It's the interface, stupid

One little thing I wanted to blog yesterday but got trapped between politics and an obituary, the importance of the user interface and the contrast between its importance in the success of something and how people overlook it when creating things.

The technologue knows one thing: people do not interact with technology, never. They interact with interfaces. This explains why good technologies with bad interfaces have little chance to succeed, while bad technologies with good interfaces can take off.

In the people's web, Drew McLellan shows us his passion for making a better web ( like a web that uses standards) and how important it is to get people, as much as possible, put their content online without bearing the burden of technology barriers:

… the world needs badly made websites and the people who make them. Anyone who wants to publish their stuff on the web should be wholeheartedly encouraged. Sure, gently guide them to good practice if that’s possible but don’t let it get in the way. We’ll cope. We have technology. Let them get their stuff online and sod the rest.

Ultimately it’d be great if there was a low-cost general page building tool that got things right. Dreamweaver is close to getting this right (there’s still a way to go), but it’s reet expensive. FrontPage will never get there because it’s always meeting Microsoft’s agenda. I guess we need an easy-to-use open source visual web editor that understands the importance of web standards – but hey, we don’t need it that much.

I disagree on only one little point, we actually do need it that much! I strongly believe that until someone gets out with a real good and pervasive visual editor that completely hides the complexity of the tag soup, shows content to the user and outputs kocher tag soup, the semantic web will remain an elite playground.

Commenting on the first look at TypePad's screenshots, JF of 37 Signals questions:

Do you think Typepad’s apparent simplicity and approachability will help push blogs into the mainstream, or are “pay-to-blog” systems (like Typepad and Blogger Pro) forever relegated to the hard core crew?

I think that the success of weblogs is precisely and primarily due to the progress made by tools like MT and Blogger as being simple, usable interfaces between people and the web. If my mother-in-law can use a weblog to publish her site, while she has not been able to do so with pay-for tools and her ISP, no wonder why there has been a spike in micro-content publishing with weblogs and why we'll see even more growth with free or cheap weblogs in ASP mode lifting the monkey business of hosting their site away from people who couldn't care less.

It's the interface, stupid!

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