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¶ on user interfaces
What makes a good interface? It has to be intuitive, but also powerful1. For computers and other technical devices, many people would argue that it's a tradeoff. You can have a remote control that has five buttons, power, channel up/down, volume up/down, and it would be the easiest thing to use, but not very powerful. Conversely, you could have a remote control with 40 buttons and could do things like remember the last three channels you looked at, but would be really hard to use.

The holy grail of user interface seems to be both of these combined. For a first-time user, you want something that's easy to figure out (intuitive). But for the veteran user, you want something that's powerful enough to do all that's desired. And you want the transition from novice to veteran to be as easy as possible.
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Consider your closest friends. The very first time you met may have been an instant bonding experience, or it may have been quite awkward. But regardless, your interaction during your first meeting was almost certainly quite different from your interaction now. Maybe the first time you got lunch together was a tentative arrangement through e-mail detailing where to go and when to meet and how to get there; and now you just call, say "lunch! now!", and hang up, knowing exactly where to meet. The interface has changed, but you didn't really notice because the progression was so natural. And yet it's more powerful because you can accomplish the same in less time.

That's how we want computers to be. The very first time people do something, it's okay if it takes a while. But the expectation is that repetitive tasks will become easier to complete in a shorter amount of time. And everyone develops their own interface. The key thing to notice about the interface between you and your friend is that not only did you change your interaction with your friend, but your friend also changed to adapt to you. A computer interface that may be powerful and intuitive for one person may be the most confusing mess of symbols and buttons to another. We want a computer interface that can adapt to the user, so that it's easy to use at first (and maybe not so powerful) but gradually and unnoticeably changes so that it becomes just as easy and more powerful as well.

1 powerful is a little vague. I'd say that a powerful interface is one that allows you to perform a multitude of tasks as quickly as possible. Thus, a speech interface that requires you to pronounce every letter of every word is not as powerful as an interface that allows you to pronounce entire words, even though you can eventually produce the same results.

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