Index Cards, the Ultimate Multi-Touch Interface

James Bond

Turns out, 007’s new multi-touch comm device has nothing on the decades old index card. Index cards are a great communication tool. Use them to present website designs, create conceptual layouts for applications, and brainstorm ideas in general. These two pictures were taken from one of our client meetings, when we are trying to organize different functional areas into groups for visual design.

Whether you are a technical person, a design person, or a business person, it is easy to get  a complete picture of the information at a glance. Index cards are tactile. Don’t like something? Pick it up and move it.

Why are index card more effective than say, a whiteboard? Whiteboard is a common meeting tool. But whiteboard has its disadvantages. Erasing and redrawing takes time. A sketch will deteriorate over time as it is being designed and redesigned. Only one person can have the marker at a time unless you have a wall-to-wall set of whiteboards. Whiteboard is finite. How many times you walk into a conference room and see “Do not erase” written on a board? You will need a lot of surfaces. We use a set of FIVE rolling whiteboards ourselves, giving us ten different surfaces to keep track of things. We also use “evernote” an iphone app to take snapshots of whiteboards and have them automatically upload for sharing.

Computer software programs, such as XmindMindjet, and Inspiration are useful for presentation and communication. Until we have affordable high resolution projectors, their usefulness is limited in a meeting setting. Same for interactive whiteboards -- SmartBoard is the grand daddy of interactive whiteboard and are expensive and not easy to setup. The latest innovation, using technology from Anoto, are promising. The Eno boards from Polyvision, and UPIC portable board from Plus will eventually drive the cost and functionality down. But currently they are still expensive to install, partly because of the need for a good projector.

Having different tools to communicate is important but ultimately the idea is to have a clear method to brainstorm in a group. Collaboration should be simple and leave little room for confusion from either party.

The point is, until we reach the likes of Minority Report or Quantum of Solace technology, the index card provides a simple way to convey what these new technologies are in the process of mastering.