Rethinking UX

April 15, 2015

Blog | Strategy | Rethinking UX
Rethinking UX

I recently had solar panels installed on my roof.  One thing in particular about the experience stands out: the folks who built the computer that controls my solar array have a totally different understanding of user interactions than I do. In world of web browsers and mobile devices, there are clicks and swipes, navigations and refreshes, logins and authorizations.  We expect that the user is going to interact with subtle and controlled gestures, and the computer or smart phone will respond with a something that “feels” like a real world reaction.

Try rotating your phone while browsing, or even just scrolling on it.  The page moves as if there’s weight to it, as if responding to gravity.  Someone did a lot of math to get that to appear natural, physical.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that the way to wake up the computer on my solar array is to hit it.  The conversation with the installer went something like this:


If the screen is blank, just hit it.
You mean, like a button or something?
No, there’s a symbol down there that shows you what to do.

If the screen is blank, just hit it.

You mean, like a button or something?

No, there’s a symbol that shows you what to do.

He pointed at an icon of a fist with an arrow pointed toward a box. I examined it, pushed it with my fingertip, and he interrupted, “No, like this,” and punched the screen with his fist.  It lit up merrily and provided a read-out of system statistics. I stood gobsmacked trying to form a sentence.

All of us have had the urge to punch our computers at some point, but most of us have figured out that it won’t actually produce the desired results.  But maybe software developers need to think about interactions in different ways – even ways that feel foreign, destructive, or just plain stupid.    I can’t say that I’m going to write a web app to respond to screen-punches, but I really have started thinking about user interaction in a fresh way.

Have you encountered any unexpected user-to-computer interactions? We’d love to hear about them. Tweet us @GeekHive.

Dan Clouse

Senior Developer
  • UI/UX

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