Invisible UI: Why We Need It

Invisible UI: Why We Need It

Mobile phone apps are very needy. They demand all of our attention.  They disrupt our lives and prevents us from spending quality time with people in real life.  I don’t enjoy dining with my husband when his eyes are glued to his phone the whole time! Talking to my friend’s bent head while she checks her Facebook feed is no fun.  I think this is why the invisible UI is such a hot topic in design.  We’ve had enough of being disrupted by technology.  We want technology to adapt to our life and not the other way around.

As Don Norman said, “The real problem with the interface is that it is an interface. Interfaces get in the way.”

Invisible UI = Conversational UI

I always complain that I never have time to finish my Kindle books.  It’s either I have too many chores or other screens, like the TV, steal my attention away.  This morning as I folded laundry and washed dirty dishes, I asked Alexa to read a Kindle book to me.  I got through several chapters of the book while doing my chores.

It was a very emotion-filled book about a husband trying to cope with his wife’s death after she lost her battle with cancer.  Although Alexa did not convey emotion like an actor reading an Audible book might have, her voice was human enough to make me tear up during the sad parts.

Talking to Alexa doesn’t disrupt my life.  At a party, I can mix drinks for friends while asking Alexa to give me the recipe for a tequila sunrise.  Instead of getting flour, sugar and other goo on my iPad, I can have Alexa read a cupcake recipe to me while I’m baking.  When my husband asks me a question that I clearly need to google, I can ask Alexa or Google Home.

Alexa’s conversational UI lets me be present in my life.  She lets me be with my friends while still getting assistance if I need it.


A Day Made of Glass

I remember a video called, A Day Made of Glass, by Corning where they created screens on every surface of the home.  It was very futuristic at the time.  You get the weather, traffic and news on your bathroom vanity while brushing your teeth.  Your kids can talk to grandma on the kitchen countertop while having breakfast.  Your car’s dashboard is filled with the same screens that distract you from concentrating on traffic.



I think I prefer the conversational UI.  Once they make Alexa more portable (like on a watch), she will become as essential to our life as our mobile phones now are.  And we would not need screens everywhere, we can just talk to Alexa.  She will be ever present, but tucked away – invisible.

No interface to get in the way of living our lives!  Now, wouldn’t that be something?

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