Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 13th Nov 2007 16:32 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces The past few weeks, as you surely have noticed, I have written a few articles on various usability terms [part I | part II | part III | part IV | part V]. I explain what they mean, their origins, as well as their implications for graphical user interface design. Even though the series is far from over, I would like to offer a bit more insight into why I am diving into these subjects.
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Member since:

We have childrens books and adult books. A child mode might be good. That doesn't mean other modes are bad.

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monodeldiablo Member since:

I don't know what books you read, but I've never come across an adult book that was easier to read than a children's book. ;)

The previous poster's point was that, if his 1 year old can quickly become comfortable with a UI, any adult should. If usability is the whole point, how could an "adult" mode be more usable if loads of adults are still having real issues with "child" mode.

Personally, my years of development, testing, support, and UI design have reinforced that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who try and those who don't.

The people who "don't try" seem to live in constant fear of breaking things. Moving buttons around or making interfaces more "intuitive" doesn't seem to help these people, as they only use elements they already know how to use. Essentially, they learn -- not by trial and error, as children do -- but by being explicitly told what to click on, and when. They don't explore. They don't optimize their workflow. When they encounter something new or unexpected, they freeze and request a resident "magician" guide them through.

Redefining the workspace in terms and concepts that these people will understand is noble, but ultimately useless, I think. At its heart, computing is a complex activity that appeals to some minds and is completely foreign (or in the least, uninteresting) to others. Simplifying and familiarizing computing for the users who "don't try" may be a vain endeavor, just as you can't make driving any easier without limiting a driver's options (at which point, they'd be better off on a train). For these people, changing the metaphor means that they will have to learn their intricate processes all over again, step by step.

My boss told me an interesting thing not long ago: She, a pharmacist with no CS training, felt more at home on the command line of a VAX in 1982 than she does in Vista or OS X. It was simpler, more predictable, less distracting and disorganized.

For all our supposed "gains" in usability, a lot of it has just been flash and sparkle, with little discernable improvement in efficiency or proficiency. That said, I wish you luck.

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Thom_Holwerda Member since:

Redefining the workspace in terms and concepts that these people will understand is noble, but ultimately useless, I think.

Exactly, which is why I'm not going to do that. It was my original plan (Grow 1.0), but I quickly realised it wouldn't work (as said in the article).

That's why I'm focussing on small improvements to today's interfaces now. Tweaks here, changes there, to make it just a little less infuriating and more predictable. If you read the usability terms articles, you can definitely see some elements of Grow 2.0 shining through already.

Edited 2007-11-14 08:39 UTC

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sorpigal Member since:

I know it's lame and all, but... me too.

I've tried to articulate this several times myself, but you say it better than I have.

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Belial6 Member since:

Your kidding right? Children's books are the same as adult books except simpler. Just as I am not going to trust the reading advice from an adult that has difficulty with a children's book, I am not going to trust an adult's opinion on UI that cannot handle a UI a 1 year old can handle easily.

Last year, I was using a rule of thumb. If an adult cannot trivially learn what my 2 year old can, they are not competent to speak on the subject. Do you think that is unfair?

Edited 2007-11-14 07:36

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Savior Member since:

Last year, I was using a rule of thumb. If an adult cannot trivially learn what my 2 year old can, they are not competent to speak on the subject. Do you think that is unfair?

I think you should learn some psychology or biology. So because I cannot be bilingual by listening to other people talking around me, does it mean that I am more stupid than a 2 year old?

No, it doesn't. In the same way, adults have more difficulties learning to use a new application or GUI, because the biological learning phrase has already ended for them. Also, they have other things to do aside from playing around (because that is how children learn) with unintuitive applications; like taking care of their own 2 year olds. ;)

Of course, you are right in that wanting to learn is important. But it is also important to keep the learning curve short.

Reply Parent Score: 2

losethos2 Member since:

2 year olds form an impression of reality. I had to adapt my view of reality in adulthood and it's tricky. I have respect for 2-year-olds. They say the Kingdom of God is for childlike for a reason;-)

Edited 2007-11-14 08:07

Reply Parent Score: 0

losethos2 Member since:

Your implication is that we've arrived at the best UI and you've closed your mind to anything else. I reject the argument that what is good for a child is good for an adult. One simple fact is kids can't read! What a retarded notion it is to proclaim what's good for the illiterate must be good for the literate.

I have invented a new user interface and it works well for me. It's based on keyboard navagation. Some activities, like programming, are primarily based on the keyboard. In user interface school, they teach it's bad to switch between input devices.

My interface is optimal for programming -- the regular tasks you need to do to write and debug programs. Other interfaces might be optimal for web browsing.

Don't be a fool and suggest one size fits all, from infants to post-graduate students.

If you wish to open your mind, see my operating system. Burn a CD and test drive it without installing or look at the video's.

You're real motivation is to proclaim your operating system as best by distorting facts with silly arguments.

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