Edward Tufte, the undisputed master of information visualisation (described by The New York Times as “the Leonardo da Vinci of Data”) and PowerPoint hater extraordinaire, has posted a very interesting article and video about the interface design of the iPhone [via]:
“The iPhone platform elegantly solves the design problem of small screens by greatly intensifying the information resolution of each displayed page. Small screens, as on traditional cell phones, show very little information per screen, which in turn leads to deep hierarchies of stacked-up thin information–too often leaving users with “Where am I?” puzzles. Better to have users looking over material adjacent in space rather than stacked in time.”Edward Tufte
He makes some interesting observations about the user interface and offers some advice for areas which could possibly be improved. The main point which resonates for me is that Apple has, arguably for the first time, solved the problem of displaying information on a small screen in a way which is intuitively useful to the user. By removing “computer administrative debris” (e.g. scroll bars) and introducing interaction by touch, pixel-wastage is reduced – “content is the user interface; the information is the interface”.
The fact that mobile internet has been a failure up till now can be directly attributed to poor interface design (and to a lesser extent bandwidth). It looks like that’s all about to change.
Key takeaway: “To clarify add detail; clutter and overload are not an attribute of information, they are failures of design“.