Why we don't need multi tasking

An article, posted more than 14 years ago filed in experience, ipad, design, interaction, user, applications & multitasking.

Because computers can multi-tasks doesn’t mean they should. People are actually quite bad at multi tasking. Computers, like any other tool, are made to support tasks. Make things easier to accomplish. Requiring users to multi task is far from supportive. Every interruption, which switching interfaces is, takes time to recover from. Hence, instead of promoting the idea of multi-tasking, computer makers should think more about completing tasks users are confronted with.

Instead of designing top notch ‘solutions’ for an entire ‘office in a machine’, computermakers should design solutions for a single clerk’s job, or maybe even just a part of that job and find a way to nicely integrate in that clerk’s job. Computers, or the softmachines powered by them, should be attempts to support an entire task without forcing the user to switch interfaces during task execution. Bad and good designs should be tested against the vision of perfect support for a single (type of) task.

Multitasking is useful technology, but it should be considered a hack, a workaround, when it is user experience that is concerned. So don’t worry when a computer maker’s new operating system for tablets doesn’t support multitasking. You should be glad that it forces them to design solutions that work for you, without requiring you to look up that file you saved somewhere, and attach it to an e-mail. You should be glad that it forces them to design solutions that work for you without requiring you to open up another interface to do a little drawing. You should be glad that it forces them to design solutions that don’t require opening other tools to just get a preview of the contents of an e-mail attachment. And if these programs don’t exist yet? Don’t blame the hardware manufacturer. Blame the software designers: humans don’t need multi-tasking.

(Yes of course, I am writing this partly in response to numourous complaints about the lack of multitasking support in the upcoming iPad)

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