Superhuman Interaction Design

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Superhuman interaction design describes the process of designing interfaces to amplify human intellect, joy, and power to interact with information. Superhuman interfaces are successful because they provide not only a mentally joyful experience, but a physiologically joyful one as well.

In order for an interface to be considered superhuman, it has to have the following characteristics:

  • Minimize visual skeuomorphic cues and reduce the interaction to action ratio.
  • Make the user feel physiologically empowered. Present information in a way that makes the user feel more powerful than the information, not overwhelmed.
  • Make the user feel exhilarated when using the interface, as if they had suddenly turned into a superhuman. Make them feel that they are able to do this because you’ve made them an excellent interface that empowers them.

JumpCut is an example of a superhuman interface in that it extends one's short term memory into a digital data store. It allows one to store up to 50 clipboard objects and access them with a tiny set of keyboard shortcuts. The interface is invisible until one needs it. It makes me feel like my short term memory is suddenly 50 memories long, instead of just 4 or 5.

The Flipboard application for the iPad represents a very important turning point in skeuomorphic interaction design. It takes the best parts of the page turn, reduces them by half (the page pivots from the middle, not the side) and presents the reader with more information instantly. It is seamless. It is empowering. And because of that, it is relaxing.