||Huh? What does that mean?
Well, as my interest in Dynamic HTML attests, I've become something of an interface nut. And I've been thinking about applying
principles evolutionary theory to the history of interface development, in particular the model of punctuated equilibrium, which states that species
remain stable for long periods of time, and then undergo a rapid change due to sudden environmental shift.
The predominant interface model for the last ten years has been the graphical user interface known as WIMP (windows,
icons, menus, pointers). It first fully appeared in the mid 1970s, and apart from some key commands and the use
of color, hasn't significantly changed since.
WIMP sufficed as a method for mapping the local world of one's personal computer. The increase in network connectivity,
from small local area networks to the Internet has worn the efficacy of WIMP extremely thin. With information scattered
to the four winds, we need new methods of retrieving, archiving, and communicating through our computers.
The last few years have seen the rapid proliferation of new interface models in an attempt to address this need.
Follow the links throughout this page to see some samples. And if you know of something I've missed, please fill me in.
||Here are a couple good link lists pointing to what could likely be Interfaces of
22 2000 Note: This has disappeared, and I can't find it anywhere.]
A slide from
"Managing Technologies in Public Libraries: Web Technologies",
a presentation by Tamas E. Doszkocs.
2. The Big
Picture, a lengthy
and detailed collection of "Visual Browsing in Web and non-Web
Brief History of Human Computer Interaction Technology, Brad A. Myers
In providing a well-presented and concise chronicle of the development of the interface, Myers shows that, contrary
to popular opinion, the bulk of innovation occurred not within the industry, but at educational institutions, and
that the academic discipline of human-computer interaction has been vital to the success of the computer industry.
Culture, by Steven Johnson
As someone new to the field of human-computer interaction, and one who had been overwhelmed by the drily academic
papers that have come out of the field, I found Johnson's book extremely gratifying for going beyond the time-to-completion
measurements and other data which clutters up research, and instead exploring the meanings of interface design
within our culture, and how not only does culture influence the interface, but the interface influences culture.
Johnson's aim is to shine a light on interface design as a field worthy of broad criticism, and to begin to develop
a language by which to do so. In this book is the inspiration for the page here, and I believe we'll find we're
just out of the starting gate.
(Note: Johnson also gets points for coining the Next Big Phrase in interface design, the "user-hostile interface".)
for the Future, various people
This talk, at the Seybold/Wired '98 conference, was another inspiring factor in my pursuit of this topic. A good
survey of where some of the more creative minds in interface design are thinking the field should go.
||Way New Interfaces
Supposedly modeled on the workings of the brain, this piece of software
allows users to create associative maps of all of their pertinent
digital information. An ambitious attempt at helping people corral
all the disjointed data accumulated, I find that it suffers from
have a too-complicated user interface requiring too many
mouse click-and-drags, key commands, and typing needs to be used
by any but the Early Adopter crowd. Still, well worth a look-see.
[April 22, 2000 Note: Perspecta and
AllTheNews seem to be no more. Sniff.]
(shown at AllTheNews)
With roots in MIT's
Media Lab, Perspecta is one
of the earliest developers of 3-D graphical information spaces on
the Web. This Java applet (which I've pointed to on the news-aggregation
site AllTheNews), allows the user to 'fly-through' a hierarchical
information space. That such representation is any more useful than
the Windows-Explorer-type interface is definitely debatable.
[April 22 2000 Note: This
page, too, has been updated. It looks like they're showing off more
than they used to. Yay!]
Published by InXight (a spin-off from Xerox PARC),
these four information visualization tools are designed to assist
users cope with massive amounts of information. It's difficult to
critique from just the screenshots offered. The most popular tool
is the Hyperbolic Tree, as it's nodal diagramming qualities have
caused it to find its way into Web site management tools.
Catalog at News in The Future
Speaking of the Media Lab, the News in the Future program has produced
this Java applet which has generated significant buzz among information
design wonks. A somewhat simple layering of text and presentation
of left-to-right hierarchy, the fluidity and wholeness of this interface
definitely score Wow points. Unfortunately, the rollover-and-click
model proves confusing and at times distracting. Still, in some
seasoned hands, interfaces like this could go a long way to presenting
deep information in small spaces.
[April 22, 2000 note: How
sad is this. I don't host my own gizmo anymore! It's lost on a Macintosh
I haven't used in two years. Someday I'll reclaim it. Sorry for
this broken link.]
My contribution to the field. This DHTML applet (requiring Navigator
or IE4) is extremely simple, merely swapping out the presence of
one image for another. Derived from the Magic
Lens work done at PARC,
such an interface could be used in filtering any kind of visualized
data, allowing the user to understand the context of the whole while
receiving the specifics of a section.
This particular version was directly inspired by the Corbis Codescopeô
used in the Leonardo CD-ROM. Unfortunately, all mentions of CD-ROM
titles have been eradicated from Corbis' website. If you do find
a copy of Leonardo (or, most anything Corbis published), it's probably
worth picking up and checking out.
[April 22, 2000 Note: D'ohh!
This one seems to be >poof< gone. Maybe AOL doesn't want the
company's history pre-acquisition to be known. Sad, because it was
an elegant interface.]
This DHTML applet (requiring Navigator 4) is an intelligent application
of layering text (and I know that the guys at Netscape are big fans
of the Elastic Catalog applet mentioned above). It's similar to
magic lens technology, in that selecting a category of information
causes that data to pop out.
Make sure to scroll around. The "Stalker" palette will
follow you, and even skid to a halt once it's reached it's destination.
Interface with a personality--whoda thunk?
Lastly, this page used to be on a black background, and it was far
cooler--the various layers really stood out. However, in typical
Netscape fashion, somebody must have said, "Make it uglier!"
so they put it on white.
Server, and Categorizer.
Not user interface per se,
these technologies use natural language processing to help users
sift through a large amount of documentation. Basically, someone
had the bright idea that documentation is, hey, words!, and decided
to apply linguistic methods to searching for relevant data. What
this means is that we should be seeing search engines that return
not a laundry list of links, but truly pertinent results--what a