Friday, September 8, 2000

Jupiter Communications: "Interactive" and "Rich" Web Interfaces

Jupiter Communications recently issued a press release discussing the need for more “Interactive” and “Rich” web interfaces:

I definitely agree with their general statement, however, current technologies (Java, Flash, etc.) are geared more as a replacement to the commonplace HTML interface;  as such, they introduce (an entirely new and non-standard) interface and navigation paradigm which by nature counteracts any potential increase in usability.  These new interfaces create a steep learning curve – which is completely unacceptable on the web.  Users will simply choose a site they are more comfortable with.

Also, it should be noted that the Jupiter press release explains that users demand a more interactive interface.  Users say they would use features such as zooming and virtual dressing rooms.  Jupiter is asking users to make decisions as to how they would like a site to be implemented – which I believe is the wrong approach.  It should be the role of the designers to decide how a site should be implemented – and the designers should make this decision based on learning as much as humanly possible about what the users want to get done.

Jupiter’s approach is equivalent to some average Joe telling an architect EXACTLY how he would like his house designed – Tile floors that are heated 24 hours a day, A living room with a TV that is built into the wall, and a bedroom with a 100 foot high ceiling that has a pool above it.  This average Joe is DEFINITELY not in the position to make these detailed design decisions, as he has absolutely no idea about the underlying technicalities: heating the tiles would cost a tremendous amount of money and may cause the tiles to crack, building the TV into the wall would make it an absolute pain to replace the TV or add/remove devices such as VCR’s, and a 100 foot high ceiling could only support pool with the use of huge steel beams in the center of the bedroom.

Jupiter’s press release should not serve as a literal explanation of what needs to be done, but as an indicator that users are unhappy and want an interface that better satisfies their needs.  HOW that interface should be developed should be decided by designers who focus on what the users want to get done.