The Importance of a Brilliant UI
I recently read a blog by Thomas Wailgum in CIO Magazine's online advice section. Wailgum's headline was, "How Much is a Simple User Interface Worth?" He cites by example the story of Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hseih, who publicly explained that a $1.6 million loss stemming from a pricing error was the result of overly complex business software.
I can really relate to the topic because I consider myself a UI snob. I'm sure I cannot design a good UI, but as a user I know one when I see it. By way of example, I think Google SketchUp has a brilliant UI. Of course, I am biased on that one. Apple is singularly famous for gorgeous and simple UI's. For this reason, my laptops have been exclusively Mac's since 2005 when an Apple employee first talked me into switching. (Thank you, Paolo.) And I recently purchased an astronomy application titled Starry Night which has a great UI. Surely, I am a UI snob.
A brilliant UI takes a complex business problem or process and turns it into a simple and manageable presentation to the user. It masks the underlying complexity without sacrificing the user's control over the intricacies of the problem. And it must be intuitive so the user can think ahead with the software. Those are not light requirements. A brilliant UI was one of our goals in developing the Vico Office suite. Well-integrated 5D Virtual Construction surely qualifies as a complex business problem and process. We wanted to turn that complexity into a simple, manageable, intuitive presentation to the user without sacrificing control over the intricacies. And we think we succeeded.
Caption: This example from Vico Office contains a workflow panel on the left; the quantity takeoff items from the model in the middle column; and a section cut of model on the right. Note that one element is highlighted in yellow from the quantity takeoff items list - it is also highlighted in yellow in the model.
We have several uber-smart people working on product design at Vico, but our UI guru is Aviad Almagor. The same guy who brings you the Vico Comics in his blog. Aviad possesses an ambidextrous brain. He is, at once, one of the most artistic and scientific guys I know. He is an architect by education and a technologist by profession. He is equally comfortable studying a piece of art as he is solving a set of differential equations. His mental yin and yang has produced our Vico Office UI, and the elegance of this UI is a great service to the complexity of the underlying applications. Well done, Aviad and Team. Never underestimate the importance of a brilliant UI.