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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Has anyone tried to teach how to use computers? I have tried to teach my aunt, and then I realized how difficult to use computers are.

What would be a nice computer experience? it would be one like this:

the user presses an easily accessible button to switch on the computer; monitor etc are switched on.

a nice graphic greets you while the O/S loads.

The opening screen presents a list of functions in a vertical menu that occupies the screen: write a document, find a document, play a game, etc (each program installs its own category here).

The user selects 'find'. The computer responds with another screen: what to find? the user writes "find all the documents between yesterday and today". The computer responds with a list of documents.

While the above has happened, the previous screen has been minimized with an animation to a little transparent icon at one of the screen sides.

Then the user wants to checkout emails. He clicks the initial screen icon, then selects to view emails. The find screen is again minimized somewhere. The screen contains email information. The user clicks an email. The email list is minimized while the screen is occupied with the email and some nice translucent animated options using the 3d card (ala Spore). The user clicks the 'forward' button and then a list of contacts comes up. The user selects the contacts and presses ok.

Then the user wants to see the job tasks. He goes onto the first screen, selects 'tasks' and the new tasks come up. Then he proceeds to do the tasks etc.

Now let's see reality:

the user tries to find the power button. Where is it? he pushes the monitor button, but the only thing he sees is the green power on monitor led. He presses the button again. Then he realizes the computer is hidden under the desk. He presses the button.

A nice black & white screen with some strange messages come up. He then waits while more strange messages come up. Then he see a message about 'windows'.

Then WinXP finally boots.

The user wants to find the documents written from yesterday. He clicks 'start', but nothing happens. WinXp has not actually finished booting!

Then he clicks 'start' again after a few seconds. The start menu opens. The user sits there gazing at the marvellous invention called 'winXp' menu. He then clicks 'search'.

The search menu talks about finding files, folders, printers and outlook. It does not say you can find documents. Therefore the user clicks away to try another way.

The user searches the start menu for 'find documents', but he finds nothing. Then he realizes that a document is a file, so he goes back to 'search'. Then a little dog comes up and asks him if he wants to find 'documents'.

The user is happy to have found how to search for documents. The options say 'within last week', so he clicks that. He then enters in the box that says 'document name': "my vacations". He then clicks 'search'.

A window comes up empty.

But the user is sure to have given the name 'my vacations' to the document. What happened? 'my vacations' was the word document's title, not the file name. The filename was 'this summer', because the user's text starts with 'this summer' and msword proposed it as a filename when the file was saved.

Then the user wants to checkout emails. He goes to the start menu and selects 'email'. Then he wants to find emails. There isn't a search option anywhere, so he goes back to the start menu. He then sees that he can not search emails, because the start menu says he can search for 'files, folders, people, printer and outlook'.

Then the user wants to check his job tasks. There is no such thing as tasks, but he remembers he has to open 'internet explorer'. He opens IE, then he has to type some weird things.

To cut the long story sort, computers suck, because operating systems suck. Computer usage is not human-centric, but machine-centric.

Reply Score: 1

hobgoblin Member since:

hmm, symphony anyone?

still, i fully agree with the troublesome interaction above.

hmm, i recall a program called haystack that some MIT people was working on.

the main problem is, like i think the article pointed out, that the computer isnt buildt by one company or person, but by many.

still: with the new destop search stuff that apple and others have introduced lately, your example about searching may be a bit flawed...

Reply Parent Score: 1

Sphinx Member since:

I got the exact ideal experience you described with my sparcstation 5 and Solaris 2.6 and again came very close with an early mac II, yet neither are the world market share leader. The problem is not the computer.

Reply Parent Score: 1