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„Proste rzeczy są nadal najlepsze” – wywiad z Erickiem Reissem

Dziś gratka dla ludzi zawodowo bądź hobbystycznie związanych z UX i usability. Dzięki UseLab czyli organizatorowi wydarzenia Polish IA Summit o której pisałem już przeprowadziłem wywiad z Erickiem Reissem znaną i barwną postacią świata architektury informacji…

Wywiad przeprowadziłem w lutym 2010 mając nadzieję, że dzięki temu uda mi się trochę przybliżyć postać Erica i jego dokonań. Całość wywiadu jest w języku angielskim – jeśli ktoś ma problemy z czytaniem ze zrozumieniem w tym języku polecam Google Translate :)

AK74 – In 2006 you have written „Web Dogma”, 10 principles specially for web design standards. Looking today in retrospect – what has changed in 4 years? Are you still happy with these principles?

Eric Reiss – I am very happy with the principles. In fact, I’m surprised at how well they have stood the test of time. Lars von Trier, who was responsible for the original Dogme 95 for the Danish film world gave me a good tip while I was working on these: keep them generic. Don’t talk about fad, fashion, or technology. And I think that is why they are as useful today as they were when I first presented them back in 2006.

AK74 – You must have heard it a thousand times, but for me it is intriguing: you have been director of Danish Royal Theatre and switched to UX universe. Can you explain what was the reason?

ER – User experience is user experience. Online or offline. I was trained in the theatre as an actor and director. I also did set design. But´I had also studied computers back in high school in the United States in the late 1960s. So when I left the theatre world in 1985 and devoted myself to writing and business consulting, I was in the perfect position to take advantage of multimedia when it came along – first on computer discs, later on CD-ROM, and finally on the Internet.

I understood communications, I understood user experience, and I understood computers. So the transition was actually very natural.

AK74 – Would you agree that Apple has the best interface designers? And if not can you identify a third party who you think makes better design?

ER – I like Apple’s designs, but I wouldn’t call them the best as they’re not always as useful as one might think. And they are certainly not as intuitive as the company would like you to believe. In fact, I did have to read the instruction manual that came with my first iPhone as the gestural interface was not entirely standard.

Of course today, we accept this interface as standard. But this wasn’t the case two years ago. Apple is very good at making things pretty. But what really sets Apple apart from the crowd is their complete control of the user experience – from Apple Stores to the lovely packaging. You can’t help but love the product when you finally start to use it.

And they’ve also turned this into a business model through the rather monopolistic iTunes model. Let’s face it, without iTunes, it is very difficult to get music into an iPod – so even if you love the gadget, you also have to accept the commercial universe that comes with it. Very slick business on Apple’s part.

AK74 – What is your role in FatDUX? What do you do on a daily basis?

ER – My role is two-fold. I am CEO of the FatDUX Group, which is an international corporation with offices and representatives throughout Europe and North America. My job is to define our guiding philosophy, talk with potential partners, recruit new members of the family, evaluate our business plan, and build our international community.

But I am also the head of FatDUX Copenhagen, where my work involves business process reengineering for our clients, including implementation of social media both publicly and behind the firewall, high level information architecture, persona development, and content strategy and writing.

One thing is telling the world about what you think should be done to make it better. But it’s something else entirely to actually do the work. I get my hands dirty every day – I walk the talk.

AK74 – You feel the difference between the American way of doing business and the EU? Europe will catch up once the U.S. in terms of innovation?

ER – Actually, Europe leads the U.S. when it comes to innovation. The problem is neither the Americans or the Europeans have a very clear idea what innovation is. Innovation solves a problem, it’s as simple as that. It is NOT the same as invention, which means that innovation is both planned and controlled.

Here in Europe, we have a tremendous heritage when it comes to the practical implementation of technology, which is very much part of the innovation story. The U.S. lags behind because there are few true innovations; for the most part, what is lauded as “innovation” in the U.S. is just something new.

Take the concept of Web 2.0 for example. Not a single new thing here that we weren’t talking about back in 1995. Is Web 2.0 innovative? No. Is microblogging, like Twitter, innovative? No. Is using microblogging and instant messaging to collaborate on projects outside of meetings and e-mail? Yes that IS innovative.

AK74 – Did you observe any trends in the UX? Now what is „trendy”? What should be avoided by designing modern electronic interface?

ER – As always, the secret is to keep things simple. Trendy stuff almost always costs too much and dies too quickly. Going back to social media, if you start a blog on your corporate site just because that is the trendy thing to do, you’ll regret it – blogs take an enormous amount of time to maintain, if you are going to do it well.

But if you are going to use your blog to improve your product or start a dialogue with your customers in a very targeted way, then your blog has both a meaning and a future – and it represents an innovation.

AK74 – Whether it is something that annoys or irritates you in relation to the UX?

ER – I guess it’s the people who either think UX only has to do with online activities, or those who refuse to learn from experts in other areas who have been working on user experience for centuries. For example, let’s look at the Catholic church. The ceremonies are fabulous.

The incense, the vestments, the music, the Latin liturgical rites, the churches themselves. No matter what you believe in religious terms, you cannot help but be moved. Going to mass is a total experience and I love it, even though I am not of the Catholic faith.

AK74 – „Rules are meant to be broken” – so why stick to boring dogmas and rule of UX? So why not experiment with fonts, colors, size of the search boxes, etc.? Why do we believe that we read from right to left and yellow badly composed of red fonts? What rules should be broken and what to keep when working with UX?

ER – UX rules aren’t boring, they are guidelines. What about the 10 Commandments? Are these boring? Are they useless? Of course not. And should they be broken? No. But we know there are exceptions to every rule. For example, we send soldiers into war despite Commandment 5, “Thou shalt not kill”. Rules should be broken when they no longer apply, but not just to be different – that’s the worst possible reason, pure ego!

AK74 – g-speak interface designed by john underkoffler looks very attractive but waving by 6-10 hours is probably enough but comfortable. Your view will look like in the near future? Electronic gadgets will be Voice control or maybe mind?

ER – Clearly, voice control has got to get better. I think the mobile market has already pushed things in a very positive direction. But in the near future, I think we’re not going to see radical change in interfaces – at least in terms of how we manipulate things on a screen.

But I suspect the screen itself is going to change dramatically. Mobile phones are getting bigger as we recognize the need for a larger work area. The iPad is the culmination of this trend. But what if we could use a virtual reality interface, such as eye goggles so that we had as big a screen as we needed, whenever we needed it.

The heads-up displays in Formula One cars suggests that this is exactly the kind of thing we’ll be seeing more of in commercial products.

Perahps with all the developments in eyetracking technology these past few years, look-and-blink is going to be the next big thing – and certainly a help for those people with physical disabilities. And we will certainly be seeing more ambient technologies where the interface is one that we may never actually touch.

AK74 – Users of electronics devices really pay attention to the rounded shapes of keys and nice fonts? Or maybe it is designers to be able to make money by pushing its product?

ER – Users need to be able to push the buttons and read the text. That’s the basic “ease-of-use” side of the usability coin. The other side is “elegance and clarity”. So if designers can make things both beautiful and functional, and use their design to help explain functionality, then I think they’re doing their job. But just making things pretty for the sake of making things pretty? Forget it.

This is a waste of time. It’s also why I don’t own any B&O equipment – I find nothing in their design philosophy of square, hard edges that is remotely compelling or particularly pleasing to hold or use. And they certainly have nothing that inspires me to pay 10 times more for electronic equipment. Beautiful design does not have to be either complicated or expensive. B&O makes it both.

AK74 – At the end I would ask for your biggest dream. What would you want to design? Space shuttle? Fridge? Phone?

ER – I interpret design very broadly. I would like to “design” an international community that embraces similarities, but without reducing everything to the lowest common denominator. I would like this community to move past historical political and cultural animosities and work together for the greater good.

And this is kind of what we are doing within FatDUX by united people who are passionate about UX across the globe.

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