The best presentation I saw at SXSW this year was by Peter Merholz. The title was “Stop Designing Products,” but the take-away was the experience is the product.
Merholz gave some examples of past technologies: cameras, automobiles. Early on, they are often tough to use. You had to develop your own film and be your own mechanic.
“Like a dog’s walking on his hind legs, it is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” –Samuel Johnson
Then come features galore. Some of the fanciest VCRs still blink .
Merholz’s best example was George Eastman, who created the Kodak camera. No thick manual was required. “You press the button, we do the rest.”
Eastman understood the way people wanted to use their cameras. They didn’t want to know all the technology and they didn’t want to develop their pictures. They wanted it easy.
The money slides from the presentation were a set that show an abstracted version of your program. Data is at the core, with logic surrounding it, and the user interface on the outside. At least, that’s what we see. All the user sees is the UI. When done right, the rest is magic.
When designing, if you start with the data and move outwards, your program doesn’t understand the user. Instead, you have to start with the experience, because the experience is the product. Design from the outside in.
Merholz has slides available (38 MB PDF) of a longer version of this presentation.
Update: The audio from this SXSW talk is now available from their site.
Another update: Merholz’s talk is available as an article (with many of the same images from his talk).
Last update: The slides are now available in full presentation mode including audio.