Creative Energies: Doing User Interaction Design

As you will have noticed, my newsletters are getting fewer and further between. Nowadays, most of my creative energies go into my work for TVBLOB. “What work is that?” you may ask. Good question. As in many startups, roles aren’t well-defined, but, basically, everything that touches our future end-user customers will somehow, someday, be my responsibility.

For the moment, my main job is designing software features, behaviors, and interfaces. This would be relatively straightforward if we were making software for the familiar Windows environment – I’ve been closely involved in the development and support of some very popular Windows software packages, and I have very clear ideas on what works and what doesn’t.

But TVBLOB’s software and services will be displayed on a television set, with a far smaller viewing area (in terms of pixels) than any modern computer monitor. Try setting your computer display to its smallest possible resolution and you’ll get the idea – except that, at least on my current computer, the smallest possible setting is 800×600 pixels, while a standard PAL (European) television set can display roughly 700×550.

Limited screen real estate is not the only design problem I’m up against. The hardware I’m designing for is not a computer with a keyboard; we expect that people will mostly use a TV-style remote control to interact with our software. And I don’t mean a huge, clunky remote with 300 buttons that are so tiny you can’t press them, let alone remember what they’re all for. Our remote will have only a few more buttons than you’d find on your average DVD player controller. So I have to use them wisely.

Not that I’m complaining. It’s a fascinating set of design challenges, and I’m having lots of fun. But the work does tend to wring all the creative juices right out of me…

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