Original Post Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This week I am attending the Systems and Software Technology Conference 2011 in Salt Lake City.  I've been a regular at this conference for the last 20 years.  While attendance has declined, the conference continues to deliver quality content for developers and acquirers of software and software intensive systems. 

The keynote was delivered by this year’s recipients of the prestigious Wayne Stevens Award.  Barry Boehm, one of the recipients was well known to everyone in the room and the software community.  He gave a great presentation reviewing his technology predictions from a paper presented in 2006 and offered predictions for 2011 and beyond.  His comments and insights were, predictably, insightful and characteristically brilliant.  Some of the things we should expect include increased blending of software and systems engineering function,  continued complex systems of systems, focus on user experience, legacy challenges, autonomy and biological computing.   

The second recipient was less well known but equally fascinating.  Jarod Spool, a seasoned veteran in usability and user design, gave a fascinating account of intuitive design.  According to Jaraod, intuitive design is invisible – kind of like the air conditioning.  No one ever walks into a conference room and comments on how perfect the temperature is.  It’s all about moving away from features and towards the user experience.  He gave examples of really intuitive and very unintuitive applications.  He talked about the applications of artificial intelligence in the context of usability concerns. 

This great quote captures the essence of his remarks in this area….”We have to go beyond intelligence to how people really think.”  It’s hard to find well designed, intuitive user interfaces – it’s great to hear the thoughts in this area from someone who has insight and good ideas.

One of my favorite examples of poorly thought out user interfaces is the software in almost every ATM machine I’ve ever visited.  Why, if all cash is in $20 increments do I need to ask for $200.00 – what’s with the decimal points?  What’s your pet peeve with user interfaces?  What user interface really sticks out in your mind as outstanding?