Adam Greenfield‘s book is a thorough examination of ubiquitous computing. As a user experience professional, he writes with the insights of a practitioner. This gives us a book that will be invaluable, as the UX community grapples with the challenges of this concept.
What Greenfield is eager to make us aware of is the lack of a design language, or agreed design standards to build interfaces that will allow users to interact with ‘everyware’ (his term for inexpensive devices that have been integrated into everyday objects and activities).Managing information in the environment of ubicomp is challenging.
Building interfaces that relate to physical objects involves designing systems that relate the mechanics of the device to the user through an illustrative user interface.
When building these systems we have to think beyond just laying out the choices, we have to think about the way the systems work in the real world and show this on screen. We must be aware of the technology in use and what is next in terms of future applications.
‘As everywhere matures …there will be a greater demand for consistency, reliability and accountability, and this will mandate the creation of deliverable formats to account for all the relevant variables.’ – Adam Greenfield
The future of UX
It is seldom you read a book about this profession which isn’t a regurgitation of accepted practice or an examination of the minutia of web design. The difference is that this book is focused on the present and the future of UX.Something that all web design and development people accept, as part of their work, is you can’t stand still in this job. If you stop learning you stop growing. If you don’t grow you can’t adapt to change and create the best solutions.This book asks designers of these systems to get organized. To come up with documentation that means something to those who build complex systems. The strength of Greenfield’s argument is compounded when you see there are so many bad choices in design and not only in the digital world.
Collaboration and facing the challenge
I recently worked on a project where there were no established design patterns for a solution to the problem I was faced with. To be confronted by such a brief is an immense challenge and tasks like this will become increasingly common place.We will no longer be designing just a website interface but the interactive elements will reveal the mechanics of complex systems to the user.When you think about the use of good technology it is enabling human beings to become better at being human. We should aim to enable that to happen through our work but do so in a way that is shared and publicly available.Only through transparent collaborative practices will we grow as a collective of professionals. Anything else and we only add to the noise and confusion around already complex systems.
Verdict: This book should be a clarion call to those in the UX profession to act, collaborate and define the future of how people interact with complex devices and applications when they are presented to them.