Sunday, July 04, 2010

John Underkoffler points to the future of UI

I caught this video by John Underkoffler - the science advisor for the movie Minority Report on TED the other day and it got me thinking about web interfaces, especially for online banking such as CIBC's and online billing such as Roger's. I'm not saying we need interfaces such as this for these kind of online applications, but we are surely due for a major overhaul of these interfaces. I sure hope we don't need movies about these before they become more mainstream.

Is technology capable of improving the interfaces for online banking/billing sites?

Hell yes! The customers just need to demand that. We have been stuck in this e-statement model for far too long. Technology isn't the hold up. We have had these brilliant interfaces in the wild for a while now. Consider Mint. That 15 person team was so successful they were even purchased by accounting software maker Intuit in 2009. So it is not technology that is limiting us, Mint did it and clearly they don't have as much resources as the banks or telecoms do. So what is the hold up?

Its a monopoly on my data

Consider the analyst who goes through some sort of overview of customer spending habits to figure out new plans or services to offer to these customers. Do they get a dump of the data? Probably not, you can't make sense of it. For these analysts to be able to see spending habits to justify new services they probably get to see some sort of visual, a chart, a graph, something. Human minds are visual, we are pretty good at spotting things if they are in a picture, not so good at spotting the one line in a contract that will
rip you a new one
cause you trouble in the future; that is why there are lawyers. Instead of dazzling me with loading icons please start focusing on delivering a little more value. I think as much right these analysts have to study my data to justify future products and services, I too have a right to my data to make sense of my spending habits. Here's a thought, I would happily pay $6 a month for that, instead of $6 a month for call display - which by the way probably requires you to do work to DISABLE. Why do we let these people reach into our pockets without providing anything of real value to us? Would you buy a car from a dealer who asks for more money to enable the 3rd gear? or charges you per minute per kilometer driving on an out of province highway? or you pay a service charge for filling up with a different grade gas?

Who would want this kind of stuff anyway?

Gen Y grew up in the Internet age, they expect this stuff to be the norm. Its only a matter of time before it becomes the norm so why fight it? I have been using Wesabe to make sense of my banking statements up until they posted a shut down notice. I didn't mind the hassle of exporting my statement and importing it in every month to see these beautiful spending charts. The tagging feature even allowed me to track my spending on smokes by making me more disciplined at buying my smokes from the same 2 places so that I could tag my spending at these 2 grocery stores as "smokes".

As much as I'd love to manipulate my phone bill in 3D space, I will be extremely happy if my interaction with it becomes more 2010, instead of 1997. All I'm asking at this point is for 3 fairly simple, yet significant improvements:
  1. The ability to tag transactions, and to view my statement by tag for both billing & banking. Rogers already allows me to tag numbers, so you are halfway there!.
  2. View tags as a pie chart -or any other visual- for both billing and banking
  3. For banking, graph my "income" against "expenses", month to month, year over year.

Simple? Can you do it for 2010? And then if you agree that these add value to your customer, then how about you replicate Wesabe for 2011?

Minority Report science adviser and inventor John Underkoffler demos g-speak -- the real-life version of the film's eye-popping, tai chi-meets-cyberspace computer interface. Is this how tomorrow's computers will be controlled?

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