Here in NYC we've got a billionaire mayor, and you've probably heard of the device that made him rich, the Bloomberg Terminal. For those of you that haven't, it's an integrated computer system and service feed offering real-time financial data and trading.
For finance peeps, Bloomberg Terminals are like potato chips, in that you can't have just one. Your average user rocks a two-, four- or six-monitor set-up....
...though that can get out of control.
Yesterday Quartz announced they'd discovered that the unpublicized cost is 24 grand a year for a single terminal and subscription. For that much money, you'd think they'd dump a little more design into these things. I mean, check out the keyboard:
As it turns out, the now-defunct Conde Nast Portfolio once asked IDEO to come up with a better Bloomberg Terminal design, just a concept, and just for kicks. In just three weeks, they came up with this:
If you're wondering what those little mini-monitors are, they're for a conceptual device that IDEO called the "Bloomberg Wherever." It was "an electronic notepad that is reused like a virtual Post-it [and that] allows users to take a small-scale Bloomberg terminal device beyond their desks." Bear in mind that this was done way back in 2007, just before the iPhone's debut.
These designs never went anywhere (nor did concepts done by two other firms), as it wasn't an official commission. But why hasn't Bloomberg moved to get somebody to do a re-design? The original Portfolio article stated that "...Company executives see the Bloomberg terminal's unique presentation as a status symbol and a selling point. 'We have to be religiously consistent' to satisfy users who become attached to terminal's look and feel, says Bloomberg chief executive Lex Fenwick."
Simplifying the interface of the terminal would not be accepted by most users because, as ethnographic studies show, they take pride on manipulating Bloomberg's current "complex" interface. The pain inflicted by blatant UI flaws such as black background color and yellow and orange text is strangely transformed into the rewarding experience of feeling and looking like a hard-core professional.
The more painful the UI is, the more satisfied these users are.
The Bloomberg Terminal interface looks terrible, but it allows traders and other users to pretend you need to be experienced and knowledgeable to use it.