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The Best Interface Is No Interface: The simple path to brilliant technology

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Our love affair with the digital interface is out of control. We've embraced it in the boardroom, the bedroom, and the bathroom. Screens have taken over our lives. Most people spend over eight hours a day staring at a screen, and some "technological innovators" are hoping to grab even more of your eyeball time. You have screens in your pocket, in your car, on your appliance Our love affair with the digital interface is out of control. We've embraced it in the boardroom, the bedroom, and the bathroom. Screens have taken over our lives. Most people spend over eight hours a day staring at a screen, and some "technological innovators" are hoping to grab even more of your eyeball time. You have screens in your pocket, in your car, on your appliances, and maybe even on your face. Average smartphone users check their phones 150 times a day, responding to the addictive buzz of Facebook or emails or Twitter. Are you sick? There's an app for that! Need to pray? There's an app for that! Dead? Well, there's an app for that, too! And most apps are intentionally addictive distractions that end up taking our attention away from things like family, friends, sleep, and oncoming traffic. There's a better way. In this book, innovator Golden Krishna challenges our world of nagging, screen-based bondage, and shows how we can build a technologically advanced world without digital interfaces. In his insightful, raw, and often hilarious criticism, Golden reveals fascinating ways to think beyond screens using three principles that lead to more meaningful innovation. Whether you're working in technology, or just wary of a gadget-filled future, you'll be enlighted and entertained while discovering that the best interface is no interface.


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Our love affair with the digital interface is out of control. We've embraced it in the boardroom, the bedroom, and the bathroom. Screens have taken over our lives. Most people spend over eight hours a day staring at a screen, and some "technological innovators" are hoping to grab even more of your eyeball time. You have screens in your pocket, in your car, on your appliance Our love affair with the digital interface is out of control. We've embraced it in the boardroom, the bedroom, and the bathroom. Screens have taken over our lives. Most people spend over eight hours a day staring at a screen, and some "technological innovators" are hoping to grab even more of your eyeball time. You have screens in your pocket, in your car, on your appliances, and maybe even on your face. Average smartphone users check their phones 150 times a day, responding to the addictive buzz of Facebook or emails or Twitter. Are you sick? There's an app for that! Need to pray? There's an app for that! Dead? Well, there's an app for that, too! And most apps are intentionally addictive distractions that end up taking our attention away from things like family, friends, sleep, and oncoming traffic. There's a better way. In this book, innovator Golden Krishna challenges our world of nagging, screen-based bondage, and shows how we can build a technologically advanced world without digital interfaces. In his insightful, raw, and often hilarious criticism, Golden reveals fascinating ways to think beyond screens using three principles that lead to more meaningful innovation. Whether you're working in technology, or just wary of a gadget-filled future, you'll be enlighted and entertained while discovering that the best interface is no interface.

30 review for The Best Interface Is No Interface: The simple path to brilliant technology

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Trowbridge

    What a wasted opportunity. The basic premise is good, but it's drowned out by cynicism and repetition. There's nowhere near enough content for a book of this length, and the attempts to be "entertaining" just come off as mean-spirited and annoying. Calls to action should be inspiring, not insipid. What a wasted opportunity. The basic premise is good, but it's drowned out by cynicism and repetition. There's nowhere near enough content for a book of this length, and the attempts to be "entertaining" just come off as mean-spirited and annoying. Calls to action should be inspiring, not insipid.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Design professional Golden Krishna has become frustrated with graphical user interfaces. The novelty has worn off putting every important function into a smartphone app, and the ubiquity of touchscreens has made ordinary people subservient to their technology. Think about it: does your refrigerator really need WiFi compatibility and a streaming Pandora feed? Even better, is driving enhanced when drivers have in-dash Facebook demanding their attention? Krishna comes from a background in User Exper Design professional Golden Krishna has become frustrated with graphical user interfaces. The novelty has worn off putting every important function into a smartphone app, and the ubiquity of touchscreens has made ordinary people subservient to their technology. Think about it: does your refrigerator really need WiFi compatibility and a streaming Pandora feed? Even better, is driving enhanced when drivers have in-dash Facebook demanding their attention? Krishna comes from a background in User Experience (UX), a design paradigm emphasizing how we can maximize users' positive response to new technology. This often parallels with another discipline, User Interface (UI), which specifically focuses on graphical user interfaces--or as they're called in the industry, "interfaces." These two disciplines have become so entwined that many job-seeker websites now advertise UX/UI as a single field, confining end-user experiences to a screen. No, says Krishna, this is wrong. This attitude encourages sameness, resulting in finished products not sufficiently differentiated, and poorly attuned to user needs. Design meetings begin with enthusiastic goals to re-envision some task we all undertake; they finish by creating another smartphone app, impractical website (with fifty-page usage agreement), or another screen stuck somewhere it doesn't belong. Graphic interfaces on curbside trash cans? Really? Rather than repeating past success, Krishna advocates three core principles: 1. "Embrace Typical Processes Instead of Screens" 2. "Levarage Computers Instead of Serving Them" 3. "Adapt to Individuals" Krishna refines these three principles into new outlooks on the design process. He asks his colleagues questions that have gone largely unasked: is this process better, more efficient, more useful than what came before? (Is a smartphone app to unlock your car more practical than your key? No.) Can simple, screen-free technology make difficult tasks simpler? Can household technology learn user preferences--without cumbersome, insulting screen apps? In some respects, Krishna's vision overlaps with prior visionaries and critics; Jaron Lanier springs to mind. Both inveigh against technological passivity. Computers and other doodads are fine, Krishna asserts, if they serve human needs and make human life simpler. But addictively colorful phone apps, unhelpful multistep processes for simple tasks, and ad space colonizing screens like Spanish moss has made life palpably less simple and enjoyable. Technology is capable of learning human needs. While it's impossible for designers to create separate experiences for the millions, potentially billions, of individual users, technology is capable of adapting itself. Krishna cites several examples, from a simple fuzzy-logic home thermostat, to Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer that beat Garry Kasparov, of devices and systems that see human uniqueness as a virtue, not a bug. To emphasize his message, Krishna has made this book a paragon of design. Though running north of 200 pages plus back matter, Krishna's text is actually much shorter, with visual diagrams, photos, dialogs, and non-traditional use of white space. He writes with the compressed energy of a TED talk, and uses his book to demonstrate his principles. He doesn't wallow in nitty-gritty tutorials. Instead, he invites readers to share an evolving vision. A prior reviewer wrote: "Make no mistake: This is a sermon. It's not a practical guide. It's not a set of concrete steps to improve." If I may speak for Mr. Krishna, that's essentially the point. UX/UI has become dominated by step-by-step instructions and closed-process approaches, which render customers and designers both functionally passive. Krishna speaks against that technique, demanding content creators and experience designers remain actively engaged with their product. Krishna's stated principles will undoubtedly receive much criticism. Not just from those whose career paths rely on tech companies doing what they've always done, either. He repeatedly stresses the importance of design ethics, of prioritizing users' well-being above "monetizing eyeballs." Can you imagine, say, Mark Zuckerberg telling shareholders that this quarter's dividends have gone down because he'd rather do right by users than sell ad space? Me neither. That said, he's not wrong. Today's epidemic of people glued eyes-first to laptops, tablets, and phones didn't just happen; UX/UI professionals designed it. Enrapt audiences are good customers and, more accurately good product which corporations can tranch and resell to ad peddlers (see also Marc Goodman). Much as I enjoy Facebook, it's impossible to deny that first-generation coders didn't have our best interests in mind. No, this isn't a how-to book. It's a vision of what Golden Krishna believes computers should be capable of. It's a manifesto for future designers to apply themselves to making technology simpler for us, not dominant over us. It's a vision of a future in which I'd willingly live.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    Interesting idea, but I think it was expanded from a blog post and should've stayed there. Lots of repetition all just to say the design world should try to solve problems rather than invent interfaces, because they just put lots more steps between the problem and solution. Interesting idea, but I think it was expanded from a blog post and should've stayed there. Lots of repetition all just to say the design world should try to solve problems rather than invent interfaces, because they just put lots more steps between the problem and solution.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Koberger

    Not just one of the best books I've read as far as content goes, but the way the book plays with the format to make its points is incredibly unique. Highly recommend. Not just one of the best books I've read as far as content goes, but the way the book plays with the format to make its points is incredibly unique. Highly recommend.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Wright

    I was introduced to this book after watching Golden Krishna and Eric Campbell's incredible SXSW Keynote titled "You Know What? Fuck Dropdowns". That talk changed the way I was looking at a lot of the problems I was working on with game UX. I wanted to know more so I picked up the book and was delighted with what I found. Golden's voice is smart, engaging, and humorous, pointing out the absurdity found in many contemporary UX trappings. While light on solutions, the book shows some interesting ca I was introduced to this book after watching Golden Krishna and Eric Campbell's incredible SXSW Keynote titled "You Know What? Fuck Dropdowns". That talk changed the way I was looking at a lot of the problems I was working on with game UX. I wanted to know more so I picked up the book and was delighted with what I found. Golden's voice is smart, engaging, and humorous, pointing out the absurdity found in many contemporary UX trappings. While light on solutions, the book shows some interesting case studies and asks questions that might help guide its readers to compelling answers in the pursuit of NoUI.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    One of the most refreshing books on design I've read. Quite repetitive and more sermon/rant than field guide, but it's an important sermon/rant. Can't say it better than Doug Lemoine says on the back cover, "If Silicon Valley doesn't read this book, we're all ****ed." One of the most refreshing books on design I've read. Quite repetitive and more sermon/rant than field guide, but it's an important sermon/rant. Can't say it better than Doug Lemoine says on the back cover, "If Silicon Valley doesn't read this book, we're all ****ed."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Becky Johnston

    As a computer functioning individual, a book about technology is a little out of my normal wheelhouse, but I found this book engaging and compelling. This book was about ways to make technology more seamlessly integrated into daily and social life, which was fascinating, but the points I found the most compelling were a little more...selfish. This book really made me take a look at the way I interact with technology (my cellphone that never leaves my pocket or hand), and ways that I should impro As a computer functioning individual, a book about technology is a little out of my normal wheelhouse, but I found this book engaging and compelling. This book was about ways to make technology more seamlessly integrated into daily and social life, which was fascinating, but the points I found the most compelling were a little more...selfish. This book really made me take a look at the way I interact with technology (my cellphone that never leaves my pocket or hand), and ways that I should improve that area of my life. A worthwhile and challenging read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The first 2/3rds of this book was highly amusing and quick to read. The last 1/3rd was a bit more of a slog, especially because Krishna is a bit more optimistic than I am about the ethics of data collection in particular. This was touched on briefly as a "yup, it's a problem". No. This is a HUGE problem. We lack the regulation needed, and the current structure of the Internet encourages ad revenue motivations that profit from invasiveness. I like the concept of reducing UI. We are in an app obses The first 2/3rds of this book was highly amusing and quick to read. The last 1/3rd was a bit more of a slog, especially because Krishna is a bit more optimistic than I am about the ethics of data collection in particular. This was touched on briefly as a "yup, it's a problem". No. This is a HUGE problem. We lack the regulation needed, and the current structure of the Internet encourages ad revenue motivations that profit from invasiveness. I like the concept of reducing UI. We are in an app obsessive phase, and even though people are highly concerned about data use, many people put convenience over privacy. They trust companies to have their users' privacy, data, and interests in mind. It's never that. It's always about getting the most money. And unless we shift the structure of how the Internet is supported AND governments actually understand the technology, I don't see an optimistic future. I do see us likely moving to greater automation and potentially fewer interfaces, but it will be at a great cost to our individuality and privacy. Ethics is completely lacking in big data, and only Europe has started locking down on the ridiculous freedom companies have over our data and our lives.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Phil Cornelius

    Krishna begins this by referencing his SWSW talk which, really, is where I should've stopped reading just watched the talk instead. He took a 20-minute video and blew it up into a "book". Some of the examples are good, but really this is an extended blog post that you should not pay for. I appreciate the one idea he has, that we have a fetish for screens and that can be harmful, but he doesn't really discuss how to implement it. He spends too much time saying why screens are bad and why we shoul Krishna begins this by referencing his SWSW talk which, really, is where I should've stopped reading just watched the talk instead. He took a 20-minute video and blew it up into a "book". Some of the examples are good, but really this is an extended blog post that you should not pay for. I appreciate the one idea he has, that we have a fetish for screens and that can be harmful, but he doesn't really discuss how to implement it. He spends too much time saying why screens are bad and why we should reconsider them and little to no time explaining how. Perhaps that's the nature of the question - it's probably best considered on a case-by-case design basis - but then you shouldn't make a book out of what could be a 10-page article in the Atlantic.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Valeria Vozzheva

    I struggled to read the book: perhaps, because of a cultural gap or, probably, due to wrong expectations. Though the topic raised in is quite important, the author's manner to present his thoughts fits rather a sarcastic comedy show. Btw the "Dropdowns" presentation is brilliant. I can not summarize the content, because it is actually a collection of stories, supporting the main idea: The best interface is NO interface. Fair enough. Sometimes. I struggled to read the book: perhaps, because of a cultural gap or, probably, due to wrong expectations. Though the topic raised in is quite important, the author's manner to present his thoughts fits rather a sarcastic comedy show. Btw the "Dropdowns" presentation is brilliant. I can not summarize the content, because it is actually a collection of stories, supporting the main idea: The best interface is NO interface. Fair enough. Sometimes.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jonnyboy

    Interesting and thought provoking. It felt a little blog-like, which can be a good thing, but lacking a little in its transformation to a book. With refinement and better real world examples, I might even give it 5 stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Igor Stojkovic

    This book was a waste of time. It is basically a rant about how user interfaces are bad, and how everyone thinks all problems can be solved with an app when you just need to think about the actual problem.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emily Carlin

    This is a really good book. I think it should be required reading for all designers. It definitely helped me to zoom out and think about what my job actually is or should be: creating experiences. That is not a 1:1 fit with creating an interface. An interface (if one needs to be there at al) is just the tip of the experience iceberg. Krishna's central point is that the more we can aim for "NoUI" experiences, where we leverage sensors and computers' unique powers, the better off we will be. A cri This is a really good book. I think it should be required reading for all designers. It definitely helped me to zoom out and think about what my job actually is or should be: creating experiences. That is not a 1:1 fit with creating an interface. An interface (if one needs to be there at al) is just the tip of the experience iceberg. Krishna's central point is that the more we can aim for "NoUI" experiences, where we leverage sensors and computers' unique powers, the better off we will be. A crisp example of this would be designing a solution to the problem of unlocking one's car. A lazy approach would be "let's make an app for that!" So ... you pull out your phone, search for the app, open the app, touch whatever button is trendy that year, and then your car is unlocked. But what if the lock and phone communicated without your intervention (e.g. through bluetooth). Then you walk up to the car and it unlocks without you having to do a thing. Definitely a better experience + way less screen. There's still a role for a designer in creating a system like that, it's just a lot more UX and a lot less UI. He has a funny rant about hating UX/UI job postings. A book of many funny rants, I'd say. Anyway, read this book if you're a designer (or just curious about the future of personal computing....). It's also pretty beautifully laid out and has some nice illustrations and such. My only critique of the book, which I feel like Krishna himself would concede to, is that he's pretty hand-wavy about the political implications of gathering personal data and using it to improve experiences. I agree with him that it's where a lot of great experiences could start and is probably the future. But he is just like, "Oh yeah, some smart people will have to think about what that means from a privacy, justice, democracy perspective." The political implications of those systems will probably disproportionately affect people who are not involved in the making of those systems. It's a bummer to see the rich tech people who *will* be designing and building those systems think in a shortsighted/selfish/generally not-thoughtful way. It's like, build three fewer features and use those resources to actually think about the harm this thing could do in the world. Idk. It isn't Krishna's responsibility to solve the political implications of personal data collection, but I wish he would have made a bigger deal out of how much it matters. But on the whole, great read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I believe our job as designers is to give you what you need as quickly and as elegantly as we can. Our job as designers is to take you away from technology. Our job as designers is to make you smile. To make a profit by providing you something that enhances your life in the most seamless and wonderful way possible. Embrace typical processes instead of screens. One that doesn’t distract us or try to get us addicted, something that embraces the way we live and aims to make it better quietly and eleg I believe our job as designers is to give you what you need as quickly and as elegantly as we can. Our job as designers is to take you away from technology. Our job as designers is to make you smile. To make a profit by providing you something that enhances your life in the most seamless and wonderful way possible. Embrace typical processes instead of screens. One that doesn’t distract us or try to get us addicted, something that embraces the way we live and aims to make it better quietly and elegantly. For technology to become embedded in the fabric of our lives instead of a distraction away from what really matters.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dimitar Smilyanov

    Incredibly fun and informative rant about the current state of decision making and bad design. We're all collectively guilty of it. I'm glad I finally found a book that's quick to read and clearly explains (with good, real-world examples) why designing for screens is fundamentally wrong. I'll gladly recommend this book to someone the next time I utter the phrase "For the love of god, take that dropdown away from me." I'd recommend this book to anyone who's interested in design and problem-solving Incredibly fun and informative rant about the current state of decision making and bad design. We're all collectively guilty of it. I'm glad I finally found a book that's quick to read and clearly explains (with good, real-world examples) why designing for screens is fundamentally wrong. I'll gladly recommend this book to someone the next time I utter the phrase "For the love of god, take that dropdown away from me." I'd recommend this book to anyone who's interested in design and problem-solving.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ardavan Mir

    Very clear design thesis and a sound argument, but I think this book could have been wrapped up in (at most) a long article format. There are so many examples and complications for a simple idealistic design philosophy. Lots of over explanations in this book. I loved the idea of reducing screen-centred interactions and engagement addiction that has been widespread throughout the digital product world. It's humanistic and value-oriented. Very clear design thesis and a sound argument, but I think this book could have been wrapped up in (at most) a long article format. There are so many examples and complications for a simple idealistic design philosophy. Lots of over explanations in this book. I loved the idea of reducing screen-centred interactions and engagement addiction that has been widespread throughout the digital product world. It's humanistic and value-oriented.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kavi Gupta

    Interesting idea. I think the basic concept that we have too many apps and our focus is too heavily on interfaces is certainly accurate. However, I think that the author puts perhaps a bit too much faith in the ability of predictive systems and does not recognize the many ways in which these systems are fundamentally harder to design than normal interfaces. That said, this book is a good corrective to our current obsession with apps/guis and for that it is good! Took 53m to read

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rangi Robinson

    Notes Interfaces take us away from the moment. Interfaces complicate our lives, rather than making them better. - example of convoluted phone app to unlock car door - the ill-conceived "apps" on my old printer or social network attempts by companies like O2 and Coke Interfaces make us slaves rather than masters. - computer tantrums ("your title - mr, miss - is *mandatory* to sign up for our wifi!") - Saying "oops!" doesn't make it better Screen-based thinking. Good design solves problems. Don't assume t Notes Interfaces take us away from the moment. Interfaces complicate our lives, rather than making them better. - example of convoluted phone app to unlock car door - the ill-conceived "apps" on my old printer or social network attempts by companies like O2 and Coke Interfaces make us slaves rather than masters. - computer tantrums ("your title - mr, miss - is *mandatory* to sign up for our wifi!") - Saying "oops!" doesn't make it better Screen-based thinking. Good design solves problems. Don't assume that solving problems should start with wire framing GUIs. More options is usually worse (paradox of choice) and leads to procrastination. Use big data and computing power to make good decisions when appropriate. Companies like google and Facebook are fighting harder than ever to keep you in their ecosystem. Better for their their shareholders, worse UX. Sensors and automation can lead to seamless UX - hospital example with patient sensors and automatic alerts to doctors - Car air bags - Detecting athletes' injuries before they happen - Automatic sliding doors (what else can we make so seamless that it fades into the background like this?) GUIs can make good secondary interfaces, e.g. For adjusting complex settings or overriding automated behaviour/defaults - Smart lamp example - can use gui to override/tune settings - Smart door lock example NoUI is obviously not applicable for everything but should rather be an option on the table when looking to solve a problem.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    It was fine. It's an interesting idea but I felt like the essay itself was a little too casual for my liking. For example, I noticed flagrant English grammar and syntax mistakes that, while I'd accept them in a blog post (or something similar) I don't expect to see in a printed argumentative essay, but to each their own. It was fine. It's an interesting idea but I felt like the essay itself was a little too casual for my liking. For example, I noticed flagrant English grammar and syntax mistakes that, while I'd accept them in a blog post (or something similar) I don't expect to see in a printed argumentative essay, but to each their own.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nikita Ba.

    This book incepts a good idea. It makes you think big. As a web UX designer, I think that it is impossible to get rid of screens. However, simplifying user interaction with machines should be our mission. Machines should work for us instead of vice versa.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    Hilariously presented argument stating how absurd it can be to "slap an interface on something" in order to fix it, rather than addressing core design challenges. It has encouraged me to search more broadly for design solutions. Hilariously presented argument stating how absurd it can be to "slap an interface on something" in order to fix it, rather than addressing core design challenges. It has encouraged me to search more broadly for design solutions.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maxim Kolmakov

    Easy read with a beautiful design. The whole book is about one single idea (NoUI) but that doesn't make it dull or repetitive. The idea looks obvious but only with hindsight and it is really worth to be brought up again and again. Easy read with a beautiful design. The whole book is about one single idea (NoUI) but that doesn't make it dull or repetitive. The idea looks obvious but only with hindsight and it is really worth to be brought up again and again.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kylie Upton

    I read this book straight through as I found it extremely engaging which is unusual for a business book. I felt there were a number of great concepts throughout the book and definitely got a few ideas for future design projects. I would recommend this to anyone in the tech industry.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    Interesting and well written, but rather pointless. I'd say it would've made a better article, but then I probably wouldn'tve read it. Interesting and well written, but rather pointless. I'd say it would've made a better article, but then I probably wouldn'tve read it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andy Keil

    Could've been WAY more content given the length. But a quick read that gets your head in the right mindset. Could've been WAY more content given the length. But a quick read that gets your head in the right mindset.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nimrod Priell

    The idea is interesting but feels like fluff was inserted to demonstrate it in an overly humorous way. Reads like a rather long blog post though it could be summarized.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Aurelio Arantes

    A necessary irony for us who are addicted to thinking about interfaces. I liked it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mert Selcuk

    No UI, No UX, No GUI. Keep things simple. Keeps things proactive and dynamic. Lesser the interaction better the lack of distraction.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sean Dwyer

    An interesting read. More philosophical musing than practical advice.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Milos Nikolic

    Good beginning and some interesting ideas but it feels unfinished.

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