In this week’s comic we have an example of an interface which probably shouldn’t be made easier to use. Although HCI folks will rarely admit it, there are quite a few situations where improved usability is uneeded and unwanted.
One that comes to mind for me is the Piano. I’ve played piano for quite some time and to me the interface feels perfect. The weight of the keys, the spacing between them, everything about it seems effortless and right. In reality though, if the goal is to help a person play music, the piano interface leaves much to be desired. It is a system that only a small percentage of the population ever master, and one where a newcomer can’t really accomplish much. For these reasons, I liken it to the Unix Command Line.
Usability is great when it comes to most applications - unless one of the criteria for the application is “challenging for the user”. Such is the dilemma of video game design. The designer wants to create a game that is challenging enough to be fun but not so challenging that gamers are fed up with the game before even starting. If you make something challenging, does that mean it’s unusable? Further, is unusable even a bad thing when it comes to games? How do we balance the two sides?