Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Jun 2012 08:04 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces It's just a tiny example, but it illustrates a far bigger problem. Adam Becker: "So what's the problem? It's that this innocuous little guy is now being used for all sorts of disparate purposes, and every time it's used for another action, it loses more and more of its meaning." This is what happens when consistency is thrown out the door, and developers get little to no guidance from operating systems' parent companies. Mobile applications and the web are a UX free-for-all, and as a result, established iconography and concepts are used out of context and in wildly varying ways. Just because you can code a mobile application doesn't mean you know anything about user interface design - this lack of guidance is where both Apple and Google have failed miserably.
Thread beginning with comment 522185
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Fri 15th Jun 2012 09:18 UTC
MOS6510
Member since:
2011-05-12

I don't think it's much of a problem. In most cases icons are seen in context. People don't see "three lines", they see "that icon" that's always in the same place when they use a program.

A bigger problem is a hardware button or key that doesn't act consistent.

In the days of the Amiga every program looked different and that didn't bother anyone.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Comment by MOS6510
by daedalus on Fri 15th Jun 2012 10:47 in reply to "Comment by MOS6510"
daedalus Member since:
2011-01-14

And yet the Amiga was still more consistent than other platforms, with common shortcuts across the OS and programs, and consistently placed menus. I remember at the time being driven bonkers switching between DOS, Windows and the Amiga because of the inconsistencies of the former two. There were exceptions obviously, and they did annoy me a little bit - implementing your own close gadget on a window is just a waste of time IMHO, and comes with the added bonus of not responding as the standard one does.

I have to say it does bug me when applications use icons or gadgets which aren't reasonably standard for whatever platform. We have software in work which has toolbar icons which I couldn't actually describe if I tried, and have absolutely no relation that I can see to their function. That's just being awkward for the sake of it, similar functions in other applications seem to be able to do it!

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Fri 15th Jun 2012 10:58 in reply to "RE: Comment by MOS6510"
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

I don't know you "you guys" do it, but but with me it's mostly about feeling, knowing-when-I-see-it and muscle memory.

I mean, if someone stopped me in the street and asked bout the "triple bar" I would have had no idea what he meant. Nor could I easily explain how to do certain actions. But when I'm sitting behind my computer I can do these things blind. Just as I can type blind, but I couldn't tell you the order of all the letters.

So I only have a problem if certain buttons/keys aren't consistent in their function. How icons look like or how windows are dressed doesn't matter for me.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Comment by MOS6510
by peejay on Fri 15th Jun 2012 13:32 in reply to "Comment by MOS6510"
peejay Member since:
2005-06-29

In most cases icons are seen in context.

I agree. The "justify" one is always next to the left, right, and center icons.

The drag to rearrange one looks like a bad choice for that icon, but it's only one specific case.

Using 3 or 4 bars for menu/settings makes sense because it's the best way to condense a menu-look into a small space. It's like a condensed version of the Microsoft context menu key on pretty much all keyboards now (maybe not Apple ones) which has been around since 1994.

And basically it's like the right-mouse-button for touch screens. ;)

Edited 2012-06-15 13:33 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Comment by MOS6510
by Doc Pain on Fri 15th Jun 2012 15:50 in reply to "Comment by MOS6510"
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

I don't think it's much of a problem. In most cases icons are seen in context. People don't see "three lines", they see "that icon" that's always in the same place when they use a program.


Correct - this especially applies where icons don't depict actual (material) things, or when the depicted object that represents a certain action is not in use for that kind of action anymore.

A nice example of the latter categorie is provided in the article "The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other old people Icons that don't make sense anymore" which mentions:

floppy disk = save
radio buttons = mutually exclusive choices
clipboard = buffer memory or other storage
bookmarks = save address of web page or location in file system
address book, calendar = contact information and appointments
tape reels = voicemail or other audio messages
folder = means of grouping and hierarchical order
phone handset = voice communication (or telephone)
magnifying glass, binoculars = search for information. nit also magnify screen content
envelope = e-mail
wrenches, gears = settings, setup or installation, sometimes generic for programs
microphone = voice input
Kodak or other photo camera = digital pictures or movies
TV set with "bunny ears" antenna = streaming news or movies, play audiovisual media
carbon copy = "duplicate" e-mail messages

The context of those icons is mostly of historic nature. If the knowledge about what they initially meant is lost, only their "use by convention" will remain. Maybe in the future, today's use of icons will be seen as the use of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt.

Source:
http://www.hanselman.com/blog/TheFloppyDiskMeansSaveAnd14OtherOldPe...

Today's icon-centric interfaces teach the user by a "trial & error" method what action an icon will cause. This action is then associated to that icon, no matter what it looks like. Basically, icons often give a hint to what they will do, but it doesn't neccessarily have to be the case to make a user learn that particular interface. When for example "blue globe with orange fox" means Internet access (in widest imaginable meaning), that's what users will quickly learn, even though there is no real realtion between the content of the icon and the action it will cause for them (as in: "I'm not using the Internet, I'm just going to my friends!" meaning that the user will access Facebook via Firefox).

A bigger problem is a hardware button or key that doesn't act consistent.


Or even worse - those that cannot easily determined as what they are and what they do. You sometimes find them in cars, where an element looks like a "turning knob", but in fact it's a "self-centering +/- switch key".

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by MOS6510
by righard on Fri 15th Jun 2012 17:58 in reply to "RE: Comment by MOS6510"
righard Member since:
2007-12-26

Though I agreed with the underlying message of the linked article I thought it took some things too far...

- 20 year old's don't know what gears, wrenches and screwdrivers are? I don't believe that at all. Those things are not obsolete nor will they be for a long time.

- I'm under 30 and know what a Polaroid camera is. Also those icons look exactly like digital cameras.

- Until teleports are perfected (don't mean to troll, but the ones we use now are not reliable enough because of small distortions) envelopes will be used for a long time to come to send small physical stuff.

But it remains true that more and more tasks will be done with one of those computor thingies in the future. At which point there are no modern analogues anymore which will make it difficult or impossible to come up with a fitting icon.

Edited 2012-06-15 18:01 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: Comment by MOS6510
by zima on Mon 18th Jun 2012 10:18 in reply to "Comment by MOS6510"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

In the days of the Amiga every program looked different and that didn't bother anyone.

I don't know, Amiga didn't really pick up steam with ~desktop usage; not the way some other more or less contemporary platforms did... (and where is Amiga now? ;p )

And WTH was it with people custom-texturing the AmigaOS UI (one quickly found example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amiga_Workbench_3_screenshot.png but it was typically a lot worse plus not only window backgrounds, also chrome), then showing it off as if it was nicer that way?

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Mon 18th Jun 2012 10:24 in reply to "RE: Comment by MOS6510"
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

The Amiga is in my attic of course!

It was hard to customize the appearance of AmigaOS, even harder to make it look good/better.

I used MUI, which made everything look better. Although I didn't mind the default look. It was a very clean.

Reply Parent Score: 2