Industry News

April 27, 2012

Interactive design isn't just for products, but ideas as well

When modern consumers think of interactivity in mobile application design, they think of games, documents and other products. John Pavlus at Co.Design recently asked, what about interfacing with an idea though? Ideas are typically insubstantial and unformed. However, Pavlus took a look at Fish, a free iPhone app developed by Robin Sloan, and saw an idea with an interface - something a user can interact with.

Fish, Sloan told Pavlus in an interview, began as an idea for a blog post on the difference between liking something on the internet and "loving it." To Sloan, the amount of data that we view online on a daily basis is overwhelming. Much of this information goes in one ear and out the other, and the things that catch the viewer's interest for more than several seconds get "liked" and shared with friends. But how often does that viewer revisit that "liked" article or image?

According to Sloan, the difference between "liking" something and loving it is returning to it, reading it a second, third or even fourth time. That is why Sloan created Fish as an iPhone app, rather than a blog post or online publication. He wanted the reader's experience to be uninterrupted and intimate. Pavlus' experience with Fish certainly left an impression on him.

Pavlus wrote that his takeaway from the app was that "ideas need interfaces, too," meaning that an idea needs to appeal to the senses and the mind in order to have real meaning, unlike a Tweet or status update. Giving an idea "edges" allows the audience to love it, not just "like" it.

Fish exemplifies this. With a straightforward design that won't let the viewer go "back" or swipe through slides, the user has to tap through each screen. This GUI design reinforces Sloan's idea, giving each slide a sense of importance. This is helped by, as Pavlus put it, Sloan's "preacher-like repetition and a deft sense of when to deploy a single, vivid image."

Companies can learn a mobile application design lesson or two from Sloan. Short passages without distracting backgrounds and well-placed images can do more to capture a reader's attention than animation, flashy style and other common design tricks. Maybe focusing on the idea, and encouraging an audience to love it rather than "like" it, will also help.