User interface complexity

Great post by Tateru Nino on the death of Lively and some lessons about complexity.

In interacting with the atomic world, you have available one of the most sophisticated interaction interfaces available. It has between 60 trillion and 100 trillion basic components, and over a quadrillion discrete mechanical parts. It’s called the human body. It allows you to make coffee, paint a picture, have sex, walk, run, sit, read, write, communicate by voice, dance, sing, fill out insurance forms, build or repair machines or buildings, and more — though not every one of these options is available in every single model.

Imagine trying to perform some of the same tasks if your interaction interface was limited to a two-button mouse. Or just imagine being Stephen Hawking trying to build a shed or brew a cup of coffee, if that helps. The number of steps he has to perform even to ask someone else to do it for him is enormous, because his interaction interface is so limited.

So, ideally the interaction interface needs to be of an order of complexity that is coupled to the order of complexity of the number and type of possible tasks. If it rises above that or falls below that, performing tasks becomes harder.