Certain products seem to resonate: often because they are new, but more frequently because they are both new and good. They get imitated, or they inspire new ways of thinking and designing other products.
I’ve put together a list of the top 30 products whose interaction design has influenced and inspired designers, sometimes for decades. I focused on products that were actually built, which left out such influencers such as Vannevar Bush’s Memex. I also left out physical devices that had no interactive component such as automobile dashboards (with one exception: the telegraph).
The Roomba took robots from the movies, factories, and battlefields and finally put them in people’s homes. Their sound design of beeps and boops demonstrates how we might begin to relate to animate objects in the home. Anyone working in human-robot interaction has to reference the Roomba.
Facebook took the modularization of the web and combined it with an ever-growing social network for a powerful combination. Changes in its design are debated and discussed by those who’d never talk about web design. “Facebook widget” has become part of the lexicon, even if it doesn’t mean on Facebook itself.
Most people have probably never heard of AudioSynTrac, but it was the forerunner of what would become karaoke. AudioSyncTrac created a whole new means of interaction with music, whose influence extends all the way to products like Rock Band.
Twitter has become the poster child for cross-platform but web-native (or at least web-managed) applications. Its lightweight interactions have already produced a slew of imitators, and the slew of everything from conferences to desktop and mobile apps has made Twitter into a new paradigm for interaction.
26. Xerox Copying Machine
If you look on many office devices such as fax machines and printers, you will see the echoes of the design language created in the early 1980s for Xerox. Even as copying machines have gotten more sophisticated and include digital screens, many of the basic paradigms persist.
YouTube shows us how to share video online, something many tried but none had succeeded at on a large scale beforehand. Its influence can be seen in a whole range of websites and applications, from Hulu to CNN.
Not only did Blogger help kickstart the whole blogging phenomenon, it also has become widely imitated for its 1-2-3 step setup and its simple page layout.
Gestural interfaces have been around since the 1970s, but it took Nintendo to rethink the game console. How many mobile devices now are being built with accelerometers in them because of the Wiimote? The influence of the Wii on future products will likely be enormous.
A decade ago, TiVo showed us there was a different way to interact with our TVs, and really must of our previously “dumb” electronics. What has also endured is paradigms like “time shifting” that have made their way to other mediums.
21. The Telegraph
By all rights, the telegraph, as the first global communications medium, should have been much higher on the list. But unfortunately, a lot of its lessons were lost in the 150 years since its creation. But the telegraph’s influence touched the telephone and lingers on in products such as Skype and IM.