Steering wheels and application UIs.

The Benz museum in Ladenburg is a regular haunt of mine. In walking distance of my house I can see one the of the first cars ever made.


It is  one of the finest collection of vintage and significant cars as you will find anywhere, other than at the other Benz  museum in Stuttgart. It is my sad affliction to think about software design at the weekends, and the Benz museum provided some ideas on usability.

This is an early French  racing car. a 1921 Amilcar. 28 horsepower, 908cc motor.


This is the steering wheel of a formula one  championship  winning car. Comment below if you can tell me whose.


It would overwhelm most of us, but for the best drivers in the world, every switch is vital and a lot of thought went into its layout. It is a User interface built for one.

The problem with a lot of business application software is that it has as many buttons and switches as the example above, but most users would be better of with the Amilcar layout. Most users just want to get in and drive. It is only when you really get to know your user that you can actually design something that works for them.

On another note, It is a very child friendly museum. 

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6 thoughts on “Steering wheels and application UIs.

  1. When we are talking about the Adobe Genesis project we use similar analogies. Business Applications are like Boeing 747 cockpits. However as a regular knowledge worker I just need access to a small subset of the functionality. What if you could grab the altimeter or ground speed indicator out of the cockpit and build your own custom cockpit. But you might want to create multiple of those (we call them workspace) based on project or specific context. Even better what if the business application based on your specific context can suggest a custom workspace for you which you can further customize, save and share with others.

    Oh, yes and I like the pictures. Next time I visit SAP I need to stop by the museum.

    Matthias Zeller
    Adobe Systems

  2. Hi Thomas,

    This reminded me of a previous post I read on here a long time ago. You said:

    “Every day I meet people at SAP that think complexity sucks. I also meet people who wear it on their chests like a medal.”

    Complexity a la SAP lies somewhere in this continuum and a lot of money is made being from (over-)complexity. Matthias’ comment above makes me hope for the future. Bringing such UI intelligence to SAP would be one massive breakthough, but maybe mashups within portals and aggregators could achieve the same without introducing a new layer. I saw some demos at TechEd Berlin of Flex within WebDynpro and thought looked great. SAP’s Floorplan Manager (what a name!) as the way forward?

    All we know is that it is going to be one hell of a ride!

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