Saturday, September 02, 2006

Communicating the wrong message: Security applications should not look like cheesy media players!

A while ago, I read the excellent "The iPod and the Bathtub" (great pdf version) article published by frog-design. The article discusses products and the message their design communicates.

When it comes to communicating a message with user-interface design, some applications do a great job, while others clearly communicate the wrong message:

Avast Personal Anti Virus looks like a media player, and it's also skinnable. It's obvious that avast did this deliberately, but in my opinion, when you try to create a broad user range to a home security product such as an antivirus, such strong resemblance to a home stereo or media player application isn't good. This interface design communicates: "I'm a fun application!", "Scanning my computer for viruses is just like playing music", "I can do that all day!"

Lavasoft Ad-Aware is a great application, I use it frequently to remove spyware, but ever since I first saw it, it always reminded me of Bouli (hebrew). The interface looks like a snowman. And again, this application is trying to say: "You can rely on me" and "I will protect you against those evil mal-ware" and it's not trying to say "oh I'm so cute and fluffy, let's cuddle".

Communicating a message with user interface design is especially hard when you're designing a desktop application. in the web, conventions are loose and many variations work well. In desktop applications however, there are many user-interface guidelines to follow, and variation is somewhat limited. The real challenge is to succeed in communicating the right message, while not breaking out from the platform conventions all together.

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