Games, UI, and the implicit web

I was a console programmer for six years. Games are the only pieces of software that people use purely for the joy of interacting with a computer. There’s no reason to play, except to have fun.

This means that the user interface is crucial. With other software, people will put up with the pain of a bad UI because they’re trying to accomplish some real-world task. If a consumer picks up a video game and it doesn’t let them have fun within a minute or two, they will give up on it. The interface has to be easy and fun. It can still be deep, but that complexity must be intuitive and discoverable, and not presented like the Space Shuttle’s control panel.

What really excites me about the implicit web is the promise of using the gathered data to turbo-charge everyday interfaces. A simple example is Firefox’s address bar; it remembers the URLs I visit, and when I start typing a new one, the suggestions are in most-visited order. By contrast, I wouldn’t class Google Suggest in the search box as an implicit service, since it doesn’t customize the suggestions based on my behavior, and it’s a lot less useful for me.

When I was working with Nintendo, the holy grail was the ‘one button game’. Think Mario 64, where you managed complex interactions with a 3D world mostly with the joystick and a single button to jump. Stumbleupon is the web service that’s closest to this, I’ve heard it described as the ‘Forward button‘ for the web, and it really delivers a lot of value with very little input needed from the user. Google Hot Keys is my attempt to move searching in that direction, though there’s no implicit component.

One of the parts I’m most anticipating about Defrag is seeing all of the innovative interfaces that the teams will be showing off. There’s so many possibilities for improving the user experience, I can’t wait to see what people are coming up with!

Funhouse Photo User Count: 1,817 total, 93 active. Still growing steadily, but slowly, with most of the additions coming through the product directory.

Event Connector User Count: 77 total, 4 active. Still working with conference organizers, not much to show yet though.

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