“I’ve been thinking about this at great length for the past year or so. The W.I.M.P. interface is going to be with us for a while no matter what we think of it. It will evolve and get enhanced by other developments in input devices (eye tracking, speech recognition, humanoid virtual androids, etc..), but will probably largely remain the same. The real “innovations” (for lack of a less used word) are to be had in new approaches to using the computer to actually get work done.” The editorial can be found at the interesting NooFace web site.
Humanizing The User Interface
2003-01-18 Graphics 31 Comments
try http://www.yeahwrite.com for one attempt at abstracting files formats from user organisation. There’s also OpenDoc (which I must admit, I know only by reputation)
I read the article, and all I can say is: it’s been said. Everything! All of it has already been said! We get it, you think that our interface is dumb and not useful! Well, hey, I’ve got news for you: I love it. I can get all the work I want done. What needs to be changed? I can’t see anything. Just because humans are disorganized doesn’t mean computers need to be. Why incorporate one of our faults (disorganization) into computers? If file systems were like our life (which is what many people seem to advocate doing), things would be a mess! It’s much easier to look through the file system and find folders such as “work” than to use the mouse to click on things in some vain attempt to find that letter that you sent to your boss on July 15.
Oh, and by the way, NooFace: get a better interface. It’s ugly and the colors clash. Before you go about making some “innovative” observations, try to remember the hex codes for colors that don’t make my pupils dialate. 😉
I couldn’t read that site, the colors sucked. Oh well, chalk it up for hypocrisy.
That was one of the better articles about UI I’ve seen lately.
One of the great problems with UI is how drastically people can become confused by something different. clasqm mentioned OpenDoc and that is a good example. It was really cool (in fact, you can still use ir in OS 9) and, when it was just out, it was great fun working with Cyberdog and other “parts”, interchanging them, etc. It made things really easy. But, most average users who attempted to use it were absolutely clueless as to how to use it. They would sit in front of their Macs staring as if it was the first time they ever used a computer and had no idea what to do, afraid to touch anything and so on.
So, I think there will be changes, but they will be fairly slow in the sense of giving users the opportunity to learn new ways of doing things, so there will be as little confusion as possible.
One example of this “bit by bit” approach I’ve noticed is in OS X. I’ve been using it since the public beta. For each user there are folders for Documents, Music, Movies, Pictures. And, you can customize the toolbar of the Finder and have icons there for each category. At first, I was perplexed because everything, like your iTunes music library for example, was placed in the Documents folder instead of the Music folder. Then I realized that they had not yet implemented automatic placement into all those folders. Now, as time has gone on, they have and these libraries of your “stuff” are autmatically placed in the correct folder. Well, at least the stuff that comes directly from each iApp – if I want to put pictures in my Picture folder, but they didn’t come directly from iPhoto, I have to do it manually. But, to me, this is a good example of the “slowly but surely” way that this kind of progress is made. It is probably good too, for the average user as I don’t believe radical change is something they deal with well.
LOL, I agree – reading that articles really hurt my eyes.
I think a lot more power and usability can come from the cli with his ideas. Like having drag and drop between 2 terminal windows to move files or commands around, listing the files in a directory and clicking on the files you want to open, or dragging a command to the desktop to execute it in a new window. Just some interesting ideas that could make the cli a little more natural to use.
FOr some reason I was expecting the site to be about anorgasmia and ED since I read the name as: “No O Face”
Meh I need more coffee
Geez, all these people advocating the death of the GUI should be hit (repeatedly) with a clue stick. GUI’s are not going away, ever. 10,000 years from now people will still be using GUI’s, though they will be holographic or implaneted directly into the retina or brain, but still will be in a WI?P format (notice I removed the M part).
He is not advocating the death of the gui. He says clearly that the W.I.M.P. interface is here to stay. he ust want to improve it.
No radically new UI system will EVER be accepted. People don’t want to learn anything new; or rather they want to learn it very very slowly. Therefore, a radical new UI will by necessity have to appear so gradually that it will hardly seem new or radical at all.
Hes not advocating the death of anything, and hes not saying that we need radically new UI systems. Hes talking about improving and extending existing UI systems and even specializing them for specific needs. This is an excellect aritcle, and I especially like some of the suggestions to improve the CLI.
His description of an integrated CLI and GUI sounds a lot like how I use ROX-Filer and the Multi Gnome Terminal today.
I like his idea of a searchable scroll back buffer and auto macro generation. A vi based shell?
WILL THIS PLAY POOL ON YAHOO WITHOUT A “HARD TO FIND WIERD PLUGIN”? THATS THE REAL QUESTION.
Off topic, but I do hope that things like SVG will mean the death of all oddball plugins
1. Computers (even with W.I.M.P.) force people to interact in non-human ways.
Yes, it’s like, um, using a computer.
Who writes an entire article in italics?
This guy needs to be ban from writing articles, especially ones on UI design!
Italics doesn’t have anything to do with performance. You still can’t play yahoo pool on linux, idiot.
Yes you can play pool on linux, idiot.
He didn’t wrote new way for UI, he just wrote some feautures he would like to see in CLI app. Of course something like that will be very hard to make on *nix were there is no standard clipboard, message sending between apps etc.. So OS should make developers by it’s API to support that.
Instead of file format “Picture”, “Source” etc… ?? But that’s THE SAME THING. If at all, it should be one file format, which can internally operate on different formats (because i don’t think companies will agree about one standard ever).
Article seems to be written by some guy pretending to be visioner, but doesn’t give ANYTHING new. And site about UI shouldn’t look like CLI with some very ugly colors chosen and font made harder to read ;]
Personally I would rather see the existing problems and bad design in current GUIs fixed before changing them and adding new features. So many decent features are badly or inconsistently implemented, many ideas that came out of Xerox Parc or early Apple research still haven’t been used to their potential.
Damn! White italic type on black sucks! I couldn’t read the whole article. It hurt my eyes too much.
And this guys talking about interfaces????
Well Terminal.app already provides search capabilities, and you could drag’n drop paths from the terminal to others terminal/text, or dnd folders from the Finder in Terminal.app …
I don’t like Terminal.app because I think it’s slow (I prefer xterm), but theses capacities are very cool.
he didnt really propose any kind of ‘solution’… the OO system he was proposing sounds exactly like OpenDoc, and wouldnt fit into the CLI metaphor. his beginner->advanced user upgrade path/learning curve was interesting, but how would it be done? he already said that beginners love an easy GUI, but more advanced users like to use the CLI too. how would you make a gentle movement from 100% GUI to 99% GUI, 1% CLI… the metaphors are completely orthogonal…
the best UI thing i’ve seen recently is Klipper’s ability to detect URIs and pop open Konq automatically… its great for looking at links out of emails and READMEs, etc…
It’s cool to speculate about the future of user interface design and nice to think that that it will improve as time goes on. History suggests that the conventions in place today will be with us for a long time.
The user interface for a car with a standard transmission is about what it was 75 years ago; steering wheel, clutch pedal left, brake right, and a gear selector using some variation of an “H” pattern. There’s nothing inherently superior about this configuration, it’s just established convention. The standard typewriter keyboard layout was designed to limit typing speed so early machines wouldn’t jam, but we’re still stuck with it (even though the advent of the computer gives us the capability to train new typists in an improved layout while still retaining today’s convention for those accustomed to it)
I’m typing in the Dvorak layout right now. It’s great. Why not invest a little time learning something new if it saves you many hours in lost productivity under an old system?
On topic, though: I hate the idea of organizing by media type. The fact that MSOffice creates a new folder called “My Pictures” every time you open a file in its Open interface has lead me to create a “kill My Pictures” batch file in the Startup folder.
The best way to do it, I think, is organize by context. My data folder has sub-folders like “school”, “work”, “play”, etc, and those have organized hierarchies below them as well. If I’m looking for a specific media type and I have no clue about the context (which is a VERY INFREQUENT occurance) I use the blinkin’ search features of the OS. That’s what they’re there for: When you have LOST something. (Who keeps their frequently-used possesions stored at the local Lost & Found?)
The other way around is simply messy and unintuitive. All of your data files end up with contextual prefixes, or you end up duplicating the same hierarchy I’m already using, but under each media type. How does that make sense? And this is being forced on us by companies like MS and (increasingly) RealNetworks. I uninstalled RealOne Player in favour of G2 (screw the minor compatibility issues) after their latest charade.
At the very least it should be the user’s choice in the end.
on the topic of UI/keyboard layouts: why i can’t seem to use dvorak. besides the many years i have spent using qwerty, the biggest problem is when i type, garbage comes out and i look down at the keys which are still in qwerty.
i’d need to stick labels over them or something…
I am in agreement with whoever said “No need for new GUI, just fix the ones we have.”
Everyone constantly points to disorganization as a “blame card” for WIMP’s failure. The failure of WIMP is firstly in it’s implimentation and secondly in the user’s lack of organizing their own materials.
If you perfect the WIMP design, completely abstract ALL technical things from users and make the thing humane, you will still have to deal with the fact that most people by basic behavior (laziness) do NOT live organized lives. They lose their keys, shoes, coats, remote controls, bills, whatever, on a daily basis because they do NOT organize themselves. There’s no perfectly organized person who is still sane, but a person who strives for organization in their lives, in the real world, will have far more organization on their computers.
What we have to do with the computers is get rid of all the unwanted periferal crap.
We need to avoid:
1. Stupid “My this” and “My that” folders. Let the user make the containers they WANT to make and don’t force any upon them (the behavior of MS Office and MS WinXP pisses me off to no end – MS is telling users that they are going to organize their stuff the way MS wants them to or ELSE!).
2. Tech geek nonsense (any reliance on the command line when the user doesn’t want to use it, folders for system things the user doesn’t need or want to look at or be aware of, jargon, etc).
3. Stop anticipating the user at every turn with automatic “features” that force the user to play the system’s game instead of the system just being there to follow instructions.
More importantly, we simply need to get away from complex “do-everything” computers.
A Palm handheld is still a great example of how to simplify an interface for humans and focus on doing a set of specific tasks very quickly and correctly. Take away multi-tasking, take away unimportant features, take away windowing, take away file management, take away the concept of files entirely. Focus on one task at a time. Those of us who like multi-tasking don’t want this on our multi-purpose computers. I’m one of them. But… I could change if there were alternatives that worked.
I would LOVE to have the option of placing a small touchscreen and pen-based tablet computer in the kitchen that does ONLY a few kitchen-related things such as: organization and editing of recipies, accessing web sites for new recipies, a few timers and a clock, and allows me to work on a grocery list (that I can beam to my handheld before I leave the house on my shopping trip) and keep a list of the materials we have on hand (like spices).
I’d like a computer in my music studio that specializes in the same way. Or my art studio for the same. Once we have these specialized devices, I’d realize that I don’t NEED and don’t WANT a multi-purpose machine that tries to do everything and accomplishes those tasks halfway or just plain badly. My computer is never where I need it to be because it is big and difficult for simple tasks. A laptop isn’t the solution either. The Palm is the closest, but could use expansion in screen abilities and size and input methods for tasks that are not handheld or travel-related.
There’s so much more to making computers more humane than simply changing the GUI or enhancing it.
I love the Dvorak layout, but I understand how it would be difficult if you were using a QWERTY keyboard, and Dvorak layout, and were used to looking at your hands when you type.
There is a company called DvortyBoards and they have very nice dvorak keyboards. Their URL is http://www.dvortyboards.com. I think they are having a sale right now so it’s probably a good time to buy if you are interested.
I suggest to the author of this article first reads “Software for Use” by Larry L. Constantine and especially his comments about these so called interface modes for Beginner, Intermediate, etc. If I remember he called this the worst of possible solutions…
No. You can’t play Yahoo Pool on Linux. And you can’t play Yahoo Pool on any other GUI except WINDOWS!!! PERIOD!!!
Pehaps YOU can’t figure out how to play pool on Linux, but others can. Therefore, it CAN be done, just not by you.
Now for the love of some dude named pete, will you give it a rest?