Jackson Fish Market
Posted on October 11, 2011 by hillel on User Experience

Creative User Interfaces Aren’t Just for Movies

Recently I saw an article about a new startup called Small Demons. The premise was vague, but had something to do with the publishing industry. Being interested in publishing I signed up to be notified of their launch. Today I went to their website and was introduced to their premise of cataloging real world details mentioned in books and visualizing the connections between them. OK.

Cataloging large amounts of data with interesting connections and visual representations is always a fun user interface challenge. There are usually lots of opportunities to do something interesting with the UI. And the video (starring ubiquitous hipster startup video spokesperson whose name currently escapes me) doesn’t disappoint. Well, at least not at first. The video is set in a room full of books with our friend slowly explaining what the site does. Details from books are flying out of said books in 2.5 dimensions. UI is hanging in the air and sliding all over the place. Very creative. Lovely and inspirational aesthetic. On point and well done.

Our friend is grabbing details from the air and using them in real life. Really fancy.

And then the UI of the actual experience makes an appearance. What a fucking disappointment.

Hey there boring grid on white background. Nice to see you… AGAIN! There’s nothing wrong with a grid or white background per se. But where’s all the inspiration from the UI that was in the video? Where’s the aesthetic? (Or any aesthetic?) Where are the small details that reinforce why I’m on this site passionately combing through the “Storyverse” as they call it. The people who made this video clearly understood how to articulate the passion behind the site in a visually expressive and inspiring form. Could those people have not been used to design the user interface that the users would actually use? It’s like the difference between the picture of the steaming, delicious, appetizing, tasty burrito on the box of frozen burritos and the actual mess that comes out of my microwave.

No. I don’t expect the service to deposit me in a 3d virtual world where i can wave my hands Minority Report style and navigate their interface (grabbing items from the virtual world into the digital world in the process). I’m sure there are lovely and smart people working on Small Demons and I wish it nothing but success, but this just seems like an opportunity lost. I would have hoped that the folks at Small Demons would see the contrast between the aspiration articulated in their video and their UI and realize that quite a bit more “special” was called for to deliver on the promise they made.

Perhaps in v2.

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