My Short-Lived Million-Dollar Idea

So it struck me that I had a great idea for a quasi-reality TV show, in the vein of those shows on the Boring Channel where a camera crew descends on a house or apartment or restaurant or whatever, rips everything out while host hollers at the owner, and has brand-new everything put in so the house or apartment or restaurant looks like every other one of its species on the Boring Channel. In this case, though, we’d go in to some piece of software that does something useful, but that has a horrible user interface, rip out the interface and replace it with something that’s actually been thought out and can be used by people to do what the software’s good at.

And then I remembered: nobody knows how to make a thoughtful user interface anymore. We just muddle through terrible experiences until we get used to the exactly one way we can get this software to do the one blasted thing we want it to do anymore. Then they update the software and that way goes away. So we couldn’t even put in a new interface after all.

Then, too, I realized the cinematography problem. When you tear out and rebuild a home or business at least you have great scenes of wood and metal and plastic getting ripped out by teams of handy men who look much more competent than you, and you get to see pipes and wires and old insulation and stuff. That’s just good TV. Computer programming, though, that’s nothing but people in sweatpants typing. In your older generation of programmers they also swap Monty Python quotes so worn down that only homeopathic traces of humor remain in them. In the younger generation, I don’t know what they over-quote. Steven Universe or something. It’s hard to come up with something more intensely boring that isn’t one of those Scandinavian TV channels showing eighteen hours of felled tree trunks streaming down the river.

All that’s left is having the host hollering at some computer-software company owner. That’d be fun, all right, but I can’t see that getting the kind of ratings the Boring Channel demands. Maybe some streaming media company with tighter budgets and lower distribution costs would bite. No way to tell how to get in touch with one, though. All their contact information is hidden on their web sites.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

2 thoughts on “My Short-Lived Million-Dollar Idea”

  1. I swear the UI experience of late leaves us at the mercy of focus groups with no common sense or real world experience whose intellectual camel designs are sold as the next horse and end up being written into interfaces that should be ex-interfaces, they should be no more, they should be pushing up the daisies, they wouldn’t go voom if you put 50,000 volts through them….


    1. Ah, so you’ve had experience with the new iTunes, then?

      I have to confess I’ve made some poor user interfaces myself. Those come about largely because I get a programming task in which I’m given only a vague idea of what’s expected, and can’t get feedback about what people want. So I’m left trying to think: well, what are all the things anyone is plausibly going to want? And how can I organize that so as to need as few clicks as possible to deal with?

      That, mixed with my fair but untrained sense of graphic design, is all right enough. But there’s two target audiences for what I might want to do, novices and power users. Novices need an interface that makes every option clear and simple and separated from options of other types. Power users are going to want speed, and can be assumed to take training and to put up with more cryptic commands in the service of needing to click on fewer things.

      Either one of those can be a valid interface design. But they imply designing completely different things. And there’s no hope of trying to put up two faces, one for normal and one for advanced uses. Everybody thinks they’re an advanced user. And making no design choice is the worst failing.


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