The IxD11 Conference kicked off by a fantastic keynote by Bill Verplank. Now if you are not familiar with Verplank, you should be. Here is a good summary on his site of some of his accomplishments:
What we got was an expanded version of his famous lecture on human interaction. At a high level, he states that interaction(for humans) design involves the answering of three questions: How do you do/feel/know?
1. Do is in regards to our interactions with the world.
Verplank then provided actual physical world examples of how someone would interact with their world, for example buttons and handles. A handle for continuous control vs a button for discrete control. One leaves the user in control the other triggers actions. He then began to display new examples of feedback control, or controls that push back, and respond to the user on their own, which is still a very new method of control for interaction designers to take into consideration. We watched a video on some musical instruments that demonstrated incorporating feedback control.
2. Feel is how we sense the world (feel, hear, sense).
The presentation broke this down as hot media vs cool media. Hot media being something in print, and with a hint of authority, while cool media could be something more like video, something lacking the authority of print and invites more interpretation.
3. Know is how we learn.
This was a breakdown of a Map vs Path, and he utilized the physical design of vending machines as examples. He drew two vending machines, one with a transparant glass window showing the inner workings and contents within, and the other was a more traditional logo embossed vending machine (like a coke machine). The coke machine is a black box, its a closed system. The benefits are a very clear call to action, and a path to achieve the users goal (insert coin, select beverage, collect product). The clear window vending machine is much more open, pulling the user into more engagement. It allows the user to review all the contents and ponder (Verplank’s wording) their selection. The Map system is a much more robust and engaging system, and at the same time is also less efficient and will generate less revenue. This was Verplank demonstrating to us the strengths and weaknesses of both systems. He then asked the audience which they preferred, the majority of the audience chose Map, because it was more engaging, it was at this point Verplank called our the Map system as generating less revenue.
Verplank then broke from this to review the different mentalities of users. He gave an overview of these as kinesthetic, iconic, and symbolic.
1. Kinesthetic is motor knowledge. It’s hands on thinking.
2. Iconic is what we see.
3. Symbolic thinking could be summarized as ax=y.
Kinesthetic is the method of thinking we incorporate at our earliest age, and as we develop, we suppress the kinesthetic for the Iconic, and start to think more visually. As we age and develop we suppress our Iconic method of thinking and replace it with Symbolic thinking, and review the world in abstracts. Different people think or interact differently, citing some people are very visual thinkers and communicate visually (UX or Graphic Designers) and some communicate with the use of symbols.
These various levels of approach led to the birth and design of icons, for example a document image looks like a piece of paper, while a folder looks like a manilla folder from the physical world. The same with the design of the mouse, and how different mice and cause satisfaction differently to other people. He then cited examples of ‘click mice’ with a more tactile feedback vs. Apples ‘magic mouse’ where the device is more of a touchpad.
A high level overview of this famous presentation can and should be viewed here (as it is accompanied by his illustrations):
The amazing thing about this presentation is Verplank never cited notes, he just had a podium, a project, a pencil, and a sheet of paper. It was quite awe inspiring, and the man was a presenter I could listen to for hours.