I recently read Alan Cooper’s book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, which came out in the late 1990s. Cooper is known as the “Father of Visual Basic” and founder of Cooper, a San Francisco design consultancy. In his book, he takes a comprehensive look at software companies’ engineering-centric development processes and how they lead to unusable software. The book is a must-read for interaction designers.
For me, the most memorable part of the book is the chapter “Designing for Power,” in which Cooper discusses—among other interesting topics—why we should design human-like politeness into software. In this two part series of articles, I’ll discuss Cooper’s fourteen characteristics of polite software, providing relatable examples—both good and bad. I hope this approach to software design will be as helpful to you as it has been for me. Read More
Even though computers are controlling more and more of the world, they are not always getting smarter. Oh, they’re becoming more sophisticated, but humans must make computer code smart, and we don’t always get things right. It doesn’t help that we’re using old, ad hoc methods of planning, design, and analysis.
It’s scary that we sometimes don’t know why artificial intelligence (AI) systems work. But we should be even more worried that pretty much every system we use—every app, every device—is now so complex that we cannot possibly predict all system behaviors. Read More
In Part 1 of this two-part series, I highlighted the study Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass conducted at Stanford University, which showed that people treat computers, Web sites, applications, and other new media just as they treat other people. The study’s findings formed the basis of my article’s core argument: we should strive to design human-like politeness into software.
In his book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, Alan Cooper describes fourteen characteristics of polite software. I discussed the first nine of those characteristics in detail in Part 1. Now, in Part 2, I’ll cover the remaining five characteristics of polite software, providing several examples. Read More