As web designers we must resist the urge to keep adding. Clients often want more features and we struggle with how to do that tastefully, and in a user friendly manner. We also want to make our designs “prettier” by adding more “stuff” to it. This tidbit of advice from Coco Chanel for women resonates with me as a designer.
Do the hair. Do the makeup. Get yourself fully dressed and then, before walking out the front door, pause by the mirror and remove one item. Maybe it’s the hat. Maybe it’s the piece of jewelry you really don’t need. But the line, according to Ms. Chanel, between knockout and near miss could be found in a single overdone object.
I’ve been thinking about 3D desktops, alternative user interfaces, and user experience for a while now. I keep a sketchbook that has illustrations of some of my ideas. When I saw the Apple patent filings for their 3D desktop ideas, I was delighted to see that some other folks have very similar ideas to mine.
I hate 3D for the sake of 3D. When I think of adding a new dimension to something as vital as your desktop, many questions come up like:
What benefits does adding another dimension mean to the user?
Am I making certain tasks harder when I add another dimension?
What problem am I solving?
Watch this quick video on some of the ideas I’ve been tossing around.
The Mac OS spaces have never made sense to me. I never use it, not because i haven’t tried. I’d rather stick to my dual monitor. But when I am out and about with only the 1 screen, I still don’t use it. Here’s why – When I put something in another space, I just forget about it. It’s out of sight – and out of mind. I rather just have tons of apps on one screen and use Expose to sort it out.
Having a shoebox/diorama analogy of multiple desktops makes more sense to me since I can zoom out and see where my other spaces are. I have a sense of the spatial relationships of multiple desktops as well and that is key.
Cover Flow on the Desktop
I’m a big fan of Cover Flow even before it was integrated in all the Apple products – when it was somebody’s plugin for iTunes. That’s right – it wasn’t create by Apple. However having it confined within the iTunes application feels restrictive. Once you have a 3D desktop, why not make cover flow a full class citizen of that desktop?
Carousel to Navigate Apps
This is probably one of my weakest ideas and needs to be fleshed out. The basic premise is once you have a 3D Desktop, your apps should exist in 3D space. I’m not sure on the benefits of the Carousel myself, but I felt it was a cool UI.
Using Head Tracking to “look around”, by looking around
To me, this concept is what makes a 3D desktop really cool. The scenario is this: Say I’m downloading something, I can put that window on the desktop on the side of my main one. When I want to check on the progress of the download, instead of having to hit keys on the keyboard to find out, I just very naturally look around to see how it’s going. This is a very natural interaction that doesn’t have to be memorized or taught. This interaction therefore has a low cognitive cost. Instead of having to explicitly take action via keyboard commands by switching desktops to see the progress and switching back, possibly losing context, I quickly glance over and come back to my task.
There’s a lot more than can be explored. Right now, the “floor” of the desktop has not been considered. Also, I have some ideas around 3d folder navigation that I can dive into in the next episode of 3D Desktop concepts.
Here’s a demo that illustrates my ideas on computer human interaction. Instead of controlling the movement of a 3D globe through the mouse and keyboard, why not move your head to look around the globe. You’ll need a webcam for this demo to work.
Side to side motion works pretty well. Up and down is a little iffy.
Moving around to see what’s on the other side is a much more natural and intuitive human behavior than say pressing some computer keys to change perspective of an object. I believe that as computers become more powerful and more and more people have to interact with them in their daily lives, computer scientists will have to design systems and software that provide a more natural user interface (nui) than what we currently have.
Although many people today deal with computers and the internet, this highly technical tool is still completely inaccessible to a large population because it is so difficult to use. By creating interfaces that are more natural to use, we make technology more approachable to the masses. That’s my 2 cents. Feel free to chime in.
I’m a big fan of TED and would love to attend one of these conferences one day, but the cost is so prohibitive that I will just have to enjoy them through YouTube for the foreseeable future. One such talk that I only recently saw is this hilarious one given by David Pogue, a technology writer, journalist and commentator who spent ten years working in New York as a Broadway musical conductor, arranger, and keyboard player.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.
Check out his talk on the frustrations of modern technology – you’ll love it.
Pongpaet’s expertise ranges from product design and development, and martial arts. Prior to Pinstagram, Pongpaet was VP of Product at Spoton, a loyalty and social media company. He's worked at Accenture Technology Labs in the research department coming up with next generation user interfaces. At Roundarch, a technology and strategy consulting firm, Pongpaet’s work included envisioning and designing the dashboard of the future for the Tesla Model S electric car.