Skill Based Interfaces

guitar pic

first posted 10th December 2009

I’ll be aiming to use this blog as a scrap book of different ideas I’ve mulled over through the years, a way to ensure they don’t get lost in some future mental clear out and also something I can point people to if I ever talk about the concept. So, briefly, I want to describe what I’ve been calling skill based interfaces. This concept came about as a balance to the idea that interfaces that are intuitive are therefore usable.

Two examples of interfaces that contradict this idea are the interface for driving a car and that of any guitar. These are very much physical interfaces, especially with the guitar, but the principle of manipulation to produce an end result remains. As a amateur musician and long term guitar player I find it fascinating to watch my fingers as I think about the tune and notes to play and they appear to work out what to do in order to deliver that. Much of the real cognative load it passed over to lower level processes. Much is the same with driving a car, you think about going somewhere and much of the actions happen automatically, also the same can be said for touch typing.

So if an interface is to be used on a regular basis is a easy to use clear interface even needed? For example with the iphone the onscreen keyboard is easy to use for many but for a device that size in regular use whe not build in something like a chording keyboard – a keyboard that can be used one handed to rapidly enter text ? There are many areas of user experience design I feel this touches upon and my next step, sometime in the future, is to try and see if I can find out more about this idea.

photo by Toni Blay


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