Text Making A Comeback As Interface?

Who Needs an Interface Anyway? Startups are piggybacking on text messaging to launch services. by Joshua Brustein.

From the post:

In his rush to get his latest startup off the ground, Ethan Bloch didn’t want to waste time designing a smartphone app. He thought people would appreciate the convenience of not having to download an app and then open it every time they wanted to use Digit, a tool that promotes savings. Introduced in February, it relies on text messaging to communicate with users. To sign up for the service, users go to Digit’s website and key in their cell number and checking account number. The software analyzes spending patterns and automatically sets money aside in a savings account. To see how much you’ve socked away, text “tell me my balance.” Key in “save more,” and Digit will do as you command. “A lot of the benefit of Digit takes place in the background. You don’t need to do anything,” says Bloch.

Conventional wisdom holds that intricately designed mobile apps are an essential part of most new consumer technology services. But there are signs people are getting apped out. While the amount of time U.S. smartphone users spend with apps continues to increase, the number of apps the average person uses has stayed pretty much flat for the last two years, according to a report Nielsen published in June. Some 200 apps account for more than 70 percent of total usage.

Golden Krishna, then a designer at Cooper, a San Francisco consulting firm that helps businesses create user experiences, anticipated the onset of app fatigue. In a 2012 blog post, “The best interface is no interface,” he argued that digital technology should strive to be invisible. It sparked a wide-ranging debate, and Krishna has spent the past several years making speeches, promoting a book with the same title as his essay, and doing consulting work for Silicon Valley companies.

Remembering the near ecstasy when visual interfaces replaced green screens it goes against experience to credit text as the best interface.

However, you should start with Golden Krishna’s essay, “The best interface is no interface,” then move on to his keynote address: “The best interface is no interface” at SXSW 2013 and of course, his website, http://www.nointerface.com/book/, which has many additional resources, including his book by the same name.

It is way cool to turn a blog post into a cottage industry. Not just any blog post, but a very good blog post on a critical issue for every user facing software application.

To further inspire you to consider text as an interface, take special note of the line that reads:

“Some 200 apps account for more than 70 percent of total usage.”

In order to become a top app, you have to not only displace one of the top 200 app, but your app has to be chosen to replace it. That sounds like an uphill battle.

Not to say that making a text interface is going to be easy, it’s not. You will have to think about the interface more than grabbing some stock widgets in order to build a visual interface.

On the upside, you may avoid the design clunkers that litter Krishna’s presentations and book.

An even better upside, you may avoid authoring one of the design clunkers that litter Krishna’s presentations.

I first saw this in a tweet by Bob DuCharme.

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