Designing a UI for 6 Billion People

Notes from a BayCHI talk given by Larry Tesler, the father of the “cut and paste” interaction.

Challenges in designing “cut and paste”:

  1. Unfamiliar metaphor - unfamiliar to anyone not in the copy industry, and for those in the industry the definition was different
  2. User mistakes - they observed that users would make mistakes, such as accidentally leave things in the buffer
  3. Extensibility to other applications - how would it apply to non-text programs such as drawing applications?

Although it wasn’t perfect, they continued to push for it and consider new ways to extend it. They even spent a lot of time dreaming up future possible applications to think about how they might use it later.

Since the first time he thought of cut and paste, it took him 7 years to roll it out.

Other UI paradigms that require exploration and definition: gestures, speech. We’re just at the beginning.

Reflection on Apple: They got so good at understanding their users that the culture moved away from user testing. That’s why some gestures on iOS aren’t necessarily intuitive today– user research is no longer as big a part of their DNA.

Life Learnings

  • Build bug-free, easy to use software
  • Don’t focus on being compatible with a bad UI 
  • Never confuse “busy” with “productive”
  • You don’t have all the answers, so team up
  • If everyone thinks that something is impossible, it’s a great topic for research
  • To fight an uphill battle choose a short hill 

EightShapes Unify Documentation System

Templates and snippets for design documentation, wireframes, and more within Adobe InDesign. The website is well documented and has several video tutorials. If you prefer to jump in, download the pack and open “documentation/IASummit2008.InstantDeliverableMix.NathanCurtis.pdf” for an overview of available templates.

Once I’d familiarized myself with the system, I was able to set up a decent looking design review document in just a few clicks. Since this is using InDesign, this enables a separation between the presentation layer and actual files. The EightShapes Unify blog has a few articles about sourcing library artwork.

Hint: If you’re new to InDesign, note the differences between templates (.indt) and snippets (.inds). You can open a template directly in InDesign, but in order to add a snippet, you must add it to an existing document.