The Design of Everyday Interfaces – 3 (The confusing system image at Udacity)

by krishnamoorthyb

Part 3 of the series on the design of everyday interfaces.

We all build conceptual models of the world around us. John Medina explains in his very entertaining book that the brain processes information visually though the input may not necessarily be visual. For example, the visual model of a classroom will contain the image of the teacher writing on a black(white nowadays) board.  In this image, the hand that writes will be on top of the content that is being written. This is so fundamental that it is difficult to even thin otherwise. That is until you watch any video on a Udacity course where the instructor is annotating a slide on screen. The following is a screen grab of one such instance (taken from the course – The Design of Everyday Things):

Udacity - A

Do you notice something strange? The hand is behind the content! This is weird and it actually makes it difficult for me to concentrate on the content. My mind is stuck with this counter-intuitive way of writing on a board.  I cannot think of a good reason for this design. Maybe the designer had a conceptual model for live annotations that is not apparent in the system image. To know more about the difference between a conceptual model and a system image, read this article by Donald Norman. Search for the text “Conceptual Models & User-Centered Design” in the article.

Can you think of a reason for the strange design of the annotation feature of a Udacity course video? Please post it as a comment to this post.

Older articles in series:

Part 2   Part 1