Why Technology Today Should Be Magical (and why it isn’t).


Most of us have heard at one point or another the quote above from Arthur C. Clarke. And it’s true. In fact, I would suppose that most everyone in the business of technology, whether someone at the C level, or an engineer, or designer, and anyone else feels that this statement is true, and has a desire to make it so within their respective company.

But I think that as much as people want to make this happen, most of them can’t. The reason being, I believe, is they just can’t get past what they’re used to doing and redoing over and over and over again. It’s okay to take an idea and iterate on it, perfect it, make it better. But “lightning in a bottle” eventually loses it’s energy.

And not a lot of people get those “aha!” moments, or are capable of them, or even worse, there are those who are capable of amazing ideas but those above them in an organization, are afraid to rock the boat and do something different, or as the famous Apple campaign touted, to think different.

I believe though that everyone is born to be creative.
However, if that creativity is never nurtured by either a parent, teacher, or boss, then creativity within a given individual either dies, or maybe, just gets put away into some dusty little closet never to be played with again.

I myself have had plenty of moments of some new idea only to get shot down because management was used to doing things the way they were, and (even though they were bleeding users), thought it best to not get “too showy” or keep doing what worked best the last 20 years, but pretty things up.

Recently, I was reading an article on Interfaces on Demand. It had some great points, and was well thought out for the most part. My beef with it though, because this was written by someone in my field (experience design), was off and I was a bit surprised that the writer kept to the same conventions of usability that you and I and others are used to.

We need to stop thinking about how things should work the way we’re used to doing them. This is the future after all. We have computers we keep in our pockets, cars that talk to us and our devices, home appliances and smart things that all are beginning to work seamlessly (and I’m surprised it took this long, since I was working on the same stuff ready for market back in 1999 at Stellcom).

Making Tech a Magical Experience

Here’s the point: Our smart devices can only be as smart as the software written for them. My iPhone knows where I live, if I drive a car, how long it will take to get somewhere, where my car is parked, and so forth. It’s scary yet at the same time pretty neat. And I didn’t have to tell it anything or set anything up (aside from my home address when I got my phone).

Now imagine if my iPhone could tell me where there’s good parking when I get close to a destination, or has figured out where I tend to eat lunch or dinner when I’m out – and then tells me where a good place is to eat around lunch or dinner time when I’m not in my local neighborhood or in an area I’m not familiar with AND it offers to make a reservation for me thanks to Open Table…

I have yet to see that. Yes, Google Cards does something kind of like that, but I have to tell it what I want and they only work with Google apps – last time I tried to use them on my phone, which to be honest was a while ago, and to be even more honest, a pain to use. Tech should not be a pain to use. Smart tech should work with any app to leverage it’s features in order to create a seamless and magical experience. And it needs to be at the top interaction/user layer vs. buried in it’s own app.

So to all of my fellow UX/Experience Design/Technology colleagues: Stop being afraid to do something so different that it will blow people’s minds. It’s our job to make technology indistinguishable from magic.

Stop thinking small, safe and comfortable.


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