The Primary Interface
Worry about the most important job first. February
Synopsis: I've noticed in
several different UI situations that there' s a concept of
"the primary interface" meaning the most basic, stripped down
expectation of a user. For instance, for address signs it's
the address. Well, duh!
I first noticed the concept of "the primary interface" on
phones. Despite their getting more complex over the last 20
years, a residential or business phone should still respect
the primary interface. This means that...
- when it rings you
should be able pick it up and talk, and
- to make a call you should be able to pick it up, and dial.
Yes, we allow one exemption for the "Talk" button because
of cordless phones, but that's it. All the bells-and-whistles
shouldn't eliminate the operation of the primary interface.
I noticed the concept again at Home Depot, where I spend most
of my life. The ACM (automated cashier machine) at Home Depot
honors the primary interface as follows. Despite prompts
for such things as "Language" and "Finished?" I can ignore
prompt and execute the following transaction:
- Walk up to it
- Scan my items
- Put in cash and leave (with or without my
At the grocery market, all sorts of extraneous prompts (Any
Coupons? etc.,) prevent the primary interface, and you have
to spend time learning how to use it. But now let's get on
to today's example.
If you've made it this far, I have a free
gift for the first 10 visitors who
reply. If you know anyone who's learning to read, email
me and I'll send you
wrote that has just been printed (February 14th,
2007). For smart mouths everywhere, the book is PoopyPhonics(.com). No
strings attached, but if you like it, consider posting
a review to Amazon.com. Please include "Poopy Phonics"
in the subject line so I have a chance of recovering
it if it goes to my spam folder. —Thanks,
—No spam, no emails, no private info given out—
You're driving down Swedesford Road. It's a 5 lane
road and the speed limit is 45, so the traffic is moving 55-60.
looking for 565 Swedesford. It so happens that 575 does have
4-foot tall letters saying '575,' but they're at the top of
the dark brown
building... and they're a nice dark brown color themselves!
No one sees them, so drivers are left to spot the address on
Across the street they must have left this decision to a
person who was paying attention:
Mind you, these signs existed first. So this before-and-after
is basically over.
For the diplomatic, constructive, philosophical
I'm not sure
what to tell you. I guess I could plumb the shallows of
the business world to try to explain how it is that a non-designer
a design decision, but what's the point?