CNET has a story about the growing importance of fields like human-computer interaction, usability, and human factors engineering. As someone who has done work in this area, I heartily agree.
Wonder why YouTube skyrocketed in popularity in less than two years?
One obvious reason is that the video-sharing Web site has kept it simple. YouTube doesn't require a video player download or a special account just to watch a video. With just a click on a link, a video is up and running in a few seconds. It's a people-friendly design, and that attention to simplicity has paid off.
Experts in the field of so-called human-computer interaction, however, say good design like the YouTube interface is the exception, not the rule. For every slick Apple iPod, there are a dozen washing machines with a baffling array of buttons. And for every simple TiVo interface, there are umpteen TV remote controls that look like something out of NASA's Mission Control.
Now companies, universities and even government agencies like NASA are investing time and dollars as they take a hard look at how people interact with technology.
Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things is a great introduction to the ideas behind HCI.