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  • Adam Behringer

    Seattle, Washington USA

    Adam is the founder of BEEDOCS, an artisan software company that makes great timeline software for Mac OS X.

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Does "User Interface" Reveal Bias?

Monday, February 05, 2007

The following "thought of the day" is by Michael Dougherty (co-founder of Redfin among other things). Michael is perched in an office down the hall from me and we often share hallway conversation about the way the business works, and what products would be fun to bring to market, etc... He sent me the following in an e-mail this week, posted here with his permission:

Something that just occurred to me: the very term "user interface" subtly betrays the behind-the-scenes bias of most of us who use it. It conveys our unstated belief that the real heart of a software product is its technical machinery - the algorithms, architecture, storage, hardware - and not the person for whom it is built.

Software architects obsess about technical engineering design. Building architects, on the other hand, obsess primarily about creating functional, beautiful spaces for human beings. In fact they obsess about many things that they won't actually build: the site context, the light, the way the space should make its occupants feel. Technical design comes second.

Saying "user interface" is like saying "stage left" - it reveals the gulf between us and our users. As designers & creators of software, we should get off the stage and take our seat where we belong - down in the audience.

Maybe we should call it "the machine interface".

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