Interface Design

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There are two interfaces that need design: web-based and phone-based interface. This is a set of ideas about how to develop both.


Web based interface

In general, this interface is where all the customisation and clever things should happen. It's a natural administrative system, that people engage in when they have time and a useful set of access tools (computer, keyboard, screen) to interact with.

Things we're facilitating here:

  • registering, admin tasks (recover passwords, validate sip number etc.)
  • specifying areas of knowledge
  • specifying areas of interest
  • sharing information gathered by talking to enquirers on the street
  • sharing information given to enquirers on the street with other answerers
  • finding out information that can be used to answer people's questions quickly and intuitively.

Phone based interface

This interface needs to be as simple as possible. The phone is what people use when they're in a hurry, on the street, and need information quickly. They defer complexity and refinement of interest to the people sitting in front of their computers. This is the whole point of the system, so it makes sense to keep it as simple as possible.

Things we're facilitating on this interface:

  • phoning in and accessing the system
  • specifying area of interest (location)
  • specifying topic of interest

Initial design proposals

  • There should be no 'hello, welcome to blah blah' message, it's a waste of time.
  • People phone in on a number that relates to the city, so that deals with the first 'location' issue
  • People can use the dialpad of their telephone as a rudimentary compass. I phone the london number, then press 5 * it means I'm interested in central London.
  • Availability of operators can be indicated using traditional phone behaviour - the phone rings, if nobody picks it up, nobody is available. People understand this. If the system is busy and all operators are engaged, they hear an engaged tone. No interface, means no confusion and no manuals!
  • The phone interface should be like the command line: very simple, programmable, powerful, no overbearing instructions as to what to do, but the freedom to learn and customise it for yourself.
  • Topics of interest can have numbers assigned to tags on the user level. This idea probably needs further explanation / development.

Phone interface design approach

The phone is a Bad User Interface. A BUI. When using BUIs, we want to completely reduce the amount of time spent in call and response mode (ie. press 1 for X, press 2 for Y, press 3 to hear this shit again).

The best approach then is to use either voice recognition or user-learned (or suggested) number combinations. Since VR is kind of tricky and unreliable, it is probably best to go for option 2. User learned number combinations, or more catchily 'number tags'.

Number Tags

  • I go to the DE site and dump a keyword cloud of interests into a web interface, comma separated.
  • I then see these interests layed out as a list, with assigned numbers.
    • Saul's User Interests:
    1. street markets : #1#
    2. skip diving : #2#
    3. swimming : #3#
    4. football hooliganism : #4#
  • This indicates to me that if I want to specify a particular interest about which I'm calling, I can dial #4# and be connected to another football hooligan.
  • I can then juggle these around until I am happy that I'll be able to remember which number relates to which topic, and press the right key when I'm out on the street.
  • In essence, I've just designed my own user-interface.
  • It's then our job to take these interests and associate them, so that they can be used to weight the selection of operators which will answer calls.
  • other techniques for operator call-weighting will have to be designed to be more based on profiling, but this provides one simple way for uesrs to be more proactive in designing a more subtle phone-based interface.
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