The other day, I saw a great article on Sten Vesterli’s Blog:

Sten Vesterli’s Blog: Cool or useful?

Sten makes an excellent point.  You have to see the pictures on his blog to fully understand, but the crux of the matter is this:

If you are going to be handling controls while driving (whether at 55 MPH or 200 MPH), you need tactile feedback from the control you are operating. Tesla opted for cool, Formula One opted for useful.

I can definitely agree.  How many times have I reached for the radio volume button by touch while I am driving rather than take my eyes off the road to find it?  Or, the cruise control button on the steering wheel?  At times, less bling bling can be important.

On the other hand, can you imagine what would happen if you put that Formula One steering wheel in front of your average driver?  So, let’s pick an elderly person who is struggling with the possibility of surrendering their independence and giving up their driver’s license.  Which interface is more useful for that person?  I would venture to guess that the F1 interface would send them cutting their license to shreds and vowing never to drive again, while there might be a glimmer of hope at getting by with the Telsa interface!  Okay, let’s choose a new driver just mastering the different signs, lines, and rules of the road.  Which interface is more useful?  My guess would be that the F1 would send the person packing to city to live with buses and subways the rest of his life, while the Tesla would feel at home striking a similarity with the cell phone they have been carrying around for a few years now.

We live in an age when even the least technologically savvy of our society are walking around with advanced smart phones.  In my opinion, the Tesla interface probably appeals to that audience and the sense of familiarity to that “coolness” makes it more usable.

 

Useful is definitely important, but I don’t think they are always mutually exclusive.  A cool interface can guide a user’s eyes to where they need to go to get the job done.  This can cut down on mistakes and training if done correctly.

As the Internet gets more useful and slick at the same time, I think users are going to demand the same experience from everyday life.  Cars, TVs, phones, houses, thermostats, and kitchens are all going to demand both cool and useful interfaces.

That’s my opinion at least.


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