A recent Core77 interview with ‘cyborg anthropologist’ Amber Case got us thinking about the central role that user interface design plays in how brands connect with people. Case is a TED speaker that was also named one of Fast Company’s most influential women in technology in 2010, for her exploratory work in understanding how human experience evolves with technology, and how technology in turn affects our humanity. While the interview sheds light on a few notions Case is exploring around technology’s future role in our lives, we were particularly provoked by her vision of a world full of invisible interfaces. To illustrate (according to Case):
At my house there’s a GPS circle set up so when I get home it automatically triggers my electricity and when I leave it turns off. It’s an invisible light switch that removes any required actions. You never come home to a dark house.
The interview reveals Case’s belief that interfaces are increasingly becoming the essence of our experience, as digital technologies permeate nearly every aspect of our lives. They’re the gateway we use to obtain information online, to entertain ourselves and to connect to others when an in-person interaction isn’t possible–and oftentimes even during those in-person interactions. In a more dramatic example, a family not being able to obtain hospital location information online quickly and accurately, highlights the essential life or death benefit of a well designed and thought-out interface.
We don’t have to look further than CES to see Case’s notion of the importance of interfaces come to life. We’re seeing smart TVs that are operated and controlled by your voice, gestures or facial recognition, and we’ve already begun to see how touch, gesture and increasingly voice-based recognition, have changed how we interact with our phones and tablets, and expect to be able to interact on this level with other devices before long.
Perhaps it’s time that we begin to think about, explore and plan for user interface design earlier on in our brand/digital strategy and planning discussions, making it a more integral aspect of the strategic and creative/ideation process. If Case’s notion is correct — as the marketplace and current consumer behaviors indicate it may be — then user interface design will not only be relevant to how a consumer connects with our brands across the websites we develop, but also to how they will connect with us across multiple touchpoints, on and offline.