An entire nation with a user interface

I am always intrigued by usability, both within software and without.

I have travelled all over the world meeting with developers and this week I am in Japan meeting with the press, partners and the Adobe team focused on the enterprise to help with the launch of our Adobe LiveCycle Workflow and our developer program here. I love Japan, but it never struck me before that a country could be a study in usability.

Everything seems so well placed – there is a way to do each thing and each thing has one way to do it (navigation). Everything has instructions (help panes) and I have not once been at a loss for where to find something or where to put something (file system).

Even the language itself. No words are mangled or misused (taxonomy). In working with the translator and with my limited knowledge of Canji I am fascinated by how easy it is to make a point. It is as though there is no opportunity for abuse of terms, rhetoric or sarcasm – I am sure it exists but I am not able to see it (obfuscation). I find this totally refreshing.

(Design) In talking to the few journalists, developers and architects I have met with I see the same meticulous approach to their work – and this all about software development. They take everything in and then think it through, often not raising questions about topics I have covered until some time later. What has happened to thoughtfulness? Why are we in such a hurry to make our points known that we cannot even listen effectively.

Then there are the customs – the ultimate study in usability. Language barriers, cultural barriers, class difference, etc all melt away through the observation of simple customs. Bowing, properly presenting business cards and gifts, presentation and meeting etiquette, not turning your back on groups you are departing from and a general sense of self-respect and respect for others prevails. (RT*M – it works)

As a coder, I would like to code this back into our genome.

I know we focus on HCI but why not HHI? I suddenly want us to start wearing suits to work again or at least leave the flip-flops at the beach, engaging respectfully and attentively in meetings again, putting the distractions aside for a moment and truly taking the time to see each other for what we can contribute.

Maybe thats just it – I can focus on this while I am here because I am technically 14 hours ahead of my inbox. I am sure it will all slip away once I get back home (engineering cutbacks) but I hope not (feature prioritization).

Even the Starbucks was right where I needed it to be – in the lobby of the office tower I am working in. (end user or vertical market customization)

I know, I know. I promised that this would be a useful blog. Starting now. (RTI)