Give almost any teenager a digital camera or mobile phone, and he can usually figure out all of the core functions without consulting a manual. This is true even if the device is set to a foreign language that he doesn’t speak.
Give that same phone or camera to an elderly person, and watch the frustration that ensues.
Are young adults simply smarter than those from older generations?
It’s just that today’s teenagers grow up with modern gadgets that increasingly follow the same intuitive designs. Even when using an entirely new device, they can quickly decipher the underlying logic behind most handheld technology.
The question is, will this trend ever come into the software application world? Will there be new digital products that allow complete novices to effortlessly unlock the features they desire?
We would argue yes. Let’s explore why.
Idiot-Proof, Interchangeable, and Intuitive Technology
The teenagers of today aren’t magically gifted. As pointed out, they’ve spent their very short lives already immersed in different technologies that adhere to tried and tested principles.
But this trend is hardly new.
Intuitive, idiot-proof design has been a staple of civilization since the Industrial Revolution – maybe earlier. During the 1800s, for example, manufacturers started producing guns with interchangeable parts. You only needed to learn the system once. If a component broke, a user could relatively easily fix or replace that part without seeking outside help.
Even today, technology continues to follow well-established norms:
- Thanks to VCRs, everyone knows what the iconic “play” triangle means.
- If you want to log out of a website, your best bet is to check the upper right-hand corner.
- Want to change the settings in a software product? Just look for the cogwheel.
These are all very basic examples, but they highlight the symbiotic relationship that exists throughout technology:
- Developers want to remain relevant, so they conform to user interface standards.
- Users expect intuitive design and become frustrated when it is absent.
In short, expectations drive conformity, and conformity sets expectations.
The Future of Intuitively Designed Software Platforms
We’re still in the beginning stages of this convergence – at least in the IT world. And today’s teenagers are merely early adapters who joined this learning curve at the right time (and age).
But in the decades to come, you can expect future software interfaces to be even more simplistic – despite increasing complexity under the hood.
Both users and developers benefit from this growing simplicity:
- On the business side, user interfaces become easier to design since many graphical decisions are already made for you. You don’t have to decide where to put Option A or Feature B. This also helps to reduce troubleshooting expenses for companies. End-users know exactly where to look for the features they need without calling tech support.
- On the consumer side, users spend less time thinking about how to use a product and more time simply using it. In many ways, this is the ultimate goal of a well-designed platform.
As this practice becomes more established, it opens up a whole new vista of opportunities.
Imagine a world in which software products and websites become automatic – able to deduce what we want with minimal feedback.
For example, you want a new T-shirt. Your favorite e-commerce software platform knows you like navy blue. It also knows that you like V-neck cuts. And based on past selections, the application also knows your size and build.
And voila. The software automatically scours the Web to buy and ship your ideal shirt – based on price and 5-star reviews.
You don’t even have to click “buy.” Using RIFD chips, such a platform could theoretically monitor things like frequency-of-use or general wear & tear to ensure that your wardrobe always remains current.
User interfaces without the user. Sounds far-fetched, right?
But that future is already fast approaching. From smart thermostats to Amazon recommendations to Apple’s Siri, we’re increasingly surrounded by technologies that do all of the heavy lifting for us. There’s even an AI platform that can custom design new websites from scratch.
In the years ahead, we’ll have to constantly redefine what it means to be a technophobe (or technophile). Remember that the grandparents of tomorrow are the tech-savvy teenagers of today.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment down below.