While trying to solve a problem, we often hit upon an [...]
While trying to solve a problem, we often hit upon an idea for something totally different yet relevant. And thus are born the greatest of inventions.
Now what could be that component that was created to augment the human intellect??? Well, it was not exactly created just to augment the human intellect, but it certainly helped solve and ease many of the problems. This component is nothing but that tiny little thing that at one time, and some still do, hold in the palm of their hands and move it about to get so many tasks done – The Mouse!
By now it is a known fact that it was Doug Engelbart who has been credited with inventing the mouse. Although, there were earlier prototypes, it was Doug’s invention that got patented in 1964! And since then that tiny little component has undergone various designs, and now, is often tailess too!
(All pictures here have been put together from the Wikipedia site) The mouse has undergone considerable design change since 1968 from the standard mechanical mouse, to the Optical Laser mouse and, now to the Wireless or Tailess mouse, it sure has made its impact!
The Mouse was invented to help people interact with what was called the GUI- Graphic User Interface. It arose alongside the need to help people solve problems using computer aided work stations. Information was displayed in an interactive manner, which required individuals to help point to the solutions. In the race for the best pointer along with the mouse were the joysticks, light pens, etc. The mouse was the fastest to help point, and thus it won its place alongside the computer!
Interestingly, the design of the mouse has moved along with the GUI. The give and take and pull and push factors kept that little component moving along. Trackballs and scrollers enhanced its usage for the way information was displayed on the screen. And as Doug says in his interview, the mouse could and may never be replaced with even touch screens or voice recognition. It is now a vital digit of the computer, as much as all our five little fingers are to us.
But like all good inventions, the Mouse is often said to have its little side effects. There are pros and discussed on the internet, whether or not, usage of the mouse causes what is known as CTS- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, repetitive usage or action. One study also determined that only an ergonomically designed mouse could help prevent CTS.
Something that tiny, invented to augment the human intellect, has led to many changes in how web pages were and are designed (the chicken or the egg situation), can lead to scientific and medical studies, surely does win a place among the list of inventions in the digital world of today! And the humor that this mouse has brought is something that always brings a smile to one’s face.
The word design is a very ambiguous word these days! It [...]
The word design is a very ambiguous word these days! It is bandied around in everything that we do, including the human body, which by the way is perfect with all its imperfections!
Frank Spillers in his blog, demystifying usability, gives some 10 definitions of design in the context of usability. Ideo, a global design firm captured my imagination many years ago, with their simple tagline, “…we create impact through design”. And I love the way they introduce their design through their concepts – my current fascination is with their idea of Nelson, the future of the book, based on 3 simple concepts, which has evolved through deep thought. And their products are not designed just for branding the product, but, for “inspiration” (when you have a look at what they have done, you will feel inspired, and thus know what I mean). There is beauty in the lines of each of their product.
Design is a simple thought giving way to action. Or is it? Whatever be it, design has changed the course of history in more ways than one, good as well as bad. Better medical instruments have helped in the portability of instruments to places that were inaccessible. Whereas, better designed ammunition since the days of guns and cannons, has caused more destruction than appreciation (except now when they line the walls of museums).
Prof. M P Ranjan, has a blog that invites all Indians to be participative in “Design for India“. His blog on, Design for Good Governance: A Call for Change, certainly takes design into a very different realm!
What got me started thinking on design was my “thinking chair” which led me to Jean Prouvé, who has been known as the poetics of the technical objects, (check out his industrial line designs)and is said to, “…… never sought to evolve his own unique style but consistently sought logical answers to desired functions and the available means for their realisation.” (What a beautifully designed string of words to describe someone)
There may be many more such interesting and fantastic people whose ideas on design evoke and inspire, (feel free to share here), but as design is meant to be simple and for you to realize the potential of design in all walks of life, I leave you with a beautifully designed definition of design in 41 answers!
“The Customer is King” – an often and apt message that we often see on stores that try and drive home the message to both the customer as well as the seller, if the latter wishes to make a sale! Well Usability Engineering, as the name suggests, deals with the interface between humans and machines or products created by humans. Although, this does involve some aspect of design, termed as UXD (User experience field of design), usability engineering is more focused on the usability of the product rather than the design of the product.
Why is this so important? We use various products for a variety of tasks. The whole process that is involved in the creation of a product life cycle can be long and ardous. Imagine, if a single person is left alone to design the product, is handed over a list of dos and dont’s but has no interaction between the group that conducted the study and the users? Too little or too much can also ruin the focus of the products usage.
In the field of computer software and its usage, Agile Usability Engineering is stated to be “the way” to reduce the long and costly affair. How so? Well, imagine you create a software, but the user out there has very little knowledge of what to do with it once installed. So, a bit of intuitive knowledge of what the product is supposed to do, and some intuitive knowledge of how users will behave, is very essential to Usability Engineering. This. if set into the initial discussions of the idea itself, will help reduce costs and time, with regard to the product development and its evolution. Usability engineering is important to be integrated in whatever you do not just for a better product, but also for better processes and methodologies!
Interaction has a very important part to play here- between the ideator, the creator, the designer, the usability engineer, and most importantly the user or the customer! Two important factors are very crucial in this process of interaction – the Art of Listening and the Art of Observation. And this is essential in anything you develop be it a safety pin or even a nuclear reactor! Listening to your users, observing their reactions to your queries, can help you not just design but also engineer better products.
The basic tenets of Agile Usability Engineering does not have to be set for software products only. The principle behind every product is to create a small model and test it at every step, before it leads to a big problem. There is a saying in Japanese, ” Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain“. This simple thought when applied to any idea that needs to be implemented, can go a long way in helping you reduce waste of time and money, crucial for the success of any product. Besides, change is necessary for anything to evolve. And, this change can be tested among users who will use the product. It is vital to observe even those who will not, or appear slightly averse to using a product. Why? Because, it not only gives insight, but also challenges the barriers, guiding us on to provide a wholesome solution to the problem.
Interaction, is thus, not just action and reaction between two subjects, but involves, a whole lot of factors. And all this goes into engineering the usability of a product. So next time you are called upon to take a survey, don’t shy away- it is necessary for every user to contribute his reactions for a better and thoughtful product!
And, do remember, the human body too is a part of Usability Engineering, without which we would never be able to multitask!