Snowboarding / Software Design Metaphor

January 24, 2010

I’ve just returned from a snowboarding trip to the beautiful Val d’Isere. One aspect of the trip made me think about software interface design.

Where possible, we tried to avoid the pistes. They are exactly as you expect them to be: busy, often icy routes that you sometimes have to use to get from A to B. In some ways, this is similar to the majority of software: clunky and not enjoyable, but we have to use it to get the job done.

We were lucky enough to have plenty of snow, so the majority of our time was spent off-piste, in beautiful powder fields. Soft, quiet, and easy-going, these are the equivalent of ‘great’ user experience in software: a smooth experience that feels and behaves exactly as we would have hoped for.

But then we came across something else.

The photo above doesn’t do it justice, but in one particular off-piste route, you have to make your way through a narrow rocky gorge of a valley. In some places, you have to take your snowboard off and slide down icy rocks, and in one part – shown above – a rope is needed to abseil down an opening in a cave before you can continue.

This is not great snowboarding. It’s hard-going, slow and sometimes dangerous. But it’s also exhilarating, and utterly memorable in how different it is.

Software interface design should remember this. A great user experience doesn’t necessarily have to be just about predicting the users’ needs, but can also be about surprising and yes, sometimes even slowing down the user.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply