Harry Potter and the future of user interfaces

I read the first Harry Potter book not long after it was first released in the U.S. I wasn’t very far into the book when I had a revelation.

I realized that J.K. Rowling had a really useful take on user interface design. Rather than starting with “what can technology allow us to do”, she was starting with “What do we want our interfaces to do, if they could do anything at all?”

So we were treated to a world where people in newspaper photos could come to life, where you could look at a map to see where somebody was at the moment, where you could magically conjure a ride to take you places, no matter where you happened to be

At the time, these were widely seen as amusing fantasies. Now they are accepted as everyday realities.

I really like this approach to future user interface design. I think we should continue to use it.

2 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the future of user interfaces”

  1. From a wizard’s point of view, magic boils down to: point your wand and utter the correct arcane spell.

    In my view, it’s analogous to very old-school UI: move the mouse cursor into a terminal window and type the correct arcane command.


  2. One difference is in the nature of the relationship to the physical world. Harry Potter’s magic connects directly to the physical world that he inhabits with his body.

    What we do with a mouse/cursor is very abstracted from that world. Smartphones and AR are starting to move us a bit in that direction, but I think there is a long way to go.

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