Tom Lakovic has a nice essay at Wired, “To Make Tech Design Human Again, Look to the Past“.
Much of what he says isn’t new or controversial, but I always enjoy cranky complaints about “Who Got It Wrong” and why. Prime example: putting touch screens in cars. Very. Bad. Idea.
He gives us the memorable phrase “Inappropriate Touch“, personified by the image of designs that “slap a touch screen on a refrigerator to make it ‘innovative'”.
His prescription of looking back isn’t exactly ground breaking, designers love to look at the history of design. But in the case of touch screens, he is right on target: cheap, ubiquitous, and incredibly capable touch screens are actually terrible interfaces for many (most?) uses. They are the lowest common denominator, and in a Gresham’s Law effect, they are pushing out better interfaces.
Check out his diagram depicting the devolution of the keyboard. ‘Nuff said.
I think it would be a useful exercise as part of interaction design to require a step where you have to show how you would interface without any touch screen. This won’t stop touchscreen madness (they are so cheap and easy to design with), but it would uncover some really great designs that would otherwise be overlooked.