I think an interesting pivot occurs when your start hitting the limits of working memory. Posting a photo is usually pretty immediate and doesn't max out your working memory.
Many years ago, I worked on a project to convert a Loan Application system from a VT100 "green screen" terminal to a Web Interface.
The Web Interface was actually pretty good, but it required too much navigation and too much working memory. We tried to reduce the number of clicks, but then the pages themselves became too slow and confusing.
Finally I got to see someone using the old VT100 app. It was blistering fast, and they supplemented it with codes written on a piece of paper. Crude and it required training, but it was far superior. The main thing was navigation. The codes on the paper were enough of a picture to offload that bit of cognitive processing... With the web interface, as soon as you clicked and had to pause or search - you'd lose the thread.
Unfortunately too late for that project, but a good lesson for me.
My guess would be keyboard navigation, and entering numbers as codes instead of clicking radio buttons.
It's important to remember that discoverability in an interface doesn't matter as much when you can train the workers. Not everything has to be intuitive, especially when you control training (and you can trade eventual speed for immediate understanding).
This is the basis for all the VI/Emacs users who claim to be more productive than in a visual editor/IDE.
My theory was the biggest issue was the UI enforced a workflow. Most likely the banker is given a big pile of documents, then they work through it. One confirms your address, the next your income, the other is some other piece of evidence.
I particularly noticed they would be sitting there shuffling back and forth between the paper & then shuffling back and forth on the interface. It caused a lot of rework, and required you to remember where you were at with both.
The Web Interface was waaay to rigid. Want to add a party - you need to enter their name and work details. So you'd have to track down that information. Even if it wasn't 100% required to get a provisional. You could enter whatever value you wanted for the income at this stage, so why force the banker to enter work address and work phone? They can do that at final docs when you're required to provide a payslip (for example!).
Paper & terminal worked because you could move quickly between disconnected parts. Enter the person's name and DOB. Then jump to income. Back to their home address. Over to some kind of KYC information, etc, etc.
So I came up with something that was a bit more of a mind-map. Each node indicated if it (and it's subnodes) were complete or not. You could jump around and enter data in whichever order you liked & not have to think too much about what we left to do. Then the nav was about quickly moving up & down the tree (keyboard being a big factor).
It focused on making the data capture piece much more organic & goal-based. You only needed to enter discrete information to get a provisional, so use flags to tell the user what's needed. Then they can populate the space in any order they like.
Was waaaaaaaaay to weird for a conservative bank to consider :-) So I never really got to try it out. Would have been interesting to see if it made any difference.
1) Make sure that the UI fits with the order they have data on the bits of paper.
2) Let them data in any order they like, and give them a big "Validate" button they can press to check whether what they've entered is all coherent. (Don't check as they go along, or the validation markers will confuse and distract them.)
Couldn't disagree more. Cognitive load is a major element of information architecture and even has an explicit representation in flow charts. Any book on information architecture or UX is half about it.
Many if not most decisions in interface design and IA are based on estimating (and reducing) cognitive load - how many options/buttons to present, how deep navigation should go, how to group things, splitting up an action flow in order to reduce the memory/choices needed...
The example given for QR codes is also wrong - "So it’s a barcode? No? ..." - it is a barcode and you need a barcode scanner/app, everyone knows how barcodes work. QR codes are not the best thing around, but IMO they didn't catch on for a lack of interest from manufacturers (no native support), not because it's overly complex.
One thing that could definitely be improved is if the built-in camera app on your phone automatically detected them and popped-up more info. When I first tried using a QR code, that's what I did, using the iphone camera app, and was disappointed to discover it didn't work this way.
Eliminating the need for an extra app and could dramatically boost their appeal, but the core concept is there.
When I figured out that it holds information that must be interpreted by an app, I was amazed and fooled around to see how amazingly accurate it is at reading it.
But still, I see why it never caught-on here. We are a nation used to transfer pirated audio/video files, crack games and just don't expect things to work like "take a photo and a website opens". There is a poster about a concert with a QR code? Just google the artists name with the city name and the first result is the website selling the tickets. Why bother to find out what is that funny barcode, download an app for that? Just google it, you will find what's going on...
Bing Vision can also apparently scan text you point the phone at, translate it to a different language, and the overlay the translation on the screen.
TL;DR: They solve a problem that people don't have.
This is probably due to the evolution of Japanese phones, which have had a crude mobile internet and built-in cameras from about 2000 onwards. Given the limitations of the devices and networks, QR codes were the easiest way to move data between phones (because there was no way in hell NTT would allow you to run apps on one).
These then got used for coupons, and with the shrinking economy and people wanting to save money, people quickly internalized how QR codes worked. Likewise, phones come with QR capability as a builtin -- it's not a separate app.
I imagine you might see the same sort of use case in developing nations where computers and smartphones are too expensive, but that window is rapidly shrinking due to the low cost of Android devices.
Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision
for the limits of the world. -- Arthur Schopenhauer
Heck, I even wrote a disclaimer:
The author David Leib has an engineering and MBA background. This stuff is "duh" levels of old hat to folk with any kind of cog psych background. Anybody who is vaguely competent and IA/IxD should understand the term and have it in their toolbox.
This stuff is, unfortunately, rarely talked about and even more rarely taught to engineers and business folk.
Psychologist told me, "Multimedia Learning" (by Mayer) is taken more seriously by psychologist than "Cognitive Load Theory".
The most cognitively recognizable interface won't get people using something if they don't care about the information coming from the other side. Conversely, if there is information that the end user needs, he will spend the time learning the interface. For example, if Shazam didn't exist and you heard a song you really liked at the bar, you might ask around, google some fragment of the lyrics you recognize, etc. to find out the same information. So if Shazam had an interface that was far less-intuitive, I have to believe it would still be very popular.
That sounds simple, but I think the article puts the weight on the interface without much regard to the fact that all interfaces are merely a means to an end.
The pleasure payoff must be higher than the pain inflicted (so to speak). Just because people want something, it doesn't mean they are truly willing to put in the required effort to get it. As the average pain tolerance of the mass market is low, the payoff must be very high (communication with loved ones, financial well-being, major time savings) for a high pain point (cognitive load in this case) to be endured.
It is helpful to identify if there are multiple types of users, each with different goals and pain points. If that is the case, it is optimal to only expose users to the cognitive load necessary for the tasks they are interested in. For example, there could be anonymous browsers, participants, authors, and moderators. In that case, the cognitive load for casual browsers should be as low as possible, since they have the least benefit and buy-in. As with graceful degradation for less capable web browser software, apps should degrade gracefully for users with less capability or interest in using the additional features which require a higher cognitive load.
With regards to Shazam, I disagree that it would have been as successful if the interface was more complicated. Sure people would still have used it, but if it was harder to figure out or required more steps or had a 15 minute delay before it emailed you the answer, usage would have been far lower.
Sorry if this all sounds like a cognitive load of shit. Hopefully I have communicated it clearly, but I suspect I may have exceeded the pain threshold a while ago.
How do you target that? I'm not entirely sure you can. Is there a set of steps you can follow, a design process, that will get you to something people really, really want?
The roots of the idea of cognitive load - rather than the phrase itself - can be traced back to Miller's seminal (and much misinterpreted) "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information" (http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/users/peterson/psy430s2001/Mill...) although he didn't use the term "cognitive load" itself.
The term "cognitive load" was certainly used in the 60's and 70's - I remember reading it in papers - but IIRC it didn't really have any formal definition or model at that point.
Modern uses of cognitive load track back to John Sweller's development of Cognitive Load Theory in the 80's. It was his work that really popularised it and pushed it out as a well recognised term in things like instructional design and the various disciplines that have morphed into what we now call UX.
In relation to the web, a quick Google Scholar search brings up lots of papers from the 1990s: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=%22cognitive+overhead%22...
I recently fixed up an old bit of scientific apparatus, which was used to measure the cognitive workload of various aircraft cockpit designs. It used a method called visual occlusion, which you can guess the rest of—the pilots would sit in trainers with a set of glasses, that had spring-loaded solenoid flaps to block the pilots' vision selectively. The open time as well as the frequency of the system was experimentally varied until the pilot could fly the plane safely, for given conditions. The vacuum tube circuit that I repaired had a date stamp from the mid seventies but this technique was already more than a decade old by then. The same technique is now used (with liquid crystal shutters) to evaluate interfaces in cars for drivers, maybe a variant would be useful for certain application areas of software (modulating the screen, perhaps)?
Pupil size and problem solving
The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1968
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If you search that book for "cognitive load is defined" you get the snippet:
> "Cognitive load" is defined loosely as the amount of mental strain put on a person during the performance of some task, often at least partially due to the constraints placed on the performance of that task...
It's also used in this 1961 paper, which looks at spare mental capacity of car drivers compared to the mental load imposed by various driving situations: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00140136108930505
Here's the crude Google ngrams view of some of the variant terms: http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=cognitive+load%... The "mental load" data is polluted by OCR errors like "supple- mental load" though, especially earlier on.
PDF link (bad quality): http://www.filedropper.com/article
If we extrapolated your approach to development then we shouldn't allow highlighting editors, debuggers (Linus has argued this), and similar modern tools. Heck you should have to wait hours/days for program output like they did in the punch card days.
I suspect that skilled people can make good use of the tools available, be they completely manual or with lots of automation. It is quite possible the automation doesn't help them that much. But the vast majority of people are closer to average.
I thought the diopter adjustment could compensate for glasses?
The problem I had when I tried it was that I could get everything looking perfect through the viewfinder, but the resulting picture was blurred. My current prescriptions round to the nearest 0.25 (glasses) / 0.5 (contacts) dioptres.
Even if I could make a perfect adjustment, my vision alters during the day. For example when tired things can get a little blurry.
Perhaps you can take great pictures with that Hasselblad because you understand exactly what it does and how it does it?
How many of us would use a music player that just had start and stop buttons? Why would this seem as an inconvenience? If the product is already familiar, then it would be better to improve on the already familiar interface. When it is a completely new technology, you get an opportunity to make a fresh start.
Similarly, many niche products have power users who would be unhappy if the interface is too "dumbed down". The classic case of an IDE and UNIX text editors come to mind. An IDE is quite obvious to use, but many would not find it as efficient.
Cognitive overhead is a good guideline but we need to understand our target market first.
Also, music players are quite a bad example of something to disrupt - the iPod has pretty much shown 12 years ago what's the easiest possible interface that still does what 99% of users need. I think he's rather talking about cloud services that automate some of of your task where he proposes to actually add more steps / buttons / messages in the middle that help the user understand what's going on. To quote the article:
> Put your user in the middle of your flow. Make them press an extra button, make them provide some inputs, let them be part of the service-providing, rather than a bystander to it. If they are part of the flow, they have a better vantage point to see what’s going on. Automation is great, but it’s a layer of cognitive complexity that should be used carefully. (Bump puts the user in the middle of the flow quite physically. While there were other ways to build a scalable solution without the physical bump, it’s very effective for helping people internalize exactly what’s going on.)
Erm... This is the point of the article to some extent ;)
I think you're misunderstanding cognitive load/overhead. It's not about dumbing down. It's not about reducing the amount of information or interface. It's not about "less stuff".
Dealing with the human limits on what people can process often involves doing exactly the opposite. You add more information or use familiar interfaces so that folk don't have to remember/learn new things.
See http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Cognitive_load for some info.
Two words: iPod Shuffle. Or, if you want a slightly more complicated example, Pandora. Pandora literally started out with three buttons: "I like it", "I don't like it" and "Stop". Recently, they added a fourth, "Skip".
The post is quite specific about targeting the mass market.
Vim is an example. One of the key benefits of Vim's editing style is that it reduces (one kind of) cognitive overhead. It really does.
You want to delete the current sentence? Just type 'das'. Want to change the text within the quotes? Just type 'ci"'. It allows you to more directly express your editing operations, rather than having to translate them into a number of steps. That reduces the cognitive overhead of that action.
It's also a case where you need a certain amount of training before you can perform the actions that reduce the cognitive overhead. Nothing says that the reduction in cognitive overhead has to be there from the get-go.
I'm not saying that Vim's operation reduces cognitive overhead in all ways, but that it does in one specific respect.
I am working on a product where that is a critical design principle. An interesting related question I am wrestling with: can a product be successful by reducing overall cognitive load for a user, but carrying a larger cognitive load than the average app? That is, it reduces complexity for users, but since it deals with higher complexity concepts, it still nets out to being more complex. If so, how much additional cognitive load does this make tolerable/enjoyable? My guess is a little, but not much (in the mass market, of course).
As soon as you start actually using a product, it's really nice if it has a simple, pronouncible name. It's much easier to say: "Did you see this on Trello?" to a coworker than "Did you see this on FogCreek To Do List Pro?"
Another simple product with a great name is Doodle. Of course you could have a more obvious name, like "Cooperative Schedule Maker 3.0". But that just makes it so much harder to talk about!
Trello is a good name.
See also: http://www.thebaffler.com/past/the_meme_hustler
- Original iPod
- Fender Stratocaster
- Roland TB-303
- Casio F91W
- Unix (Ok, it's not a simple product, but "everything is a file" goes a long way.)
I always thought my design skill and difficulties were separate issues, perhaps connected at some neurological level, but I think the wide variations of intellectual ability (+/- 15 IQ swings that normal people don't experience) are why we develop such creativity and design sense. I have a week or two every year when I'm basically incapable of doing most of the stuff that's normally easy, but during that time I learn how to design for that person. How do you get the person whose cognitive resources are strained (fatigue, not stupidity) to see the value right away, rather than fear and uncertainty and chaos?
We have to be careful, though. It's not that the rest of the world is stupid. The cognitive-load problem isn't about stupidity. It's about the fact that there are a million things competing for peoples' attentions and unless we can prove right away that our wares are cool (by demonstrating value in a simple, low-cognitive-load way) we fade into the noise.
Traveling through the forest during summer is much more comfortable, but you can't get as sharp a feel of the landscape because the trees are leaved out.