Edward Tufte: Interface design and the iPhone

Edward Tufte, the design guru, is always a fascinating read. I have several of his books. They are visual wonders, but a little light on text, and I like text.

I try to think in terms of the principles of design that he lays out in his books, but not being as visual as some, I always make ugly ass pages. I do try to make the program flow in my systems redundant, obvious and logical so that users don’t easily get lost.

Tufte has written a blog entry on the iPhone which explains, in design terms, why it is much more successful than the interface to a normal phone. There is a nice long excerpt from his 1997 book Visual Explanations, which is required reading if you want to understand how good designers create the interface to software.

All other cell phones reek of boiler plate designs originating overseas in programming sweat shops and written by programmers paid by the line. One of my design rules is that reality is not hierarchical. Interfaces should not be menus within menus. Interfaces should facility the accomplishment of tasks and this often accomplished by jumps to the next step, but paths form a network or spider web of threads rather than a tree.