Simplifying interfaces

Last month, we decided to get my grandmother a new TV with all of the bells and whistles—digital connectivity, hundreds of channels, the works! Well, it just stressed her out. The day we went to set up the new TV, grandma watched us disapprovingly. Just like she used to when we were naughty as kids. She just wanted to be able to watch her favorite game show. When I handed the remote control over to her, things got really bad. She saw all of the buttons and threw her hands up. I have to admit, even I didn’t know what most of them were for.

Which was when I received my mission: to save grandma from the enemy among us — from the complexity of our modern world. I went into MacGyver mode. I quickly found a roll of medical tape. A pair of scissors. And I started taping over the buttons. Subtitles for the hearing impaired? Don’t need it. Surround sound two-point-whatever? Don’t want it. Image format? Useless! I wrapped the tape around and around, until—finally—only the essential buttons were left exposed. It looked like something out of the Ancient Egypt section at the British Museum, but—hey!—it worked. It was usable. Grandma could now turn her new TV on and off, change the channel, and turn the volume up or down. In other words, she could do all of the things most people do with their TVs. Plus, grandma stopped giving me the evil eye. She loved it!

This is the kind of thing I deal with every day in IT. Especially air transportation IT. The proliferation of applications we use are full of fields, buttons, menus, colors. A real-time flight monitoring application? Let’s add a field for the estimated arrival time! And another one for the block hours. And why not another for the runway time. And let’s not forget the check-in opening time. And make sure you don’t mix up the expected and actual times—you’ll need two separate fields for those!

Because it matters. And another one for the check-in closing time. No—make that two! Not to mention the estimated arrival times, because sometimes flights get delayed. And often, there is more than one estimated arrival time. So add some more fields. You get the idea. A nuclear power plant control room is probably easier to run. What I want to know is why the people who use all of these applications don’t go on strike more often.

You might argue that such a—shall we say—comprehensive application is the only way to make sure you don’t lose track of any important information. I’d come right back at you by asking how long it takes for a new user to learn the application. Or how much it costs to add the 34 new features needed each year. How many programmers you need to get any real value out of the 200-table databases behind the application. After all, even if the underlying databases are complex—because, let’s face it, they are—why should users be punished for it?

Let’s look at things from a slightly different angle. The Google angle. One field. One. And you get access to all of the information in the universe. The complexity is behind the screen, not on it. Food for thought, huh?

At Deolan, we are not trying to be the next Google. What we are doing is working on some pretty complex data flows. And we have been for years. We see a lot of those fields in our line of work. Long ones, short ones, numerical ones, dates, times—you name it. And like any group of self-respecting IT developers, we started building interfaces with…fields. Lots of fields. And buttons. And we noticed something about our users. They hated it. Just like my grandma hated the remote. But our remote was ten feet long. And our user manuals were thicker than the phone book. And the users? They’ll figure it out (so we thought).

So, we decided to take a different perspective. We wanted to simplify the application into its purest form. Kind of like pruning a tree. We got rid of the dead wood. And then we got rid of some more. And some more. Anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary went to the dump. In other words, KISS — and I don’t mean the band.

Clip was developed to make users’ lives easier. To be simple and intuitive.

Because why should sending your assistant a message about a 45-minute delay take any longer than confirming an appointment by text message?

Because pulling up a list of all disabled passengers on a flight should be as easy as going online and finding that deep-fried alligator recipe you’ve always wanted to try.

And because making sure a passenger has checked in should be as simple as changing the channel to watch your favorite game show on TV.

Simple and practical. That’s what Clip is all about. It’s about making sure that using the application doesn’t require special training. It’s about making users happy. And it’s about letting them focus on what they were hired to do—their jobs.

About Deolan
Clip is a cloud-based data platform providing collaboration tools, real time dashboards and analytics to all aviation stakeholders. With our clients (Airports, Airlines, Handlers) and partners (data providers, IT vendors), we digitalize every step from distribution to operations to design a better Passenger Experience. You can visit us at Deolan.com and sign up for a free demo of our solution