Linked by David Adams on Wed 24th May 2006 04:08 UTC
Editorial It's conventional wisdom that computers need to be "easier to use." But do they? More reliable, yes. Easier to troubleshoot, yes. But now that so many people use computers so much, I think there's something to be said for making them less easy-to-use and less intuitive.
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You are all just a bit unfair
by alcibiades on Wed 24th May 2006 16:46 UTC
alcibiades
Member since:
2005-10-12

He's making some worthwhile points.

1) Graphical wizards when endlessly nested aren't necessarily easier than text based tools.

2) The desktop/folder metaphor is very attractive to new users but it may be, compared to a proper file manager, a hindrance to understanding.

3) What sells new users in the shop display may drive experienced users crazy if they are compelled to use it.

4) Maybe the industry obsession with ease of use for new users is getting it wrong. His example of video remote controls is very interesting. I would include texting on mobiles as a similar example - as far from conventional human interface design and ease of use as you can get, but it took off like a bomb.

5) The most interesting thing is that he is a Mac user. Now its not the first time I have heard of Mac users throwing out the dock, clearing the desktop, and going to an empty desktop and a file manager when they actually need to manage files. Is it possible that Mac users, having been the first to embrace the desktop metaphor, are also the first to come to the end of it?

What I found when introducing naive users to Windowmaker is that it was surprisingly well accepted. No desktop icons except program icons, multiple desktops, use a file manager to find your files. All totally contrary to the Human Interface guidelines which were inspired by Xerox and Apple 20 years ago. And yet the universal reaction (including from old ladies of 70 with computer phobia) was 'of course I can use this'.

Makes one think.

Reply Score: 4

jaylaa Member since:
2006-01-17

Another example I'd like to give is Latex. Oh the pain I went through the first few times I tried to write with it. But it gets easier everytime. And faster.

Now I'm to the point where a program that makes it easier for newcomers like Lyx or Scientific Workplace are actually a hindrance to me, and I'm glad I don't have to use them (unfortunately I didn't have those programs when I was new at it).

The point I'm trying to make is (well, the same as the article and everyone else who got the article): what is easy for the unexperienced can be a hindrance to the experienced. In the case of Latex it's the fortunate circumstance that there's something for both. But for operating systems, if it weren't for alternate OSs and window managers and 3rd party hacks, experienced users would be forced to put up with the 4 button remote, to use the author's analogy.

Though the article seems to imply that you can't have easy for the beginner and efficient and functional for the experienced at the same time. I think you can, just not with the same interface. Which is why having different desktop environments on the same OS is so great.

And think about this: what if we all were forced to use Windows or OSX with absolutely no tweaks? Would so many people on a tech site such as this be clamoring for easy to use systems that their grandmother who's never seen a computer could use, or would they too be asking for more advanced systems that let them work efficiently without wizards, balloons, clippys and other eye-candy?

Anyway, yeah people are just flaming the article as if he just wants computers to be hard. He doesn't want them to be hard, he just doesn't want to lose more functionality.

Reply Parent Score: 4