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Experts Say Gestural Interfaces Are a Step Backwards In Usability

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the wave-to-the-past dept.

Input Devices 254

smitty777 writes "Veteran usability experts Donald A. Norman and Jakob Nielsen wrote an interesting article lamenting the current state of the art in gesture interfaces. According to them, the lack of standards for interacting with these devices puts us on par with the '94 vintage in web design, when designers discovered they could make the buttons and UI look like anything they wanted."

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This is giving me ideas... (4, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246838)


puts us on par with the '94 vintage in web design, when designers discovered they could make the buttons and UI look like anything they wanted.

Hmm... this has given me some good ideas for an iOS app I'm farting around with. However, I can't find how to add faux-BLINK tagged text and Geocities-type spinning, flaming skulls in Interface Builder...

Re:This is giving me ideas... (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246906)

Ah, but with scanning gesture interfaces like Kinect, it's only a matter of time before we have the BLINK control!

Re:This is giving me ideas... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247690)

Don't blink! Blink and you're dead. This control is fast,faster than you can imagine. Good luck.

Re:This is giving me ideas... (3, Informative)

hjf (703092) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247194)

You forgot the roadblock with the "Under Construction" sign.

Re:This is giving me ideas... (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247296)

in Interface Builder

Thank GNU for that! You actually have to write some code to fart, blink and spin flaming skulls. Otherwise any 'tard could.

Re:This is giving me ideas... (2)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247678)

Hmm... this has given me some good ideas for an iOS app I'm farting around with.

Aren't there enough fart apps for IOS already.

Gestural Interface, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36246842)

I've got your gestural interface right here!

patents (3, Interesting)

danbuter (2019760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246860)

What with all the OS companies trademarking the various gestures, there's no way they'll become standardized. Unfortunately.

Re:patents (5, Funny)

AndyAndyAndyAndy (967043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246978)

There's actually a particular gesture that's widely standardized to address this type of thing. At least in the US.

Re:patents (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247190)

There's actually a particular gesture that's widely standardized to address this type of thing. At least in the US.

I'm pretty sure there's an i18n localization for a semantically equivalent gesture in each locale.

Re:patents (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247386)

Semantics???? Is that what the driver in the other car was doing? Semantics?

Re:patents (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247172)

What with all the OS companies trademarking the various gestures, there's no way they'll become standardized. Unfortunately.

Are they patenting them or trademarking them? Any copyrights?

Summary (0)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246862)

Different companies are approaching a new type of device with new interfaces, and since they don't approach it like the decades-old windowed desktop environment, they are wrong.

Re:Summary (2)

RadiantPhoenix (2029232) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247260)

Actually, with interfaces, everyone doing it the same way is better than a few of them doing it differently, even if those few are actually doing it in a way that is otherwise easier to use, because the point of an interface is for people to understand how to use it.

Re:Summary (1)

RobbieThe1st (1977364) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247450)

At least, that's the Microsoft theory.

On the other hand, everyone from Linux to Android to iOS disagrees, and consumers have a choice because of it(I.e. if you don't like the Windows UI, you can use any number of Linux UIs or the OSX one. Phone UIs give even more choice).

Re:Summary (1)

RobbieCrash (834439) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247604)

Not so much really.

All mouse/keyboard UIs are essentially the same. *NIX and Windows both have it pretty standard that there is a send to taskbar button, an embiggen/shrink button and a close button in the top right. OSX does something weird which I don't quite understand, but the buttons are still in the top. There's a file menu at the top on all of them. There's a place on the bottom that holds identifiers for running or commonly accessed programs. Windows are square, and have predictable functionality across platforms. The left mouse button activates whatever you click on, right clicking brings up a menu.

All touch based interfaces are essentially the same too. Big selectable icon that launches the app. Notifications and at a glance info is displayed at the top. Swiping side to side switches screens to the side. Swiping up and down makes the list move. Long pressing on app icons moves the app shortcut around. Pinch to zoom, double tap to zoom, two finger twist to rotate, etc. All of that stuff is standard across UIs.

Sure, the animations and style are different, but the UI portion of it is more than style. It's the interfacing that's the important bit, not the fluff that makes it pretty. Imagine moving from iOS to Android and not only is the fluffy stuff different, but now you have to tap the bottom of the screen and then the top to scroll up, and you scroll faster by repeatedly tapping the top. Or long press to zoom, and double tap to exit the application.

There's a reason that anything that requires user interfacing follows whatever the big player does to some extent. It's called usability.

Re:Summary (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247688)

you should RTFA, they make some very good points and a very cogent argument.

Re:Summary (2)

honkycat (249849) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247732)

Your summary is incorrect. It should be "...since they don't apply the basic principles of usability, which have nothing to do with particular interface metaphors or technologies, they are making simpleminded mistakes."

It has nothing to do with abandoning the old desktop environment, and everything to do with giving poor feedback, providing arbitrary interfaces that don't provide cues to the user, not providing consistent behavior in similar situations, etc. These are problems that have more to do with understanding how users think and learn and applying that to the interface design.

It has been a generation since 1994. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36246872)

It's not surprising that this has come about again. It has been roughly one full generation of developers since 1994. During that time, those developers who actually learned proper usability techniques either retired or moved on to other endeavors. They knowledge they acquired and the methods they developed have basically been lost to the sands of time.

Today, we have a whole new generation of developers creating this shitty software. They'll spend the next 10 to 15 years learning what the previous generation had learned. There'll be a few years of good UI design before these developers move on, at which time the cycle will repeat.

Re:It has been a generation since 1994. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36246944)

+1, Poster Obviously Has a Crystal Ball That Permits Accurate Foretelling of Future Events

Re:It has been a generation since 1994. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36246952)

Today, we have a whole new generation of developers creating this shitty software. They'll spend the next 10 to 15 years learning what the previous generation had learned. There'll be a few years of good UI design before these developers move on, at which time the cycle will repeat.

Either that, or in the time that's elapsed since the "good old days" you've gotten yourself so set in stone that you can't get your head around new ways of doing things.

If this is bothering you so much go call your grandchildren and ask them for help.

Re:It has been a generation since 1994. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247048)

Geocities was great, wasn't it?

Re:It has been a generation since 1994. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247166)

Compared to todays seizure inducing blogspots and facebooks? YES!

Re:It has been a generation since 1994. (5, Insightful)

jon_doh2.0 (2097642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247144)

"It has been roughly one full generation of developers since 1994"

Its not as if generations move through the industry in a block, like tribal age-group initiates.

Re:It has been a generation since 1994. (3, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247192)

Marketing types would like us all to believe generations can be packaged up and tagged as "boomers", "GenY", ect, which then take on certain attributes that sales people can target. Back in the "real world" there is no syncronised changing of the guard, what we have is a shared continuum of ideas and experience that is not bounded by time, place, DOB, or target markets. It is only bounded by how far nature can go in evolving our talent for using complex language and in evolutionary terms she has only just started experimenting.

Re:It has been a generation since 1994. (2)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247706)

It always flabbergasted me that devs are in charge of interfaces. I once worked on a casual gaming web site, and convinvcing them that the overarching principle was "my mom should be able to use it", and that this subsumed knowing what's happening, how to get back one step, actually knowing where I am, underlining clickable things or putting them in buttons.... was a big fight.

Re:It has been a generation since 1994. (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247734)

Now get off his lawn.

Mixed bag (2)

thePowersGang (1726438) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246882)

Gesture based interfaces are a bit of a mixed bag, if they are done well (see the iOS pinch gestures) they work very well, but if badly implemented you end up accidentally triggering them all the time. Despite the age of the classic "object" based UI designs, they are still the best control method (in most cases), just because you can see what you are doing by what you hit.

Re:Mixed bag (2)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247052)

I prefer interfaces augmented with gestures like Opera with mouse gestures. I don't use all the gestures but new tabs, closing the current tab, moving forward or backward in history, those get used a lot.

'course, I tend to dislike touchscreens but the thought of touchscreen PCs or Kinect interfaces for PCs are even more annoying.

Re:Mixed bag (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247512)

There was a time when a gesture plugin was the first thing I installed when installing a copy of Firefox. Now, I really rarely use them, and would really favor chording and additional buttons. Traditionally, your left button is for clicking, and right button is to initiate a gesture. Lets say you want to go forward or backward, a right click followed by dragging the mouse is a very deliberate action and takes time. Less time than going up to the forward/back button, but considerably more effort than a chord such as left-hold-right, or right-hold-left. They all take more time than just having a forward and back button on your mouse.

For opening a tab, you could have different gestures for foreground and background, or you could do something like middle click for foreground, right-hold-middle for background. A middle click somewhere other than a link could close the page. Right-hold-forward/backward could be used to cycle through a list of favorites. We've got five fingers, and without a whole lot of effort, muscle memory allows you hit multiple buttons each without thinking about it. Why limit yourself to a single button that does everything. Put all your fingers to work. Think of it like the difference between hunt-and-peck and touch typing.

Re:Mixed bag (2)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247738)

this really depends on screen size. I've got a 26", so it's much slower to go back to the extreme upper left than to right click and move to go back, forward, close, duplicate...

also, Opera does not need an addon to do that, which helps. I find firefox's addons very cumbersome

Re:Mixed bag (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247184)

iOS pinch gestures are not "done well". There is no way to select focus (i.e. if you have something that uses gestures imbedded within something else that uses gestures there is no way to select which object the gesture applies to).

For example. Go to a website that uses Google maps for something (like the New York Thruway Traffic Cameras map). Zoom the website until the map fills the screen. Now as far as I could figure out your SOL. The map uses the exact same gestures as the webpage as a whole. With nothing but map on the screen there is no way to say "I want to zoom the webpage out".

Try double tapping moron. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247502)

"let's see, this one particular interface sucks because I have no clue how to use it..."

Re:Try double tapping moron. (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247746)

well... indeed. Interfaces should be self-evident. If we have to break out the manual to use them, we might as well go back to CLI.

And yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36246886)

Somehow, despite the lack of standardization among programs controlled through various keyboard command sequences (vi, emacs, lynx, mutt) people still manage to use them.

"The lack of standards for interacting with these programs puts us on par with the '78 vintage in console program design, when designers discovered they could make the keyboard command sequences do anything they wanted using any conventions they wanted."

FTFY

Re:And yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247304)

FTFY? I think you mean MTFPC [slashdot.org] .

(Had to use A, Slashdot slurped the ABBR)

YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (2)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246900)

I'm not being sarcastic here, but this is why i've felt that the atrix i own is an inferior phone to the n900. In the n900, the upper corner always took you to the multi task screen where you could close the application out, and if you closed the app, it always worked. This was because it had a not-as-friendly-to-touch interface that was based of of linux guidelines. There was consistency, but if the button wasn't visible, all applications still responded to it (unless they were frozen, then a freeze popup would happen, allowing you to close).

This has been bugging me for the past few months with the android, and now i know why it just doesn't feel up to snuff. The android phone is the first phone i've ever owned that had mystery behavior.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36246972)

You don't need to close apps in Android. Hit the home button to return to the home screen.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247226)

Need to? What about want to?

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247242)

You don't need to close apps in Android. Hit the home button to return to the home screen.

The people that wrote Task Killer for Android think otherwise. I hear random recommendations from people talking to each other on the street using Android phones, to install and use it...

What you say is true for iOS because of the more draconian multi-tasking policy.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (3, Informative)

cduffy (652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247292)

People who suggest Task Killer don't know how Android works. [geekfor.me]

Android applications do not run in the background unless they go out of their way to do so. When they *do* go out of their way to do so, they can be killed at any time by the operating system. This design makes tools such as "Advanced Task Killer" not only unnecessary, but counterproductive; read the link above for a detailed description of why auto-killing background tasks actually makes Android *slower*.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (1)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247510)

You must not be reading the comments.

Regardless of how "android works" I still use it simply to kill "useless" "tasks" because I'd rather not have my camera / sprintzone / mint / etc running unless I specifically say it should be running. Considering some of these applications have access to coarse or fine grained GPS information, I would rather that I _KNOW_ it is running instead of just letting it start / stop / pause whenever the app feels like it.

I think most people use ATK and such for CONTROL, more than anything else.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247680)

You must not be reading the comments.

Unless the comments describe how Android's implementation ends up in a result contrary to what's been explicitly documented behavior since before 1.0 (and, beyond that, elementary behavior every Android application developer has to know), I don't really see the value. This is one of those places where croudsourced touchy-feely impressions are just as likely to be misleading as useful... perhaps moreso, given the self-selected nature.

So -- here's the thing. Unless you go out of your way to have a background thread that stays alive, events are triggered by intents. Killing background applications won't stop them from being loaded when an intent happens, it just means they have to get reloaded when one happens, making your phone (guess what!) slower. You aren't saving your privacy against a malicious or misguided application, you're just getting an illusion of control and calling it security.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (1)

Paco103 (758133) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247298)

I had to use task killers more on my G1, which was severely underpowered and I milked it out to Android 2.2 until just a couple weeks ago. It didn't have the resources it needed, so force closing things helped. On my Atrix and gTab, I've only used the task kill when an app hung up to restart it. Otherwise it seems to manage itself just fine.

The only gestures I'm familiar with in the base android system are if you count moving pages or opening the notification shade. To me, that doesn't qualify because it's not cryptic shapes that translate into meanings, it's just directions that are quite literal.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (2)

bennettp (1014215) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247256)

I think the OP's point is that, in the n900, there are actions which are consistent across applications; but with Android, actions will be different depending on the application.

I rarely use Android, and I've never used the n900, so I can't really comment on either. But as an iOS user, I can say that there are a few applications which behave differently.

For example, in iOS, most apps place a "back" button in the top left of the screen. Also, most apps will autosave a text field as soon as it is modified. So the usual workflow is: open a menu item, make modifications (which are saved automatically), tap the back button. This workflow is very common among third-party applications.

However, one app doesn't autosave; instead, it has a "save" button in the top right. It also replaces the "back" button with a "cancel" button. The result is that I often cancel changes that I wish to retain.

Most iOS apps behave consistently, but when they don't, it causes problems. And inconsistencies will cause problems within any platform, even Android.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247310)

Long-press the physical "back" button on your Android device, and you're out of the application. Press the physical "home" button, and you're back at your home screen. Long-press the physical "home" button and you're at a menu of recently-used applications. Etc.

There is, in fact, a consistent interface. If it's insufficiently discoverable, that's a different issue.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (1)

petman (619526) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247538)

Long-press the physical "back" button on your Android device, and you're out of the application.

This is not the default behavior. In most stock ROMs on most Android devices, this is not implemented.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (1, Informative)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247428)

You DO NOT need to close applications in Android. It's handled automagically by the OS.

It's a hangover habit from the desktop world where you need to close applications when your finished with them. You don't need to even think of it on Android and how it works is rather a refreshing piece of OS design (to the point Apple somewhat copied it for iOS).

There is a lot of misunderstand about how Android multitasks, which is really rather innovative that we could have used in operating systems a long time ago. Read up here: http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2010/04/multitasking-android-way.html [blogspot.com]

Task killer apps are not necessary and actually work to destablise and lag your phone if you over use them (as I found out the hard way). Learn to let go of the need to control everything and your phone will work faster and crash less often, and you'll have some time and brainpower spared.

Re:YES!!! This is why the android bugs me so much! (1)

thetartanavenger (1052920) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247488)

You DO NOT need to close applications in Android. It's handled automagically by the OS.

Unless the app crashes, locks up, goes into an infinite loop, decides to be designed badly so that the only way you can get back to a certain stage in the program is to fully restart it (not just go home and then back), etc, etc. Agreed though, Android does a really good job of removing the need to close applications and have task killers etc, but they cannot protect you from crappy programmers in general..

Bah! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36246912)

It's not as if there aren't human interface guidelines in place for some of the gesture based environments in question. While not capital "S" standards, who cares?

Akin to the early days of GUI interfaces, we didn't have standards in the early days when the Amiga, Apple, Atari, BeOS, NeXT, Windows, OS/2, GEOS, CDE, roamed the earth. There was the Apple HIG, IBM's User Interface Guidelines and so on.

It didn't stop the awful Win95 interface from coming into existence, but so what. Let people create and innovate. We're all the better for it.

Best interface ever developed was... (5, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246916)

...the slashdot April fools ohmigodponies interface. It was the pinnacle of web design and nothing has come close since.

Re:Best interface ever developed was... (0)

Allicorn (175921) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247178)

I heartily endorse this comment.

Re:Best interface ever developed was... (1)

slinches (1540051) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247556)

Pfft, all that eye candy is unnecessary and a waste of resources. Unixkcd [xkcd.com] is perfection. Simple, clean and delivers the content effectively.

I've got a gesture (4, Insightful)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246928)

I've got a single gesture in mind for folks who think that gesture-based interfaces are where it's at...

Actually, I do like the intuitive "pinch, spin, slide" type gestures with iOS, but for PC-based stuff, I can't stand a lot of the new, shiny crap folks are pushing. Removing useful things like status bars, and replacing intuitive "I don't know what I'm looking for, but I'll know it when I see it" menus with those "trying to view the Grand Canyon through a toilet paper tube" restrictiveness of these ribbons and such... it just really gets annoying.

Re:I've got a gesture (3, Interesting)

lowlymarine (1172723) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246962)

I don't see how anyone who is familiar with computers could find iOS's gestures "intuitive." I actually had to look up how to create folders after iOS 4.0 hit. Drag one application on top of another? How does that bear any resemblance to a) how things are already done on Windows/OS X/Gnome/KDE/etc. or b) common sense?

In Android, conversely, you long-press (stand-in for right-click) and bam, "New folder" is right there in the menu that comes up. Just like you're already used to.

Re:I've got a gesture (1)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247014)

Ah, but how did you know that long-press mean is the stand-in for right click? That's not intuitive IMO. A two-finger touch would be more intuitive for me.

Intuition is conceived from experience, and not from thin air, and none of us share the exact same intuition.

Re:I've got a gesture (4, Interesting)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247068)

In Windows Vista and 7 at least there is a visual indicator for a long press that aids in discoverability. When you touch the screen, a progress bar starts circling your finger. I've found people discover the long press on their own, since they wait to see what happens when the circle completes. It's hard to describe, so here's a link [youtu.be] showing it. In the video the delay between when the screen is touched and when the progress bar stars is a little longer than the default.

Re:I've got a gesture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247530)

Long press is a standard that dates back at least as far as the old green-screen Palm Pilots.

Re:I've got a gesture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247086)

Really? When you want to put lots of things in one folder on the real world what do you do? I'm pretty sure you stack them n top of each other. Sounds like exactly what IOS does.

Re:I've got a gesture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247216)

Yes, but in Operating System world, when we drag something onto another, we usually want the target app to open the dragged one.

Although it's a great way to generate profits. When iFans' toys get broken, the friendly neighbourhood geek gets so frustrated by the non-standard interface that he refuses to fix Apple products, forcing the iFans to bring it to Apple Care. True story.

Re:I've got a gesture (2)

Paco103 (758133) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247340)

How does that bear any resemblance to a) how things are already done on Windows/OS X/Gnome/KDE/etc.

To be fair, how can we expect things to be done the same way? My phone suffers limitations that don't exist on my computer, such as no keyboard, no mouse with a right click, etc. I don't WANT things done the same way. Sure, I log into my computer with a 16 character password containing letters, numbers, and symbols. Typing this in on a keyboard is easy for me and contained in muscle memory, so I don't really even have to think about it. On my phone though, even on my old G1 which had, in my opinion, the best mobile keyboard ever, typing in that password is a pain the rear, and the on screen keyboard cannot present me the full layout of a traditional keyboard in a very usable way.

The interface HAS to be revisited, and things can't be done the same way, so now we've got the pattern lock on Android. Yeah, it probably doesn't provide the same level of security, but it meets a compromise in that risk vs security vs usability analysis.

Re:I've got a gesture (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247374)

In Android, conversely, you long-press (stand-in for right-click) and bam, "New folder" is right there in the menu that comes up. Just like you're already used to.

I'm not used to 'long clicking' in a PC interface for anything except dragging items about. (A 'long click' may be a stand-in for right clicking, but it isn't right clicking.) In addition, to create an empty folder requires not only right clicking (not 'long clicking'), but also generally selecting from a menu.
 
So, no - the Android interface isn't actually any closer than the iOS interface.

Re:I've got a gesture (1)

Wovel (964431) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247636)

It is rather intuitive...

There is no standard way to create a new folder across the platforms you named btw.

Re:I've got a gesture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247200)

Any of you read TFA before writing comments? (I know, this is slashdot...)

The article is from the last year of the bi-monthly publication ACM Interactions (a really good magazine if you are interested in usability).

Norman doesn't says that gesture interfaces are bad, it says that in the rush to market a "new shining thing" companies forgot some basic principles of usability like providing some good affordances or feedback to the user. Also it talks about the lack of standardization of the gestures. The comparison with the 90's web is from a quote of Nielsen, who compares it with the "imagemaps" used in the web sites back them: designers used image maps for everything making hard to distinguish interactive UI elements from "decorative" graphics.

The conclusion of the article is that designers need to develop good guidelines for handling interactions using gestures, because current UI of different devices have usability problems. (Remember the article was published in a magazine oriented to interaction designers, also I recommend to read the last article that Norman wrote for the interactions magazine -the last 3 publications didn't come with the usual Norman's article-: http://jnd.org/dn.mss/looking_back_looking_forward.html)

Re:I've got a gesture (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247206)

The issue isn't with gestures per se. It's whether the gestures and application responses to those gestures are consistent, and they're not. Without consistency, the user doesn't learn how to effectively use a platform, only a handful of applications.

If stroke-right deletes in one case, it should be the gesture for delete in all cases. Without consistency, a UI is non-intuitive and fails at it's primary goal of making a platform usable.

Re:I've got a gesture (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247656)

"If stroke-right deletes in one case, it should be the gesture for delete in all cases."

Wrong, because you're not considering mode and context. Dragging your finger to the right is a drawing program is different that dragging your finger to the right in a list, which is different from dragging your finger to the right in a multi-view app like Weather.

It's like saying that clicking and dragging a mouse cursor to the right should always do the same thing, regardless of the type of program, mode, and what you clicked on.

You'd think they'd mention webOS (1)

aapold (753705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246948)

seeing as it has a standardized set of gestures including a standard gesture area. But it seems to focus exclusively on iOS and Android...

Standards not Monkey Antics? (1)

hellwig (1325869) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246958)

I thought with the title, it would be a social study about how gesturing at a computer like an ape instead of sitting down and calmly telling your equipment what to do (via text or speech) is a major steps backwards for humanity. How can people not realize that every new technology will go through a phase where everyone implements their own idea before the industry settles on a few good ideas?

Re:Standards not Monkey Antics? (2)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247090)

How can people not realize that every new technology will go through a phase where everyone implements their own idea before the industry settles on a few good ideas?

So when TFA says, "We urgently need to return to our basics, developing usability guidelines for these systems that are based upon solid principles of interaction design, not on the whims of the company human interface guidelines and arbitrary ideas of developers," you see that as what? Whining? A bad thing?

Jakob Nielsen is one of the leading figures in human-computer interaction. His whole point is that companies and developers don't need to make it all up on the fly, because there have been decades of research conducted already into how people interact with machines and devices. There are plenty of experts, not just Nielsen, who can offer their expertise. The problem is that so far it seems like it's being ignored.

Re:Standards not Monkey Antics? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247532)

How can people not realize that every new technology will go through a phase where everyone implements their own idea before the industry settles on a few good ideas?

So when TFA says, "We urgently need to return to our basics, developing usability guidelines for these systems that are based upon solid principles of interaction design, not on the whims of the company human interface guidelines and arbitrary ideas of developers," you see that as what? Whining? A bad thing?

Jakob Nielsen is one of the leading figures in human-computer interaction. His whole point is that companies and developers don't need to make it all up on the fly, because there have been decades of research conducted already into how people interact with machines and devices. There are plenty of experts, not just Nielsen, who can offer their expertise. The problem is that so far it seems like it's being ignored.

Perhaps -- just maybe -- the case is that the "expert" UI gurus charge too much for the average mobile app developer to employ, especially for a note-keeper or other one-off application.

Re:Standards not Monkey Antics? (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247682)

"... because there have been decades of research conducted already into how people interact with machines and devices..."

I''m sure that there have been *decades* of user-interaction research into portable, hand-held, touch-operated devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Despite the fact that the iPhone wasn't even publicly available four years ago. And no, pen-based tablets and PDAs are NOT the same thing.

I mean, it's not like Apple hasn't had any experience creating and publishing and standardizing user-interface guidelines. Or of doing extensive usability testing. And, by and large, most apps seem to adhere to the guidelines and apps and examples Apple created. Fail to do so, and your app stands a good chance of being rejected by the marketplace.

I respect Jakob, but it's still early days yet, and so some people are still experimenting with new approaches, like the Twitter-style sliding panels. The "touch" vocabulary is still in flux, and still expanding.

And that, IMHO, is a good thing.

Yup, millions of idiots are wrong (1)

chimerafun (1364591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36246960)

Gesture based interfaces might not be perfect but they've sure expanded the use of smartphones well beyond the typical Treo and Blackberry crowd. The interface can't be that bad.

Re:Yup, millions of idiots are wrong (1)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247060)

That's because they are really cool. And I would say that the movie Minority Report played a big role in creating this perception of coolness of gesture based interfaces. But, once you get used to them, and everyone around you has it, you start noticing small flaws, that may or may not irk depending on how OCD you are.

Re:Yup, millions of idiots are wrong (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247094)

Smartphones have expanded because they're capable of doing so much more than a Blackberry or Treo. I hate surfing on my Android phone if I have other options, but when you're out and about and don't have your other tech with you, there it is. That doesn't mean that the interface is good; it means that it works.

Re:Yup, millions of idiots are wrong (1)

petman (619526) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247584)

You don't get the point of the article. The author's gripe is not that gesture based interfaces are bad, but that they are non-standard/inconsistent.

xudongkun (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247010)

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Damn kids (2)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247072)

Now you kids with your loud music and your Dan Fogelberg, your Zima, hula hoops and gesture interfaces, don't you see? People today have attention spans that can only be measured in nanoseconds.

Re:Damn kids (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247150)

Dan Fogelberg? Kids?

Time to get back on your meds, pitchpipe. Fogelberg is soooo 1970's. You might as well throw in a few zoot suit references for good measure.

Oh, wait. Hula hoops.

You were meta-ranting.

Sorry.

Please carry on. I get it now.

Doesn't surprise me. (1)

__Paul__ (1570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247076)

Gestural interfaces are ok on a touch screen, but when using a mouse, I find they're just inconvenient.

Best Available (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247212)

Gestural interfaces are ok on a touch screen, but when using a mouse, I find they're just inconvenient.

Yeah, mouse gestures were popular in Opera in, what, 2002? I think the difference is with a touchscreen they're the best you've got but with a mouse you have more expressive options.

Ah yes, 1994. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247080)

"on par with the '94 vintage in web design, when designers discovered they could make the buttons and UI look like anything they wanted."

Yep, we've come a long way since then.

Gestures suck for Netflix and Hulu using Kinnect (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247120)

The best part about navigating Netflix and Hulu on my XBox 360 is the voice control--dead simple and unambiguous with straightforward voice command options on the screen if you need them. "XBox pause!" "XBox rewind!" You can mutter voice commands, talk slow (not too slow), talk fast, talk like a cartoon character and it just works. It feels like how the 21st century should feel like.

The hand gestures, on the other hand, are an exercise in frustration. The Kinnect is good at tracking your hand, but you still have to use a fine degree of motor control to move that little hand to the pause area of the screen. The requirement to use fine motor control for something that can be accomplished using a voice command or by simply pressing a button on a remote control is a STEP BACKWARDS. The gesture commands are OK for scrubbing through the videos, but only because you would be using a similar motion if you were using a controller or a mouse.

Among the first things I turn off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247186)

I turned off gestures on my Thinkpad almost right away. Waaay too easy to false-trigger. Any potential shortcut was more than negated by the false-triggering.

As for the poster who criticized touchpads, that's another story. I'll never go back to a mouse if I can avoid it. Sliding something over a desk seems like banging rocks together now. The trackpad has buttons in the same place all the time. It's a compact little rectangle that requires hardly any hand movement.

OTOH, I'm not terribly jazzed about sliding my mits all over a screen. I still want a real keyboard.

And yet the internet is more popular than ever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247204)

Neilsen's has always been a killjoy of web interactivity, regularly find new topics to gripe on in an attempt to appear relevant.

grep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247234)

Any interface I cannot grep through and trivially script is a step backwards.

The best type of crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247270)

From the link: "The usability crisis is upon us, once again."

is one that you create and are singularly able to solve.

Tradition & Intuition (4, Interesting)

buckhead_buddy (186384) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247332)

I'm not anywhere near the caliber of UI expertise as Norman or Nielsen. But there's a big advantage to pioneering a new physical interface: you don't need the language part of your brain. My 1 year old twin nephews can interact with their iPads with only the most basic of demonstrations of how a new app works. They can't read or write but they can follow demos of fingers creating action pretty well.

Is bringing along the old interface of mice & menus helping or hurting? I particularly like the new "swipe up" gesture to scroll down of a touchscreen rather than the traditional "elevator window" model of scroll bars where clicking up scrolls up.

They are absolutely to be commended for chastising developers that there is no easy way to discover actions if they are not intuitive; I'd rather they come up with ways to address this than just fall back on menus though. For example, Apple included an interactive tutorial for using the custom gestures built-in to Pages, Numbers and Keynote because they aren't discoverable at all. Some I've forgotten because I don't use them (and I'd have to re-watch the tutorials again to re-program my brain). But the ones I have picked up on are absolutely ingrained and effortless now. Unfortunately, built-in tutorials are the exception rather than the rule, and even when they are included they more trouble to refer to than a drop down menu. But there are ways to improve without eliminating gestures.

I wouldn't want to use the gesture interface when I'm programming during the day, but when I'm swiping through my early morning junk mail, RSS feeds, and to-do items, my brain feels far more engaged on my iPad than my desktop. It's almost like the touch gestures are autonomic and leave my (limited) higher brain functions alone to read though the fog (at least until my caffeine kicks in.)

I agree that people need to improve gesture interfaces which are in their infancy, but I don't think it's justified to throw the baby out with the bath water just because of long traditions.

Re:Tradition & Intuition (2)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247672)

You missed the point. The problem is not gestures themselves, it is the lack of standards. The same gesture doesn't trigger the same kind of action across applications creating confusion in users' minds.

Re:Tradition & Intuition (1, Interesting)

shmlco (594907) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247708)

So dragging your finger from left to right in a drawing program is supposed to do the same things as dragging your finger from left to right in a contact list? Which should do the same exact thing when you drag your finger from left to right in iBooks or the Kindle app?

Sorry, but context and mode mean that the "same" gestures do different things. Discoverability is often an issue, true, and consistency can always be improved, but the fact that the same gesture doesn't trigger the same kind of action isn't any more confusing on a touch screen than the fact that a click and drag does one thing in the Finder and another in Photoshop.

Re:Tradition & Intuition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247724)

Waitaminute... your 1-year-old twin nephews have iPads?

Trouble with "intuitive" is - well, consider an e-book reader. If "book" is the metaphor in your mind, then you might expect to turn the page by brushing the top right-hand corner of the display. But if "computer app" is the metaphor in your mind, you'd expect the same gesture to close the book and return you to some kind of top-level menu (or desktop, as the case may be). How are you supposed to know which metaphor the designer had in mind?

And of course, it's entirely likely that different designers will come up with different answers. A dedicated e-book reader might well use "book" affordances, while a similar-looking reader on a vaguely multi-purpose device such as an iPad is more likely to work like a "computer app", because it makes sense to standardize between apps.

Gaming on the PC is quite succcessful (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247358)

Lets draw some parallels here... I'd say that point n click UI is most like that of the layout for a controller on a classic console. If you follow a standard UI you have certain buttons and menus that users can identify with. For example," _, [ ] and X " sit in the upper left or right hand corner of most application windows. Users expect these buttons(minimize, maximize and close) and use them regularly. Likewise, a classic controller layout like those from Sony and Microsoft includes directional buttons, face buttons and triggers. Game developers use the similarities in control layout to map their action buttons. Multi-platform games have near exact mappings and games within a particular genre use configurations that are similar to one another.

Contrast this to button mappings of a game on the PC platform. Developers have 108 keys and a mouse at their disposal. They can create and mandate some very confusing control layouts. Gesture controlled UI design has just as many, if not more, possibilities. As some users have mentioned, patenting gestures does not help create standards. This just means develops have to think of new ways(read: different buttons) for users to interact with their application.

Where's the point in all this? PC games can have some very confusing control sets. However They havent failed yet. Many gamers prefer them over consoles with a more limited set of controls. I think the confusion over gesture UI will fade and with time more people will learn to accept the nuances

Re:Gaming on the PC is quite succcessful (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247696)

Where's the point in all this? PC games can have some very confusing control sets. However They havent failed yet. Many gamers prefer them over consoles with a more limited set of controls. I think the confusion over gesture UI will fade and with time more people will learn to accept the nuances

PC games tend to standardise on WASD. The PC supports control schemes as simple as any console, it also supports hundreds of inputs using key combinations. ARMA and X3 are the biggest culprits in my collection, Shift+Dx2 to take a dump, just make sure you've pressed P+Down to drop your strides first (double tapping B to toggle the belt and yes, I wouldn't have it any other way).

Bad summary (1)

jgoemat (565882) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247378)

That's like saying vintage '94 web design was a step back from menu and keystroke driven application design.

I remember when ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247476)

... the whole usability issue was a club certain OS/Windowing vendors were using as weapons* against their competition. Lets not start all that crap again.

*Get your experts to evaluate the competitions apps/platforms. "Oh noes! Three mouse buttons! One mouse button! This simply will not do!"

Ah, sometimes it's great to have lexdisia! (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247482)

What I saw: Expert's Gay Sexual Interfaces Are a Step Backwards in Usability

Seriously? LoL

How much practice is required before you're considered an expert at these homo-erotic interfaces?
Is there skill quantization "tool", or perhaps a "Queer Eye" review?
Are the controller's or receptacles aesthetically pleasing?
Do lesbians with optional strap-ons have an advantage over the rest of us?
Are Expert heterosexual interfaces not equally as ridiculous?

I laughed for a good minute before I was disappointed by a second read of the headline...

touchpads (1)

rusl (1255318) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247500)

Laptop touchpads are a prime example. I'm pretty use to the gestures on my Asus EEE. But my wife's Dell is very different. She can't use mine. I can barely use hers (i'm more willing to figure it out). And of course not all of the gestures work that well in the Linux. How do you even discover the gestures? They don't print a list of them in any easy to access place. So we use USB plugin mouse whenever possible.

unrealistic armchair approach (2)

grouchomarxist (127479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36247504)

In the article they say:

In comments to Nielsen's article about our iPad usability studies, some critics claimed that it is reasonable to experiment with radically new interaction techniques when given a new platform. We agree. But the place for such experimentation is in the lab. After all, most new ideas fail, and the more radically they depart from previous best practices, the more likely they are to fail. Sometimes, a radical idea turns out to be a brilliant radical breakthrough. Those designs should indeed ship, but note that radical breakthroughs are extremely rare in any discipline. Most progress is made through sustained, small incremental steps. Bold explorations should remain inside the company and university research laboratories and not be inflicted on any customers until those recruited to participate in user research have validated the approach.

I appreciate that they're important contributors to UI design, but their attitude is unrealistic to companies that are trying to ship products, make profit and gain market share. Companies spending too much time perfecting their UI design will go out of business while their competitors are shipping flawed but ultimately usable products.

Disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247524)

I disagree. Using gestures (as long as they make sense, such as a back swipe to go back) make everything much easier, more efficient and are quite intuitive.

It's not the gestures themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36247570)

that are a step backward, it's the haphazard and sometimes overzealous implementation.

I don't imagine anyone today complains if their smartphone hides the zoom tool on a map. Everyone knows the zoom gesture and it's undeniably more convenient than using the tool. But before that had become a standard and everyone learned it it would be just plain foolish to hide those tools.

Done right gestures can be very helpful, convenient, even efficient.

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