But the thing I liked most about this book is not that it made it easy to geek out, me being both a UI/UX designer, but that in each chapter it explored lessons to learn from sci-fi interfaces and gave real-world examples of how these lessons could be applied. Even though this book is nearing half a decade old, it’s still on the cutting edge and its value is still very high.
The book walks through many of the most popular technologies and interfaces found in science fiction movies and TV shows like Star Trek, Star Wars, Minority Report, Iron Man and so on. But it also goes back to the earliest of sci-fi entertainment and shows the journey user interfaces have made through time. It’s really interesting to see how these interfaces were at times leading real-world designs and at other times struggling to keep up (due to production budgetary constraints, low cinemagraphic value, etc.). If you find the concept of how speculative technology influences the real world and vice versa, you’ll really enjoy this book.
But, again, the lessons and opportunities put forth in this book are really the best part of it. Here’s an example of one lesson:
USE MECHANICAL CONTROLS WHEN FINE MOTOR CONTROL IS NEEDED. Mechanical controls are more appropriate when fine motor control is needed. It’s not that screen controls can’t accept fine movement, but, as many users find with their trackpads, touch interfaces are often so sensitive to movement that holding a specific position is difficult.
This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Take, for instance, your smartphone. Think of how frustrating it is to try and navigate through text using your finger to place a cursor next to an incorrectly typed letter. Could this task be more easily accomplished with a mechanical control of some sort?
Here’s an example of an opportunity put forth in the book:
LET THE DOCTOR CHANGE SHAPE TO FIT THE TASK.
Consider, for instance, the growing amount of tasks being offloaded to computers that can automate tasks and the inevitability that one day a doctor will be replaced by artificial intelligence—what should this doctor look like? Is there a reason it shouldn’t be able to be represented by different forms depending on the task being performed and the people the AI is interfacing with? There’s an opportunity here for designers working on tele-medical and/or volumetrically projected AI to make the world of future medical science a much more comforting place.
Those are just two examples out of hundreds that the book explores.
Make It So is a very worthwhile read. It’s one of those books that after you read it you will start to see the world in a different way. But it also provides a solid framework for thinking about the future of interaction design, grounded in historical lessons, current trends and opportunities that need more exploring and further development. I highly recommend Make It So to any user interface or user experience designer, or any science fiction fan in general.