22 June 2007

Sun CTO on human-centred design

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Greg Papadopoulos
As part of an ongoing BBC News series inviting some of the world’s leading technologists to speculate about the future, Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer of Sun Microsystems, calls for technology and design to be married to people’s needs.

“More human-centred design is now possible.

Take a comparison between a Swiss army knife and a suite of kitchen tools as an example of something that’s well designed.

If I really had to open a bottle of wine with a multitool, I would. But mostly, I’ll have a corkscrew, a good chef’s knife, scissors, and a nail file. Each one is a separate object, with incredibly simple interfaces. Each was designed for a specific purpose.

Rather than making our technologies increasingly complex to use, the same kind of design should be done on the technology we use.

There could be all kinds of computing behind something I use on a daily basis, but at basic level, that’s not what I’m interested in. Instead I want an appliance that has a very well-defined and simple function.

Today we’re asked to care about things that we really do not want to care about. I don’t want the technology artefact or its management to be one of my objectives.

I want to turn on my TV, not update its software.

For me, all of this is more demanding from a design point of view.

I would say that there has been laziness or a lack of courage by some technology developers, because we could go and redesign our entire system of computing.

But to do that upsets a whole bunch of assumptions and even more technological ecosystems, like the software makers who sell us software to run on PCs.”

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