Systems Smart Enough to Know When They’re Not Smart Enough

Good piece by Josh Clark on the problems with “one true answer” search responses:

Speed is a competitive advantage, and time is considered the enemy in most interfaces. That’s reflected in our industry’s fascination with download and rendering speeds, though those metrics are merely offshoots of the underlying user imperative, help me get this job done quickly. “Performance isn’t the speed of the page,” says Gerry McGovern. “It’s the speed of the answer.”

But it has to be the right answer. While this approach works a treat for simple facts like weather, dates, or addresses, it starts to get hairy in more ambitious topics — particularly when those topics are contentious.

I agree with Clark: this is a design problem. It’s a design mistake if you display the wrong answer in a way that makes it look like it’s certainly correct. It’s not a design mistake if you display that same wrong answer in a way that makes it clear that the answer isn’t certain.

Monday, 13 March 2017