Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 6th Sep 2005 12:56 UTC, submitted by Anonymous coward
Graphics, User Interfaces This opinion piece gives 8 reasons as to why HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) is in its stone age. It talks of screen corners, visual attention, the spatial paradigm (oh my...) and much more.
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by edwdig on Tue 6th Sep 2005 13:50 UTC
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I can't stand HCI freaks. By freaks, I don't mean, say, people complaining about Linux UI's, but people who obsess over screen corners and things like that. They rant and rave about current UIs sucking, and give incredibly vague guidelines to "improve" things without thinking about the overall picture.

Responding to the points individually:

1. Screen corners may be easy to reach, but they are completely detached from everything. Generally speaking, you are looking in the center of the screen, which makes the corners the hardest things to see. We'd have to significantly change our current UI's to indicate the corners would be useful, but the article gives no suggestions on doing that. Nor does it give any examples of what features should be activated by the corners. No, "check email in the screen corner" doesn't even make sense.

2. This is just an opinion the author is stating to get across a silly image in your head. He's not saying anything to justify it, or suggesting anything to change it. Pointless.

3. This one is a bunch of little points.

As for every little detail requiring you to pay attention to it, that's a cross of two things. One is the sheer number of things you can do requiring screen space, limiting the area you can give to each button. The other is the lack of tactile feedback - maybe if the mouse could somehow offer resistance when you moved the cursor over a button, you could pull off something, but I don't see that one as likely.

Having to finding your position in text every time you do something that obviously would require the text to move. Current OS's already do their best to minimize the need. If I resize my Mozilla window, it will do its best to keep the same section of text onscreen. If I hit page down, the last lines of the screen will get moved to the top so that I have some overlap to find my place with.

Space bar scrolling - Is he unaware of what the Page Up and Page Down keys do? Unless you're using a crappy laptop keyboard (read: most laptop keyboards), th Page up and Page Down keys are some of the easiest keys on the keyboard to find without looking or groping around. I'm also amazed that he thinks scrolling is a more important feature than typing text when you're in a text entry field.

4. There's not really a point here, just an observation.

5. You gotta love someone ranting how all UI's suck, but this would be so much better complaining that we don't need choice.

6. You can't rely on spatial for two reasons. First is the lack of tactile feedback. Knowing the forks are on the left doesn't prevent you from looking for them unless you can also feel a difference between the left and right side of the draw they're in. You also need to be able to feel that what you're touching is actually a fork. The other reason spatial doesn't really work is due to limited screen space. Things constantly overlap each other, or change due to context. That doesn't happen in your kitchen. The fork draw doesn't become the pencil draw when you start writing a letter. The two never overlap, which is why you can recognize them spatially.

7. Those are really just marketing terms used to sell stuff to people afraid of computers. From people actually designing applications, you'll hear terms such as "document oriented" or "task oriented".

8. There is no example of how he thinks it should work instead. If you've got a decent email app that supports HTML mail, you could do the photo operations, copy the image to the clipboard, and paste it in the email. The app would automatically take care of the attachment part he seems to despise.

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