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7143Re: [agile-usability] Product Metaphor

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  • Jared Spool
    Jul 26, 2010
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      On Jul 25, 2010, at 11:20 AM, Joshua Kerievsky wrote:

      > For our eLearning software, we used to have a book metaphor. We had
      > several "interactive" books and would teach with these "books."
      > One day one of our instructors said "I want a playlist." He needed
      > a way to create a pathway through several of our books, for use in
      > classrooms. Books don't support that idea, so the metaphor didn't
      > fit. His need prompted us to reflect on our current metaphor and
      > realize that a music metaphor would be a far better fit.
      > Now that we have a well-established music metaphor, we've had a few
      > requests for "bookmarks." :-)

      I guess that was my point.

      If you're using the metaphor as a way to brainstorm functionality and
      features ("if our software was a car, what would it be like?"), that
      works, because you don't have to be dogmatic by sticking with the

      However, if you try to build it out as a UI, you run into issues where
      the metaphor doesn't support the innovation (because if you did, you
      wouldn't be replacing it).

      This is the current argument many designers have against Apple's iPad
      & iPhone design, where elements, like the calendar and notebook, have
      real-world metaphorical references to their traditional form factors
      (think the spiral "binding" and yellow lines on the notepad). Their
      argument is that it's holding back on what the design could be.

      The counter to their argument is that you need to ground the design in
      something users are familiar with. If it's too novel, then they can't
      grok it, because none of their previous experience helps them with the
      new interface.

      So, it's a hard line to tow: make it like existing real-world elements
      (the metaphor approach) or innovate?


      Jared M. Spool
      User Interface Engineering
      510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
      e: jspool@... p: +1 978 327 5561
      http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: @jmspool
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