Face the Interface

count the questions you get asked before you’re allowed your Cappuccino at a Starbucks > 7. More than seven decisions I’m asked to take immediately after ordering a cup of Cappuccino. A second of hesitation and the barista will freak out! But this is not the only example of a poorly designed interface:

interface fail

Designers often tend to talk about the pre- and the post-iPod era. Touch sensitive controllers, minimized into one jog wheel that intuitively allows all control you need to use a (mobile music) device became the role model of how a slick intelligent device – and thus the content stored on it – has to be accessible to the user.

Even though the iPod has some serious control bugs, no one really cares, it’s interface design is just good enough. Tomorrow you will not see many keyboard or knob based interfaces any more, as latest in 2011 the market will be flooded by tabloids, androids or alike. It’s all gestures, multitouch, intuitive customizability.

The crucial question for content owners and sellers will be, how will the respective content (like music) be consumed and ‘handled’ in a touchscreen environment? It’s a matter of fact, that the fast developing screen technology and interface design is producing and aiming at more interaction with the device. E.g. MoodWheel is a first hint: A simple on/off switch combined with zero interaction will not match the users demands any more if they are presented a device that allows so much more. Scrolling through tree-like menus, being asked to compile playlists in a time eating manner, tag and sort stuff will be a K.O. criteria as soon as new forms and options to interact with your device create new habits and thus a new approach towards media consumption, and therefore towards the content itself.

A detour – today really nobody is interested in downloading any more. People stream stuff. And at the same time the amount of data being uploaded is higher than the one downloaded. Because people do already see online content as matter to use, to work with, to modify, to create, rather than stuff they buy, store, own. So this will be your clients in the future. Now try to sell them watermarked unmodifiable mp3s.


slick interface

Not convinced? Would you demand a house party with DJs that do no beat matching and mixing?

Would you demand a portable keyboard with your iPad/iPhone?

Would you demand sound being turned off at the movies because in former days you got used to silent movies?

Sounds stupid, but all this are altered habits based on changes in interface and/or screen technology.

Now think of music being presented not as playlists you need to skip through, maybe not even separate songs any more, but material you can proactively interact with? Say a song that can be played with various video edits that you swipe over it, or that can be altered from a pop version to a singer songwriter or dub or instrumental version by a simple gesture you perform on the screen just because you feel like…

Btw. such technology is already in the pipeline – or better on the hard discs – of developers that will rule the music industries means of distribution tomorrow. Not to speak about issues of connecting traditional content to social media ect.

I just wrote down the first ideas that came to my mind, but it shows that there are many, many ideas that need to be thought of and considered that will have a major impact on how recording industry will need to present their content in order to sell it in the near future.
That new interfaces / screens will penetrate our daily routines in the next 1,5 years is a matter of fact, but why does nobody from the recording industry think of the effects yet? There is plenty of reason to lament about the current situation of decreasing sales and piracy issues, but there is even more reason to evaluate options to regain control about your valuable products and influence on your consumers.

just a thought I had this morning riding the tube…

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