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The IBM Glass Engine: Interface design reviews seems to be an elegant way of presenting elaborately complex chunks of information, and encourages the user to become truly interactive.

What E.T. information design criteria make this "glassengine" successful/unsuccessful?

What other uses, based on successful "glassengine" information design, might be found?

-- Peter Pehrson (email)

Glass Engine: interface design

If this interface had been "the BartokStringQuartetsEngine" or the "BobDylanEngine" then I could evaluate the project more deeply. How an interface serves the content can be better evaluated by someone who knows about the particular content and interface design. Thus the comments above of Kindly Contributor David Person carry special weight.

But this is for sure: an interface must not open with an instruction manual and a list of all the things that can go wrong. This one does. Although the manual itself is reasonable and straightforward, the manual, of things, is a dominant image and appears to come from another planet, an interface to an interface for music. Just build the instructions gently into the interface itself. (Another way to put the matter: do not open with the red forbidden circle-slash.)

The design style is Stately-MOMA-Corporate, rather than textured, annotated, funky. There seems to be a bit too much emphasis on interactivity and not enough on the music. Good interface design should be self-effacing rather than self-conscious. Maybe if I were a Philip Glass music analyst the interactivity would have greater appeal.

One point of comparison might be compilations of the work of other musicians or interfaces devoted to sorting out bird calls.

I very much enjoyed hearing the music and reading the commentary associated with the music. So some content came across, which is the point of the Glass Engine.

-- Edward Tufte

iTunes comparison?

Isn't this like what iTunes does too - - sorting out and playing music?

-- music-one

Relevant threads on this board

See our music representation threads:

Display of musical structure
Visual notation of bird songs
Music Animation Machine

The QuickTime version of the Music Animation Machine allows good interactivity by means of the standard unobtrusive slider controls.

What about other comparison points for the Glass Engine. Anyone want to take up the iTunes interface and its relevance, if any, in thinking about The Glass Engine?

-- Edward Tufte

IBM Glass Engine: An Interface Design Review by Steven Chalmers

Don't Click:
Instructing the user to not click the bar is a failure of the UI design. The standard for a "slider" control is to allow the user to both "grab" and slide the "thumb" element along the slider axis as well as to click on the axis. Also, it would be nice to support keyboard control of the sliders. Left and right arrows should move the selection by one unit. Page Up and Page Down could move the Work Title to the next Work item.

Scale End Point Controls:
Upon first hovering over the end points of the active slider control I learned that some sort of interaction was possible given the appearance of arrows on either side of the label. My first guess was to click on the arrows rather than to slide the end point. A tooltip would have helped me understand what to do with these controls.

Squares & Filtered Slider Display:
I had to read the instruction to understand the value of the squares next to the subjective measures. The squares are redundant to the basic design use of the sliders and should be removed. Instead of hiding that portion of the scale which is filtered out given the repositioning of an end point, show that portion in an alternate perspective such as a reduction in height. This way the value of a song on a given scale can still be determined by its relative position in the whole scale.

Secondarily, with the current implementation the user must either remember which scales have been filtered or must manually click on each to see that the scale has been filtered.

Next Song Icons:
The choice of icons utilizing double arrows with a vertical bar is poor as these icons give the appearance of moving to the ends of the scale rather than by a single increment.

Work Title:
I believe the title "WORK TITLE" could be improved to communicate that in fact it is a dual index of "Work" and "Title" within that Work.

What is the value of this design?

An understanding of the user and their goals is, of course, paramount to any design. In the absence of this input it is difficult to determine the value of this design.

The principle function of iTunes is to play specific music. Whether an individual song, an album, a playlist or the entire set utilizing the "shuffle" function, the music the user desires to play is known.

I propose that playing a known piece of music is not the principle function of the IBM Glass Engine. Rather, it appears to me, the function of the Engine is to review the works of Phillip Glass from the perspective of the interrelationships and profiles of 9 attributes of his work. By that measure this is an effective design.

I would argue that this tool is in fact more useful for the Phillip Glass novice than the expert. The expert already has an understanding of the emotional profile and a time span of the work. The novice is introduced to these attribute interrelationships by using this tool.

I believe there is not too much emphasis on interactivity as it inspires engagement. It is literally fun to play with. The MOMA-esque design inspires play with thoughts of "what happens if...".

Suggestions for improving the design:

  1. Eliminate the square blocks that communicate the value of Joy through Velocity.

  2. Change how the filtered portions of the sliders are displayed.
    Notice the scale for Joy is shown being filtered on the Low end. As the Low end point is being moved toward the middle the filtered portion of the scale has the song vertical bars shown as reduced in height. The helps the user learn the meaning of the altered display of the song vertical bars.

  3. Change the icons used to move to the next and previous song.
    The icons are shown as simple left and right facing arrows.

  4. Implement keyboard support for the sliders.

  5. Change "WORK TITLE" to something like "Tracks within Works"
    Note that I did not update this in my version of the proposed design.

  6. Change the title of the application to something like: "Phillip Glass: An Exploration of Works with IBM's Glass Engine".
    It is more relevant to the user to see the artist's name in the window title and the task bar item than "IBM".


-- Steven Chalmers (email)

Threads relevant to interface design:

Threads relevant to music: