Eye Candy and Kicking Ass

In Defense of Eye Candy at A List Apart is a discussion of interesting concepts about design. It’s must reading for all web developers.  It talks about how perceptions affect usefulness; it’s a fascinating take on the idea of design and usability.

As I read it I kept thinking of  initial reactions to Susan Boyle. Although the article was not about her, it did suggest why the initial reaction to her was not positive. It doesn’t explain why that reaction changed the moment she opened her mouth to sing. Is there some trigger that makes less attractive design work as well as attractive design once we “get it?” You can’t hear that voice and not get it. At that point, the design package no longer matters. Why?

If you become a kick ass user (to quote Kathy Sierra) of something, does design cease to matter? Take Microsoft Word for example. I’ve used it for years and still willingly tell anyone how much I hate  it. I think that’s a design issue. It’s almost impossible to figure out how to do certain things, to become a kick ass user of Word. I spent a long time the other day trying to figure out how to make text flow from one text box into another and I could never find the answer. It would be nice to kick ass with a tool you have to use.

I need Word open its mouth and sing, so I can “get” it.

The article at A List Apart talks about interface, how understanding interface is improved by attractive interface. Maybe in Susan Boyle’s case, her voice becomes the interface. Her voice is so enormously attractive that the rest of the interface ceases to matter. What’s Word got going for it?

2 thoughts on “Eye Candy and Kicking Ass

  1. What a brain-twisting question… I think part of the difference with design is in whether a product is hard and/or slow to *learn* vs. hard and/or slow to *use*. If it’s hard to learn but–through help, manuals, persistence, all-nighters with Google–you master it and become an awesome “power user” (or at least use the thing to do something amazing), then the part of the design that matters most in the end is working. However, if too many drop out (or don’t even attempt) to go up that learning curve, then it doesn’t matter how good the product is.

    And this is where an appealing interface, for example, can make a huge difference. Eye candy can work like sugar-coating the medicine.

    But I think your comment about Susan’s voice eventually becoming the interface vs. her initial appearance is a fascinating one. At that point, she *did* become a UI into a completely different experience than the one we *thought* we were headed for, and the combination of fantastic experience (listening to her sing) + unexpected twist is a wonderful and inspiring combination.

    You gave me quite a lot more I want to think about now with this post… thanks.

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