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Simplicity is DEAD in the Digital Age.
I just spent the better part of an hour trying to UNDO the stuff which the too-clever-for-their-own-good minds at Google INFECTED my gmail account with.
Because of Google’s irrational insistence that any changes within any application on their platform must automatically populate across all other applications in said platform and irrevocably alter my Google account as a whole, I am unable to actually make any use of certain customization options within Gmail.
I’ll spare you the gory details. You’re not interested anyway. If you’ve used any form of I.T. within the past few years, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.
Case in point: Microsoft Office’s arbitrary auto-formatting anomalies. Take its insistence that a line beginning with an asterix (*) MUST mean you are starting a bulleted list; or a number MUST mean it’s a numbered list; or some other formatting change that is automatically spread like an infection.
And yes, I know all about “styles and formatting.” I have been using Word for over 15 years, observing each new version become progressively more efficient at its ability to confound and frustrate.
Then there’s Adobe, where we get the inverse problem. Creative Suite is a suite in name only, as there is no uniformity in the graphic user interface, short-cut keys, menus, etc. Oh, there is some consistency: just enough to give you a false sense of security. But you’ll soon be searching Google for the way to do in PhotoShop what you know exactly how to do in Illustrator. And yes, Adobe’s help files are useless.
Let us not imagine this phenomenon is limited to computers. The new breed of tablets and “smartphones” have spawned an entire new strain of patience-testing anomalies.
How about intelligent keyboards which automatically insert a space after a period and capitalize the next letter, so that URL’s you try typing into your browser end up looking like this: “Www. Thewebsiteineed. Com” until, that is, you go back and manually delete the spaces so the browser will work. And don’t even get me started on so-called intelligent prediction, voice recognition, etc.
Now I know what you’re thinking: I can “opt-out” of these features. Just turn them off. Why should I have to do that? They are good features when they actually work. I don’t want to opt out of not wearing a seatbelt, I expect that seatbelt to work. If it doesn’t work, it shouldn’t be there in the first place.
What a concept. Call me old fashioned, but there was a time when you bought a tool to do a job and unbelievably, it did so: hammer, toaster, typewriter, guitar, telephone, et al. Where and when, exactly, did we as a society exempt the digital age from the same standards as the analog one? When did it become a “best practice” to consistently overpromise and under deliver?
The mantras of the digital age are faster, smaller, smarter; feature-packed functionality; style over substance; gimmick over purpose; quantity over quality. Nowhere is quality, integrity, simplicity and intuitive human-centric design at the forefront. No, not even at Apple (but I’ll not get into details, because I don’t feel like sifting through reams of hate mail from zealous Macheads and iOS users).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s handy having a smartphone. It’s convenient and I’d be hard-pressed to live without it, now that I no longer commit anyone’s telephone number or email to memory. But there is something very wrong with the digital age and how companies from Microsoft to Google to Apple abuse their power, influence and ubiquity in our lives.
Does it have to be this way?
We are products of our environment. Anyone who works in I.T. is surrounded by electromagnetic fields of zillions of bits moving across fractal spaghetti networks at hyperspeed, a condition which results in a culture of error since our primitive animal minds cannot keep up with the complexity and speed.
All an I.T. company would need to do is take a page from analog artists and craftspeople of the past: SLOW DOWN a little, and turn to nature for guidance, inspiration, imagination and rejuvenation.
Hey Google, forget the foosball and pool tables, how about an indoor rainforest ecosystem from PeapodLife? If Adobe’s separate application teams develop a harmonious, symbiotic relationship with a rainforest ecosystem, their applications will work in harmony and symbiosis with each other and users.
Immersed in the electromagnetic field of a high-order ecosystem (both calming and revitalizing), developers can find new inspiration, imagination, solutions; unlock nature’s secrets to managing infinite complexity; and embody the perfection of a measured, ordered pace of development in their work.
The result: beauty, depth, peace and harmony. How’s that for a “new feature-set” for the digital age?