On user interfaces, the iPad and Charles Dickens.

Cross posted on my Gartner blog.

My colleagues, Ray, Allen, Mike, Mark, Andrew, Mark and Van,  are all over the iPad.  Ray’s posts are particularly thought provoking, as he looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the device. There is also lots of commentary on the web, and the consumer electronics bloggers have discussed its every detail.  I’m not going to talk about how cool or not the device is, how naff the name is or what impact it will have on the media industry, or how Steve Jobs dresses. Yet again, Apple created a Great Expectation, and managed it profoundly well.

I was thinking this morning about what impact this device could and should have on UI design. Most enterprise applications are bound by keyboard centric design thinking, basically what I call  navigation donuts. Almost every enterprise application I see is trapped in the amber of the table layouts that haven’t really fundamentally changed since the first screens appeared over 40 years ago.

Andy Bitterer commented in a recent note. (Gartner clients click here)

What would happen if Apple built a BI product? Users would probably love it and actually use it. There is hardly another company in any IT market that is considered a synonym for great design and usability. While Apple has not been known for going after the enterprise software market and rather focuses on consumer products, Apple could still easily use its visualization know-how to create an “iDecide,” “iReport” or “iAnalyze” product that was at least as attractive as those from the best-in-class vendors today. In fact, other BI vendors could learn from Apple how to build end-user-friendly and intuitive applications.

For all the talk from enterprise application vendors about user centric design and building engaging applications, the enterprise software world could really do with an Apple moment.

Many of the applications I see would not be out of place in Miss Havisham’s Mansion. The Enterprise UI design clocks stopped some time ago, and the usability wedding cake continues to rot.

So unchanging was the dull old house, the yellow light in the darkened room, the faded spectre in the chair by the dressing-table glass, that I felt as if the stopping of the clocks had stopped Time in that mysterious place, and while I and everything else outside it grew older, it stood still….It bewildered me, and under its influence I continued at heart to hate my trade and to be ashamed of home.


image from http://chantalpowell.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/miss-havishams-table/  a fascinating blog.

“I began to understand that everything in the room had stopped like the watch and the clock, a long time ago.” “Everything within my view which ought to be white had been white a long time ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow.”

3 thoughts on “On user interfaces, the iPad and Charles Dickens.”

  1. Thomas

    Couldn’t agree more. I am just embarking on a Phd loosely around how decisions involving complex data or situations could be aided by visualisation.

    While the notion of Apple leading the way with iDecide is attractive for a fanboy like me, there is a really big and fantastically interesting question here.


    Graham J

  2. Lots of of bloggers are not really pleased with the new iPad.There was just 2 much hoopla about it and lots of blogers got disapointed.Thing is, I can actually see lots of the awesome potential uses of this gizmo. Third-party apps for making tunes, games, newspapers and magazine and books, all sorts of neat stuff, but IMHO they failed to sell it right (aside from the books). It smells sort of incomplete

  3. This is just round 1 for the iPad and it has a long way to go. For me, the first and foremost impact is that the way that we interact with information will change. The rest of the details (especially the so-said drawbacks) of the iPad are not going to hold back this revolution in UI.

    Some very interesting questions to be answered in due time.


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