The best interface is no interface

The best interface is no interface by Golden Krishna

Time to read: 4-6 hours

Suitable for: All levels of designers and UXers, in particular those who really want to think of the user experience in a more holistic manner, as opposed to simply user interfaces.

This book is a refreshing take on design and the application of it. Golden Krishna’s book places great emphasis on the User Experience (UX) and controversially argues that we should be rethinking User Interfaces (UI) to the extent that our first thoughts should be whether a UI is actually needed in the product/service we’re building.

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I found myself agreeing with everything in the book. The whole premise of not just sticking a UI on something for the sake of it is something well worth taking away with you. There are some really good examples in the book of UIs that have been created in sacrifice of the User Experience. It does feel like there’s a huge push with the internet of things and popularity of mobile apps to put a UI on something or build an app just because companies feel they should be doing so to keep up and look futuristic, but we should be pushing back against this and really questioning if it’s creating a better user experience or if we’re just doing so because it’s cool to build an app at the moment.

One of Krishna’s gripes is the overuse of apps and he gives a great example to showcase whether a mobile app to open a car door is really worth the effort involved.

Example: App to unlock your car

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1  Walk up to my car
2  Pull out my smartphone
3  Wake up my phone
4  Unlock my phone
5  Exit my last opened app
6  Exit my last opened group
7  Swipe through a sea of icons, searching for the app
8  Tap the app icon
9  Wait for the app to load and try to find the unlock action
10 Make a guess with the menu and tap “Control”
11 Tap the Unlock button
12 Slide the slider to unlock
13 Physically open the car door (my goal)

All but two of the steps had to do with the app’s digital interface.

I had a goal, and to accomplish it, I had to use a screen. And thanks to the app, it only took me over a dozen steps to unlock my car doors.

Has our love deceived us? Is this app an improvement on the car key? Sit down and steel yourself. The answer, my friend, is no.

I know. It ain’t easy, giving up your heart. 

Say, instead, we applied the first principle of the best interface is no interface, entirely avoided using a screen, and embraced our typical processes. After all, as Edward Tufte once said, “Overload, clutter, and confusion are not attributes of information, they are failures of design.”

If we eliminate the graphical user interface, we’re left with only two steps:

  1. A driver approaches her car
  2. She opens her car door
Anything beyond these two steps should be frowned upon.

Krishna demonstrates many examples like this in the book. He reminds us that as UX designers we need to take a step back and not always believe that UI is the answer. In fact, it will come as no surprise that his opinion is that ‘The best interface is no interface’. We live in a world of constant distraction due to technology. On average, people look at their mobile phones up to 150 times a day. Add to this all the UIs on products and in shops that we’re interacting with, many of them not easy to use, and that’s a lot of things getting in the way of living our lives. Rather than making our lives simpler and helping us, Krishna highlights that it’s actually taking up a lot of our time, making simple things more cumbersome and that we’ve actually become addicted to technology.

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Of course the title of the book is deliberately controversial and the best interface won’t always be no interface, but everyone who considers themselves a UX designer as opposed to a UI designer will benefit from reading this book.

As for reading the book, it’s a very easy read and super interesting, in fact I couldn’t put it down and read it in two sessions over a couple of days. Krishna’s writing style is very engaging, quite sarcastic and highly amusing. I found myself nodding along and laughing out loud. I really liked Krishna by the end of the book (he’s the kind of guy you know you’d enjoy a pint with) and I hope he succeeds in educating the world about what UX really is. This book has a firm place on my bookshelf!

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Lisa Duddington

Reviewed by Lisa Duddington

I’m the co-founder and head of research at Keep It Usable. I used to work client side within the mobile industry back in the days when the term ux didn’t exist yet! My original background is in Computing and Psychology (BSc) and Human Factors and Ergonomics (MSc). I’ve been  helping the worlds biggest global brands for over 10 years now.

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