Here are the archetypes. I’ll quickly run through them and give examples of each, from the original paper, with characteristic functionality.
- Document editor applications: Word. Live collaboration, workflow, screen reading.
- Database applications: Like iTunes. Manipulation, searching, sorting, local or remote database records
- Production/development environment applications: Visual Studio; Final Cut Pro. Complex tool palettes, version control
- E-commerce applications: Rich clients. Carts, privacy, database browsing
- Information/reference applications: IMDB. Web/local mixes, search, multimedia, hypertext, user participation
- Entertainment applications: Games. Immersive, text/audio chats, presence
- Viewer applications: PDF readers and image viewers. Standard shuttle controls, annotation.
- Utility applications: Calculator/Defrag. Guiding users through infrequent tasks (with Inductive User Interfaces), express installation and use
“Entertainment applications” are especially interesting. The UX folks identified that it wasn’t just immersion that made playing games good, it was the other players. Those interactions should be supported with chat and presence functionality, and the OS should make that easy. You can see the fruit of this work in the most recent XBox—though I don’t know whether it’s directly related.
Anyway, the power of this work is quite apparent. By developing archetypes, or genres from existing applications, you can derive the common functionality that you need to build-in or simplify, and that informs the next generation of desktop applications.
What if this same process could be applied to web apps?
Matt Webb, S&W, posted 2006-09-21 (talks on 2006-09-03, 2006-09-17)