Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The surprising difference of a good interface

Something happened to me in the past few days that got me thinking about User Interfaces and how important they really are.

Last week was my birthday (thank you) and one of the most surprising gifts I received was a Logitech Driving Force GT Steering Wheel (as pictured above). I found it quite amusing, but frankly assumed it would be condemned to stay hidden away somewhere in my apartment: the last time I had played GT 5 was over a year ago, and though I think the game is brilliantly done, I had lost appetite for it.

Nevertheless, I decided I had to try this new way to play the game, with a more realistic interface.

And it's been... quite... amazing!

I just can't believe how much more real the game feels, how much the feedback received on the wheel changes the whole experience, how much more fun - and even scary - the same game feels. The exact same game that had been abandoned when I was just level 15. Since Friday night I made it to level 25. In other words, I spent about the same time playing since last Friday than I had in the previous ~1.5 years since I bought the game.

I tend to think I'm a person that looks at engineering for engineering's sake, and discard presentation tricks, and tend to think of the beauty of a system by its inner workings, not by how it is presented. But here is proof to the contrary: I got instantly re-addicted to a game I had discarded. Granted, I kept respect for the game, it is brilliantly executed - but never assumed that a better interface would get me so much back into it.

Being who I am, of course I started doing analogies to our latest UI update, the product formerly known as SiteEdit. In the end, the UI update is nothing more than a Steering Wheel. The core product has not changed, you still have to do the exact same tasks, in the exact same order. A Component Presentation still has a Component and a Component Template. An image still is a multimedia component. A Page is still a collection of Component Presentations with a Page Template. But something about it makes me install it on every server I install - including my playground servers - simply because it is fun.

Some months ago I had to do an impromptu demo to a customer, and started by apologizing for the inevitable errors that a test environment will always contain. It is after all my testing playground and it is supposed to be broken. 10 minutes into the demo, the customer asked to see SiteEdit - and I replied that I wouldn't have SiteEdit on my test server - it's a test server, not something I'd use for content creation!

Less than a year later, my servers are still my testing playground, they're still utterly broken in many ways that make then unsuitable for demos. But the new shiny Tridion UI is there. And I still don't use those servers to create content.

So, what changed?

Just like adding a Steering wheel to my GT 5 experience, Tridion UI just makes it more fun, as if you're somehow more connected to the system, experiencing a more natural way to interact with it.

Here's looking forward to more features being added to what is simply put a brilliant interface! (I mean the UI, not the steering wheel)