Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The User Interface and Retail

I just saw an article from TechCrunch that said that the Wii is apparently the hot product for the holidays - if you can get one. In the interests of full disclosure, my family owns one, and I have to say, the user interface makes a huge difference in the experience. My son could never get all the complicated motions down necessary to play, say, a Play Station (name your version). But he's a bowling pro on the Wii - and the simplest games are the ones that are the most fun to play.

It seems like since the Wii first started gaining traction, there has been a lot more experimentation with the user interface for consumer electronics. The Wii is far more intuitive to use, the iPhone completely rethinks the way the web is navigated, thanks to the touch screen... and there are more experiments out there, like Hillcrest Lab's rethink of the mouse. Tom Cruise's glove from Minority Report aside, I think we're only beginning to scratch the surface of the user interface.

There's a retail technology point to this. As consumers adopt technology, one of the first places they start to use it is the shopping experience - something they do weekly, if not daily. If a new user interface begins to transform how consumers interact with technology, guaranteed they will start to expect the same kind of interaction from an in-store kiosk or a retailer's web site. Also, consumers are employees too - today's training methodology and POS interface will be obsolete in no time if user interfaces experience a step-level in improvement. And if that brings training time down from hours to minutes, retailers may very well be early adopters for once.

So, I'm on the alert: I think new ways of interacting with technology have the potential to be the next decade's big technology transformation with a big potential to impact retail. I'm keeping my eye out for the first signs of that transformation now - send 'em my way if you see any.

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