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Which cities have the best user interface?


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March 04, 2007

Which cities have the best user interface?

Stephen Baker

Khoi Vinh, online design director of NYTimes.com, looks at cities as applications, each one designed with intuitive design. This is nothing new to urban planners, of course. But I'd never thought of cities the way I think of Web page navigation.

Vinh writes: Aside from being a mildly absurd extension of our professional design vernacular, there?? actually a real idea behind this phrase: given any new city, there are certain things that should be easy for tourists to comprehend without assistance.

These things might include: how and when to use the subway or bus, how and where to buy fares for public transportation, how to make a call at a public telephone, how and where to flag a taxi, what to expect upon entering and leaving the airport, how and where to find postal services, how and where to find a police station, et cetera.

The bad part, from my perspective, is that when cities get too easy, you can sleepwalk through them and barely notice where you are. This happens to me often in my travels through the United States. It's when you're actively trying to figure something out, like how to punch your own ticket on the Munich train system that you look around, see how other people are doing (or not doing) it, and realize that you're traveling.

09:25 AM

design, society

That's a very Brechtian outlook on interface.

Posted by: John Alderman at March 5, 2007 01:56 PM

i have to strongly oppose vinh's view of the world. i love being a tourist. but making things easy for tourists without asking for assistance is just another way to make my trip boring. why is asking for assistance is a bad thing? because you might have to put down your blackberry?

Posted by: schadenfreudisch at March 5, 2007 04:13 PM


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