Interface Design: An Argument for the IBM i2 Approach
April 15, 2016
i read “Why I Love Ugly, Messy Interfaces — and You Probably Do Too.” I have been checking out information about interfaces for augmented intelligence or what I call “cyber OSINT.” The idea I am exploring is how different vendors present information functions to people who are working under pressure. Now the pressure in which I am interested involves law enforcement, intelligence, and staying alive. I am not too worried about how to check the weather on a mobile phone.
The write up points out that
…there is no single right way to do things. There’s no reason to assume that having a lot of links or text on a page, or a dense UI, or a sparse aesthetic is fundamentally bad — those might be fine choices for the problem at hand. Especially if it’s a big, hairy problem. Products that solve big, hairy problems are life savers. I love using these products because they work so damn well. Sure they’re kind of a sprawling mess. That’s exactly why they work!
The interface has a menu bar across the top, display panels, and sidebar options. In order to use this application which is called Analyst’s Notebook, one attends classes. Years ago I did a little work for i2 before it became part of IBM. Without regular use of the application, I would forget how to perform certain tasks.
There is a competitor to i2’s Analysts Notebook: Palantir Gotham. Again, courtesy of Google Images, here’s an example of the Palantir Gotham interface:
The principal difference between the two interfaces boils down to color.
There are some significant differences, and these include:
- Palantir provides more helper and wizard functions. These allow a user to perform many tasks without sitting through five or more days of classroom and hands on instruction.
- The colors and presentation are more stylish, not exactly a mobile phone app approach but slicker than the Analyst’s Notebook design
- The interface automates more functions. Both applications require the user to perform some darned tedious work. But once that work is completed, Gotham allows software to perform some tasks with a mouse click.
My point is that interface choices and functionality have to work together. If the work flows are not assisted by the interface and smart software, simple or complex interfaces will be a barrier to quick, high value work.
When someone is shooting at the person operating the laptop with either of these applications in use, the ability to complete a task without confusion is paramount. Confusing pretty with staying alive is not particularly helpful.
Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2016