"Will this be too technical?"

18/09/12
That was the question the three speakers (including myself) asked each other and the moderator when we first met at IBC.

We were about to go on stage to talk about preserving the quality of user interfaces in a second screen environment - which we feared, had the potential to become either too fluffy or too technical. Each speaker came at it from a different angle, but for each of us, it was a relevant question.

IBC is the largest conference of its kind. Specifically it draws crowds that are interested in a multitude of areas of the broadcast industry and its corollaries. People come to IBC to learn about satellites, multiplexers, cameras and dollies. They come for insight into software innovation in editing and also the next generation consumer user interfaces. Suffice it to say, it is a broad audience: both technical and business focused and often difficult to categorize.

The paper I presented has some technical components to it, but it's main thesis is not technical at all. Simply stated it argues we need to pay attention to the sensation of relevance as well as actual relevance in a content discovery experience. My talk centred squarely on this: that being able to notice a point of diminishing returns - where investment in the user experience of discovery is smarter than investment in marginal accuracy gains - is very important.

I believe that having smart technology is not enough; today, product development needs to:

  • Focus on design that helps overcome the flaws of our intuition.
  • Focus on design that generates familiarity and relevance.
  • Focus on content that is navigable and easy to consume.

Making user interfaces a core part of modern product development has never been more important. Big Data, cloud compute infrastructure, smarter algorithms are only useful in the context of active and effective use. It's a broad topic that is relevant to a broad audience - whether you're technical, creative or business focused. User interface should matter to us all as consumers.

The IBC keynote by Will.i.am was a friendly reminder of effectiveness and making a subject relevant to everyone: it was certainly not the most technical, or the most structured, but it was by far the most inspirational. Will.i.am's talk connected with most of the audience, made us feel comfortable and relaxed and then delivered a powerful message:"It is all about engaging people.”

Guillermo Christen, Head of Product Development, Content Discovery