Watch: What Good is a Screen?

It was a full house of design thinkers with a Silicon Valley twist. Serial Entrepreneurs. Voice-activation specialists. Tech wunderkinds. An evening of passionate discussion about the future of interfaces.

“I felt like I was back in college — the good parts of college,” Strava designer Peter Duyan told me afterwards.

Peter was crammed in this room of college-like discourse — designed for 35, now seating over 60 — because of a blog post I wrote that went unexpectedly viral.

I had proposed that “the best interface is no interface.” That we should focus on experiences and problems, not on screens. That UX is not UI. Two days after it was published, it was shared more on Twitter than anything ever written on The Cooper Journal, Core77 or Designer Observer. A week later, a Breaking Development podcast. Two weeks, a popular Branch discussion. A month, top ten on Hacker News again. All surprising, flattering, amazing. And that evening, a conversation.

In the spirit of discourse, special guest and design legend Don Norman started the evening with an entertaining retort: “They made a big mistake when they invited me.” (Watch it above, or listen to it here. And if you haven’t read his books, you should).

Finding solutions

How do we design No UI solutions? Communicate them? Sell them? In the group discussion, the why was obvious. The how was fuzzy. As Ash Bhoopathy — co-founder of Lizi who wrote a reaction piece to the evening — put it: “there’s nothing to mock up” in a No UI world (See 44:00).

The answer is that it starts just like classical UX: do research, discover pain points, identify behaviors, define the problem. But getting to great No UI experiences means retraining our problem-solving methods to aim squarely at these principles:

  1. Eliminate interfaces to embrace natural, everyday processes.
  2. Leverage computers instead of catering to them.
  3. Create a system that adapts for people individuals.

It’s not easy. And to guide you along the way, No UI solutions, discussions and articles are being gathered into a new Tumblr:

Check it out, and contribute to make it better.

Special thanks: Nate Clinton, Casey Kawahara.

Golden Krishna

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