IA Summit: The Human Interface

by Luke Wroblewski April 13, 2010

At the IA Summit in Phoenix, AZ Christopher Fahey discussed how reflecting human qualities in digital experiences can create more attractive and approachable products. Here's my notes form his talk on The Human Interface (or: Why Products are People, Too):

  • We can make better products when we think of them as human beings. The convergence of creativity and new technologies we have today allows us to create mote human interfaces.
  • The human interface is about the ergonomics in your mind. We can make interfaces more human by reflecting human behavior not mimicking it.
  • The human interface is about persuasion and seduction. It is smart and has awareness and is embodied. They are linguistic and narrative and emotion and felling. They have a name and identity. And a personality. A product without a personality is just a control panel.
  • Don’t try to replace humans. We’ve been building systems that replace what people do but we should be thinking about machines as things that help us.
  • Don’t try to replicate humans. The uncanny valley: the long tail for robotics. As robots move closer to human fidelity, we become more comfortable with them. But there is a valley when things gets so close to being a person but are not there. It only climbs back when things are almost completely like people.
  • What does it mean to be human? Christopher Alexander developed 15 properties of living structures that created more naturally human experiences including: strong centers, roughness, echoes, levels of scale, good shape, etc.
  • Sentience: The ability to feel or perceive subjectively. The system is able to take sensory data from the world and make sense of the data. Sensors include audio, video, location, touch, and ultimately face recognition. Think what you can do with little bits of data and infer more information from it.
  • Intimacy: the quality of being close, comfortable, familiar. Interfaces can interact with people close up. Can be facilitated with and through machines: emotional intelligence, proximity, presence, social Web, personal informatics, multiplayer games, real time Web, and conversations. How can different conversations happen on machines? Efficient and fast or elegant & graceful? The things we use should support our identity needs.
  • Personality: the system has a distinguishable character with recognizable human characteristics and behaviors. We want to see people in our objects anyway. Voice can be achieved through content strategy. This helps establish the character of a product. You can use: casting, names, personas, storytelling, and games. Know what your product’s personality should be.
  • Think of our systems as complete human beings with physical, emotional, social, and identity needs. Try to be more human-ish but not directly human. Abstract your work and be more creative in how you portray your product.
  • If we don’t humanize your products, our products will mechanize us.