popups seems like one of the strongest ways to maintain flow. The problems the book points out with certain Windows and Word interfaces are all too familiar, such as trying to find out how many words are in a particular essay or paragraph, or the readily available but useless information of how many bytes a harddrive has free. This is also particularly important for interfaces in game design, where the user may be required to know the status of several objects at once, such as health, armour, or weapons, and need to make fast paced decisions based on that information. Having to constantly pause the action to open menus to retrieve information or access functions can certainly disrupt the experience. Also in game design, the concept of flow is very important. The idea of flow in game design is similar, although it relates more to the level of challenge in that the channel of flow is the right balance between not being too difficult nor too easy. In the playing of the game, we want to user to do some work; a game with no obstacles would be boring. The best game interfaces however, are indeed invisible in that they do not distract from the game and are often integrated into the narrative.
A question in my mind when reading this chapter is whether, in the author’s mind, efficient interfaces can be created with minimal resources. At one point he says for example that a web store interface should focus on what that particular user uses most often, making those functions and areas more prominent. This seems like the sort of sophisticated adaptive interface that would require more complicated programming than the average website employs. Is it therefore impossible for sites without this level of complexity to have good interfaces? What if not every user’s computer is fast/powerful/advanced enough to support whatever system the site is using? Must an interface employ such a level of personalization to not be considered insufficient? Surely a user can figure out which menu option is his most used if he returns that frequently without it being highlighted and rearranged for him. Yes, such personalization is ideal, but should it be expected?