The introduction of the iPhone heralded the mainstreaming of a new interface paradigm. Features and form factor aside, the multi-touch interface represents the first major interface change since the introduction of the Macintosh GUI in 1984, and a notable shift in the right direction.
Twenty years ago, Donald Norman described the relationship between a control and its effect as mapping. “Natural mapping, by which I mean taking advantage of physical analogies and cultural standards, leads to immediate understanding.” (Norman, D. 1990. The Design of Everyday Things. Doubleday/Currency. P23.) Unfortunately, when there is not a “natural mapping,” understanding is anything but immediate.
Technology interfaces are difficult to design and learn because interfaces have moved further and further away from natural mappings. When the tool in question is an axe or a spoon, the relationship between the control and its effect is clear and direct. Similarly, for simple mechanical tools such as food grinders, adjustable wrenches, latches, and the like, it’s not too difficult to divine the function with no documentation. The interface is inseparable from the tool or device, and the mapping is strong. keep reading…
Visiting unfamiliar contexts can lead to interesting discoveries. In this case I’m in Williamsburg Virginia, and was impressed that a regional grocery chain, Bloom, had store maps mounted on their shopping cart handles. Brilliant.
A quick google for them reveals a blurb where they characterize their stores as “uncomplicated” and “hassle-free.” Their aim for a positive customer experience seems to be yielding some good ideas.