FYP: Usability & Blackboxing



The test of consumer technologies is ‘plug-and-ability’. I need to be able to do things (such as like 3D printing) as easily as I can go on to Drive and write this out now. Basically new technologies need to ‘just work’, without all the hassle of complicated set ups.


One example that springs to mind would be the lightswitch. Until recently, the core concept of how a lightswitch works hadn’t changed since the 1800s. The LIFX bulb is a relatively new product that allows the user to control the lights with their smartphone using a wifi-capable lightbulb. My dissertation will aim to discuss how emerging and existing technologies can and will optimize the way we interact with our environment, focusing primarily on the home.


I feel pseudo-blackboxing is an essential in good UX design - the average consumer really doesn’t need to know the backend goings on of a product, only inputs and outputs. However still retaining the option to remove the blackbox for development. For a product to be successful it needs to be able to be used by the average layman. As an example 3D printing is at the stage where it’s widely manufactured and affordable enough to be a desirable product for nearly everyone. However the limiting factor is ease of use. An example of a potentially successful 3D printer is the Zeus, marketed to be easy enough to use by an infant.


Continuing on with blackboxing. Blackboxing for a lot of users can reduce the number of processes involved in completing a task. This reduces the load on the user’s mind. This now unused portion of the mind can be re-focused on the task. This saves the user from spending valuable ‘thought cycles’ on thinking about the medium between them and the task, and more ‘thought cycles’ on the actual task at hand. On the contrary to this, blackboxing only really works when the blackboxed system works perfectly 100% of the time. When problems are encountered the task can stop to a halt until the system is replace, or a third party can fix it. In the opposing philosophy a user should understand the systems they work with, this allows them to gain a better understanding of the system, and how the system can potentially be improved.

I really wish to incorporate these ideas into my Final Project, and have one of my focuses be on this sort of psuedo-blackboxing.

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