The Shrinking UI

So here’s what I’m confused about. The biggest concern when designing a new product is making sure that when the consumer starts using a product, he has the simplest and therefore most enjoyable experience possible. However, there’s a conflict (at least in my opinion) with hardware engineers, who strive for smaller, more efficient packaging. A big example of this is the newest rendition of the iPod nano. I know it’s designed and marketed to be small, but I think it’s too small to even use, let alone watch videos and I think they’ve hit the wall with this. I could go into why I think the iPod nano should be done away with, but I wonder which of the two is more important in making a product; user interface or physical packaging?

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3 Responses to “The Shrinking UI”

  1. mgoelz Says:

    Both the user interface and physical packaging are both important aspects to designers when creating a product, but I feel that the way in which they are used to appeal to people in different ways. When designers are creating the interface they are looking for something users will be able to both use easily and efficiently with the looks taking a backseat much of the time. I feel like the visual appeal of an interface takes somewhat of a backseat to its usability. When it comes to physical packaging, however, it is all about visual appeal. Things seem to keep getting smaller and smaller and people also seem to desire these things. This pushes the hardware engineers to come up with such designs which are now nearing a state in which the small size can even become a hindrance, rather than a feature. Designers should strive to meld together both the interface a product employs, as well as its physical packaging to create the most satisfying experience to the user and the packaging should not compromise the UI’s overall effectiveness.

  2. Jess Says:

    I definitely agree that there is a dilemma here in making the decision between user interface and physical packaging. However user appeal is very important in drawing in users and part of the interface. And while it may not be the most practical design based on functionality, the attraction to small technology and having a “slick” product often is more important to a user than the actual function. I think its mostly about hype and status rather than a quality experience when people choose iPod nanos.

  3. prdelong Says:

    I could put up an argument that not all products are designed for the simplest experience, but that doesn’t delve into the consumer mind your thinking of. Companies like Cisco and IBM want to ensure that their corporate customers are reliant on them to do the heavy lifting insofar as knowledge and technical capability. As far as your example with the Ipod Nano, I happen to disagree with your approach. There is no need or should there exist an ability to watch movies on that small of a screen. It’s perfect for a smaller MP3 to run with, when you want to pick your songs. I hate the shuffle because I can never pick which song I like– it’s all randomized.

    The thing that pisses me off most about design is the lack of functionality thought of before the appearance is brought into question. I don’t necessarily follow the old Bauhaus ideal of “Form follow function,” but if I buy a program or a house it had better damn well work the way it’s been advertised. Both approaches should be melded, but make sure it works before you sell it.


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