Innovation through inaccurate emulation 2005-03-11

On the train home today I suddenly for no apparent reason started thinking about a subject that have interested me for a long time: The idea of innovation as a side effect of inaccurately emulating something else.

If you've ever looked at a picture of some device and imagined how it works and then been bitterly disappointed once you got a chance to try the real thing, then you've experiened this phenomenon.

For me, it's such a frequent occurence that if I want to get ideas for improving something I'm working on I will not under any circumstance try out similar products or software before I've spent a lot of time looking at screenshots and brief product descriptions and try to imagine what the software does.

I find it fascinating for another reason too - it demonstrates how extremely hard it is to create user interfaces that are "obvious" - if how the interface works was obvious from a screenshot, I'd be "stuck". It's when it's not clear how something works that the room for coming up with innovative ideas about how it ought to work is the greates.

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