I really enjoyed the readings this week, but specifically the Levin readings – Consistency, Why, because by the end I’m questioning the problematic nature of such a simple edict: make your design consistent across platform. Sure, of course when dealing with things like branding, you should be consistent, but as far as differing platforms, differing experiences go, is consistency enough? Much more powerful, I’d think, would be the other values he brought up: Continuous and Complementary.
Consistency is great! It keeps your users from being thrown off when switching between platforms, and consistency among apps/websites/etc. creates a design language of patterns we can draw from making it easier, faster, simpler to get to what we need.
But it’s not enough.
Because Context is everything. Because we’re using these separate devices in fundamentally different scenarios, with completely different reasons. In fact, when designing for Consistency I wonder if we typically do so at the expense of the much more powerful Complementary? Who actually cares if the entire desktop site is available on your phone – it’s a pain to use anyways. Why not design for the specific search, or reading the specific news story, and leave browsing to another context?
Are there even any great examples of Complementary design? I think this might be the biggest problem of the oncoming Internet of Things – that we are very focused, when creating, in our specific medium, and have trouble connecting two disparate contexts into one meaningful whole. But being able to harness that idea could lead to very powerful, very aware technology which could be a delight to use.
The example of the Wii U, brought up right at the end, is interesting – I have one, and it’s certainly a fun gaming platform, and I admire what Nintendo is trying to do – They realized that the controller itself is a different ‘piece’ of the puzzle, separate from the TV, and powerful in its own right… but it hasn’t yet been utilized in a way which really plays to the strengths of each. Sometimes the controller is mirroring the TV, sometimes the TV is mirroring the controller.
What happens when we separate it out? Get the TV and the Controller to be their own unique entities? What happens when we do the same for the Laptop, the Desktop, and the Mobile Phone? Does everything go haywire because people can’t access thing in a specific way (Certainly yes. This will happen. Mobile Sites are awful, and I hate being forced to use one) – But what if we get beyond the notion of ‘separate but equal’, and instead really focus on the strengths and weaknesses, and contexts, of each platform?