The Best Technology Is Invisible

In preparing for our class presentations on ICT4D applications in the health sector, one challenge that came up time and time again is interface design of the ICT. Some challenges in interface design such as having an illiterate and multi-language language target group represent a problem removed from the technology itself. Meaning, the fact that an individual isn’t able to read the words on the ICT is not the consequence of the ICT design, rather the consequence of an insufficient education system, government, ect. However, some challenges in applying ICTs are far less daunting and interwoven.  The unnecessary complexity and large learning curves required of some of the ICTs implemented in the health sector is a challenge that can be simply solved by smart design.

 

In a blog post  by Ajay Kumar on User Experience (UX) design in ICT4Ds, he urged future ICT4D projects to design solutions based on a lower barrier to entry with a decreased learning curve, that require minimal to no training to use it. Ajay focuses on efficiency and usability- designing solutions that decrease the time and effort needed to train individuals to use them. To do this, he suggests that the design should

 

“…include existing skills that have already been trained to them (by their own self or otherwise). If they know how to make a phone call using their mobile phone – let’s try to think if we can do something using their mobile phones which just involves making or receiving a phone call. If they know how to write an SMS, maybe we setup an SMS system and interact or communicate with them using that. What if the staff only knows how to use Excel and to check their email? Then maybe, I’d design a web form simple enough to do their task.”

 

Jazz musician Charles Mingus said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” This quote is often used in online discussions of the great visual theorist, such as Edward Tufte, and in forums focused on topics ranging from infographics, graphic design to interface design. Creativity in design is not exhibited by making the interface itself a conspicuous visual statement, with loud decorations and heavy styling. Rather, creativity in design is the ability to create an interface that makes the complicated simple without distracting users from the content.

 

Cyborg anthropologist and UX designer Amber Case studies the interaction between humans and technology. As a usability theorist, she believes that, “the best technology is invisible”. Below is a video of her keynote address Cybrog Anthropology and the Evaporation of the Interface

 

 

For ICT4D, when designing solutions for problems in developing areas, the interface design must be creative–creatively simple, requiring minimal time and effort to learn and implement into daily life.

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