Oh FUI
March 20, 2015 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Fictional user interfaces in film, TV and games.
Kit FUI
UI BAKA
SciFi Interfaces
VisualPunker: UI
FakeUI
Screens on screen

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posted by zamboni (15 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've seen an argument (possibly here on MeFi) that fictional interfaces have done immeasurable harm to the field of real-life user interface design. The fictional UIs are designed for the benefit of the audience, not the user, but the first thing we do when we try to design an interface in the real world is make it look like Star Trek because we've been programmed to expect interfaces to look like that.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2015


You can have your own with the meticulous HAL 9000 screensaver (previously somewhere here, I'm sure).
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:43 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, designers for shows like Star Trek often go to great lengths to have believable designs. At least as believable as anything else is.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:09 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of my weekly reads is a blog about science fiction films and interface choices.
posted by mikurski at 11:23 AM on March 20, 2015


... Which was already posted. Curse you, mobile browsing!
posted by mikurski at 11:24 AM on March 20, 2015


But there's a temptation to throw in things to make it look complicated and of course you don't know precisely what information is important to piloting a star ship.



Or the tendency to turn things into a visible process. My favourite example is while a computer searches a database it flashes the contents of that database on-screen.
posted by RobotHero at 11:43 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's some great stuff in the Director's Commentary tracks on Battlestar Galactica about how they designed the control surface interfaces, bringing in references from actual battleship consoles and such.
posted by odinsdream at 11:55 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


the first thing we do when we try to design an interface in the real world is make it look like Star Trek because we've been programmed to expect interfaces to look like that.

And then you immediately change everything, because if you leave it as is, CBS will get your application banned.
posted by effbot at 12:18 PM on March 20, 2015


My favourite example is while a computer searches a database it flashes the contents of that database on-screen.

Or playing zillions of games of tic-tac-toe to prove that the only way to win is not to play. (from the Visual Punker UI link.)
posted by chavenet at 12:37 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Part of my job is designing UIs for the web and mobile apps. I always smile when I see stuff like this, because it inevitably falls on one end or another of a scale. At one extreme, you have impossibly information dense interfaces with a million buttons, little line graph readouts and things moving all over the place. But there's no actual informational hierarchy or any real indication about what the interface is supposed to actually be telling the user. It's just moving stuff that says 'THIS IS COMPLICATED'.

At the other extreme are beautiful, spare, minimalist designs with one or two actions, rounded curves, blank spaces and beautifully designed icons that fade softly in and out. And when I see them, I laugh for a different reason, because they're the product of pure designer fantasy about a world where every UI decision doesn't have to satisfy real users who want to do very specific things (90% of which aren't catered for in the fantasy UI) and simultaneously satisfy the committees, design reviews and clients who want to make things 'pop' a bit more and are worried users won't understand things unless everything has a 20pt label.

The only place I ever see that kind of UI design in the real world is on one-person iPhone apps coded by a single developer. More often than not, their UIs are pretty but totally inscrutable.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


the first thing we do when we try to design an interface in the real world is make it look like Star Trek because we've been programmed to expect interfaces to look like that.

I've been working with designers for years (mostly web designers), and I've never known any of them to do that. (Except in the rare cases where they were deliberately going for that aesthetic, like for a game with a sci-fi theme or something.)

These links are cool—thanks. Another entertaining niche is the fake websites in TV shows. I really noticed this when I got into Dexter recently. Didn't we recently have a link to a Tumblr (or similar) that collected screenshots of these?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:57 PM on March 20, 2015


And yet one of the few times an actual, contemporary software environment is used in a movie scene, it becomes one of the biggest joke memes. There's just no pleasing some people.
posted by tigrrrlily at 11:28 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you; I've always wondered how UIs are made for TV.
posted by ShanShen at 7:56 PM on March 21, 2015


RobotHero: Or the tendency to turn things into a visible process. My favourite example is while a computer searches a database it flashes the contents of that database on-screen.
I agree, and yet... When I write code that /may/ take a loooong time, I sometimes do this - experimenting with update frequency so it flashes 1-2 times a second, as a sort of reassurance feedback.

More informative than a rolling hourglass, and doesn't add appreciable time to program run, even if the processor in the future is 10x faster.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:14 AM on March 29, 2015


Faint of Butt: I've seen an argument (possibly here on MeFi) that fictional interfaces have done immeasurable harm to the field of real-life user interface design.
Given that the immeasurable quantity may be zero, I can't contradict that claim.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:14 AM on March 29, 2015


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