What was supposed to be a simple quote and link to an article discussing information architecture has turned into something more: a discussion of information architecture, app design, and behavioral overload. Recently, I have been reading a lot about Google Glass. Mind you, I have no interest in the hardware and I have shared a number of links of the past week, many of which have the word “disturbing” attached to them due to the concerns of gestural overload and privacy. By attempting to tackle my Instapaper queue this weekend, however, I came across a number of great articles about information architecture, ideas on Google Glass, and overloading existing behavioral gestures.
Path and Facebook’s mobile left nav flyout pattern is one such experimentation that should be avoided. Mark Kawano calls it the “hamburger icon that slides open the basement.” Why call it the basement? Because it’s hidden, dark, there’s a ton of crap in it, and, frankly, it’s scary and no one wants to go down there. Hiding the navigation allows Path to present itself in a more immersive, content-centric way but also tells the user that there’s nothing much else to the app beyond its stream view.
Great analogy! The fact is that the extra menus of Android always felt forced to me when I was a full-time Android user. As the article says, these navigation tricks are just lazy information architecture (IA) that belies a larger problem regarding app identity. If the designer is unable to come up with a way to include all necessary workflows into an easy-to-use, discoverable interface, the app has a larger problem than clutter, it has not dealt well with the addition of features over its lifespan.
Meanwhile, the design community continues to discuss the overload of existing behaviors:
The problem with winking to take a picture, or looking at something to select it, or nodding to approve, is that these gestures already have existing, established meaning. Overloading existing behavior with new semantics is bound to create problems.
Google Glass is at the forefront of that discuss due to its inherent need to rethink how we interact with the technology. Aside from talking to the item and having to touch the device itself, the gestures are those that we know and use for other things. In the case of the quote above, it is winking. Lukas Mathis makes a case for technology like Google Glass taking away what makes us human and our understanding of what using technology means to our brains.
In the case of Christian Cantrell’s review of Google Glass, he discusses the activation schemes of Google Glass—looking up 30 degrees activates the screen—and how little kids and shorter people look up too often to be useful as a gesture. Instead he suggests the movement of one’s eye to the Google Glass screen to activate it. However, the issue I have with that idea is the fact that human beings look up to recall information, to communicate to others that they are thinking; if this isn’t a behavioral overload just as discussed above, I don’t know what is. Kyle Baxter and I agree that this would be detrimental to the human race as a whole.
Kyle wrote a recent discussion on the philosophies of Google Glass in addition to Kyle’s excellent comments regarding Google Glass’ intentions with regard to our humanity. I fear, as Kyle does, that we might lose some of the inherent abilities of our brain that make us human should we depend so readily on a technology that is only an eye glance away. We may no longer “learn” as we do now, but simply rely on the technology, even worse so than some already do.
You should really read each of the articles and comments that I have shared and linked to get a broader understanding of what Google Glass has to offer, but in particular, I would take a look at Kyle’s thoughts, which include gems such as this one:
Technology, I think, should exist to improve our lives as humans, to magnify the good and minimize the bad, rather than change our nature or experience.
I have written before about the technologies I choose and their ability to simply fit into my life. Technology inherently changes the way we see the world and interact with it. However, learning curves aside, a technology that constantly draws my attention away from the beauties of the world around me is something in which I am simply not interested.
Posted: June 3, 2013
In 2022, I am participating in two leadership training programs. This should be a social experience, so I am writing about it. Check out the full list of posts in the series here.