“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

More thoughts on pliability as an aesthetic of IxD

Last week, I wrote a short blurb referencing Jonas Lwgren’s article describing pliability as a type of aesthetic for interaction design. Here I expand a little more on the topic with some of my own ideas.

As a refresher, Jonas uses the word “pliability” to describe the quality of an interaction where there is an immediate appropriate reaction to the physical action a user takes. The more immediate (tight) this action is, the more pliable it is.

One of the great examples he gives it the use of a mouse drag to move a map in Google Maps. Mousedown > move mouse and the map moves along with you. Compare that to the Mapquest model and the idea of pliability becomes really clear. In Mapquest, you move a map by clicking on arrows that surround the map. Mousedown > wait for system refresh > page reappears recentered towards the direction you gave.

This mode is not only not pliable, but is also disruptive. the GMaps way allows the user to always remain in context to the movement as opposed to the more jolting MapQuest approach.

Taking this a step further …

Recently, I’ve had an opportunity to get my hands on a Zune. This is Microsoft’s entry into the MP3 player market. Now, this isn’t going to be a critique of the Zune, there are too many out there. But I did want to compare a core differentiator between the Zune and the iPd (I just got an early Chanukah present toda-a new iPod Video)–that is the navigation method.

Zune uses a classic 5-button dialpad that most people with a cellphone have experienced for the last umpteen years now. The iPod has the covetted, award winning click-wheel. The “wheel” concept has been at the core of the iPod experience since its inception. The “wheel” is also a GREAT example of pliability. A move my thumb in a direction and the appropriate action occurs.

You could say that the D–pad on the Zune is just as pliable. I hit down and the selector goes down. I click up and it goes up, right?

But where the iPod has an increase in pliability is in the wheel to software interaction around the speed of circular movement. The faster I go around the wheel the faster the selections move. This acceleration of physical action directly impacting the acceleration of a corresponding and appropriate virtual response to me is the epitome of the definition of pliability.

Pliability when applied to RIAs has a lot of contexts to focus on. Google Maps is an obvious posterchild in tihs regard taking pliability almost as far as the iPod click wheel. The problem with the Google Map version is that I can only move in spurts equal to the size of the visible portion of the map. What might be more interesting is some type of infinite navigation method that does not require a “reload” of the mouse.

But pliability does have degrees, and we don’t have to be perfect with it. Just by using an RIA technology to reduce the number and amount of page refreshes will increase pliability and create a more positive affect around the use of your designed solution.

A great example of this is the ratings on Netflix. Further on Flickr is the ability to add/modify your title and description easily and add annotations to images. These interactions have a much more pliable interaction model than one that didn’t use an RIA-based solution.

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