18 Dec 2008
Uncanny Valley of User Interface

Jeff Atwood’s ‘Avoiding The Uncanny Valley of User Interface‘ caught my eye, so to speak. His contention is that “a web app that apes the conventions of a desktop application is attempting to cross the uncanny valley of user interface design”.

Atwood’s post was inspired by Bill Higgins’ older post ‘the Uncanny Valley of user interface design‘ that says “[W]e must ensure that we design our applications to remain consistent with the environment in which our software runs. […] I’d agree that software designers and developers generally observe this rule except in the midst of a technological paradigm shift. During periods of rapid innovation and exploration, it’s tempting and more acceptable to violate the expectations of a particular environment”.

Actually what caught my eye was Atwood’s title in my feed reader, because I’ve previously mentioned the uncanny valley, “a hypothesis that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers” (Wikipedia).

It’s an interesting play on the UV concept, replacing “creepy” with “annoying”. I can see how this mismatch of expectations could cause a vague feeling of uneasiness/not-quite-right/frustration for someone who’s not thought much about interfaces.

Don Norman‘s classic The Psychology of Everyday Things (reissued as The Design of Everyday Things), extends the idea to all the “everyday things” we humans interact with.

Category: programming
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