I have heard of systems administrators doing something similar with server activity. Instead of a dashboard of green lights and percentages of server loads […], they switched to bird sounds. Maybe each server had a distinct bird chirp. As activity increased, the sound would go from calm to a cacophony of birdsong. At that point, the sysadmins knew something was wrong and had a look.
Edward Tufte, an American statistician and information design expert, referred to all the pointless illustrations that go along with charts as junk. The definition of junk is wide and varied, but if you remove something from the chart and it doesn't change the meaning, it's chart junk.
We call it junk because it obscures the meaning and intention of the graph, which is to convey information and tell a story. Any extraneous imagery is not part of the information.
To describe a building as beautiful therefore suggests more than a mere aesthetic fondness; it implies an attraction to the particular way of life this structure is promoting through its roof, door handles, window frames, staircase and furnishings. A feeling of beauty is a sign that we have come upon a material articulation of certain of our ideas of a good life.
If hypertext really becomes available, especially in the fancy versions now being talked about—where words, sounds, video, computer graphics, simulations, and more are all available at the touch of the screen—well, it is hard to imagine anyone capable of preparing the material. It will take teams of people. I predict that there will be much experimentation, and much failure, before the dimensions of this new technology are fully explored and understood.
It does not take much examination to discover the difficulties [when programming a VCR]: there is no visual feedback. As a result users (1) have trouble remembering their place in the lengthy sequence of required steps; (2) have trouble remembering what next needs to be done; and (3) cannot easily check the information just entered to see if it is what was intended, and then cannot easily change it, if they decide it was wrong.
If an error is possible, someone will make it. The designer must assume that all possible errors will occur and design so as to minimise the chance of the error in the first place, or its effects once it gets made. Errors should be easy to detect, they should have minimal consequences, and, if possible, their effects should be reversible.