MagicInk

July 15, 2018 - Thought-provoking article describing why 'interactive' software and a focus on 'interactivity' is misguided. The focus should be on the effective (this is defined in the article) display of information and on context-sensitive software that significantly reduces the need for interactivity.

Here are a few of the many quotes that stood out to me from this article:

  • “Unfortunately, software that doesn’t learn from history dooms users to repeat it. And repeat it they will - tediously explaining their context, mouse click by mouse click, keystroke by keystroke, wasted hour by wasted hour. This is called interactivity.”
  • “Compared to excellent ink-and-paper designs, most current software communicates deplorably. This is a problem of surface, but not a superficial problem. The main cause, I believe, is that many software designers feel they are designing a machine. Their foremost concern is behavior - what the software does. They start by asking: What functions must the software perform? What commands must it accept? What parameters can be adjusted? (In the case of websites: What pages must there be? How are they linked together? What are the dynamic features?) These designers start by specifying functionality, but the essence of information software is the presentation.”
  • “I suggest that the design of information software should be approached initially and primarily as a graphic design project. The foremost concern should be appearance - what and how information is presented. The designer should ask: What is relevant information? What questions will the viewer ask? What situations will she want to compare? What decision is she trying to make? How can the data be presented most effectively? How can the visual vocabulary and techniques of graphic design be employed to direct the user’s eyes to the solution? The designer must start by considering what the software looks like, because the user is using it to learn, and she learns by looking at it”
  • “Unless it is enjoyable or educational in and of itself, interaction is an essentially negative aspect of information software.”
  • “Today, software consumers demand technological features because software marketing presents features. Consumers ignore design because marketing ignores design. The cycle is vicious, but perhaps vulnerable too—some brilliant new software with engineering, design, and marketing all in sync may raise the bar for everyone.”

You can learn more here: http://worrydream.com/#!/MagicInk.


  • Article
  • Bret Victor
  • Context-sensitive Information Graphics
  • GUI
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Interface Design
  • Programming