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The Condescending UI

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the all-i-ask-is-some-text-and-a-blinking-cursor dept.

GUI 980

theodp writes "Paul Miller has some advice for user interface designers: Don't be condescending. 'The Ribbon in Microsoft Office products,' complains Miller, 'is constantly talking down to me, assuming I don't know how to use a menu, a key command, or an honest-to-goodness toolbar.' Miller's got some harsh words for Apple, too: 'And of course, there is the transgression of the century: Apple's downward spiral into overt 1:1 metaphors. The physical bookshelf, the leather desk calendar (complete with a torn page), the false-paginated address book...these new tricks are horrible and offensive [and likened to Microsoft Bob]. They're not only condescending and overwrought, they're actually counter-functional.' So, how does Miller cope while waiting for his UI knight in shining armor? 'I recently switched my Windows 7 install over to the Classic Theme', Miller explains, 'which is basically Windows 95 incarnate, just with all the under-the-hood improvements I've come to rely on. I really like it. It feels right, and if it isn't beautiful, at least it's honest. I wish there was a similar OS 9 mode for OS X.'"

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Users disagree with him (5, Insightful)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334188)

Many people like how easy and straightforward Mac OSX is. I didn't like Ribbon first either, but after getting used to it I like it much more than the previous Office UI's. It does take some adjustment if you've used the old ones, but that's true for every kind of change. And people don't like changes, but the truth is, Ribbon is much better interface. It would be stupid to drag using bad interface because old users hate change. Everything is displayed much more clearly. I noticed this especially when I used Office products I haven't really used much before. If I had used them, it was always more work adjusting. But when they were new to begin with, there was no problem. I think Ribbon is still a great idea, especially for non-geeks. I guess they could include both interfaces though, like Opera does (not with Ribbon, but with hiding menu).

Re:Users disagree with him (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334222)

Many people like how easy and straightforward Mac OSX is

But how many prefer the 10.7 version of iCal to the 10.6 one? With 10.6 I could quickly skip to any given month. With the 10.7 one, it decides to show me that it's like a real calendar by showing a page-flipping animation on every transition. It turns the sidebar into a pop-up, making inserting and inspecting appointments more difficult. It removes the small calendar display, making navigation harder. The same is true of the 10.7 Address Book. It now looks like a real book (so, once again, slow page-turning animations rather than instance changes) and the two-page metaphor means that you can no longer see groups and individuals at the same time. Using groups to navigate is harder. I was going to say that they'd removed the groups functionality, but on closer inspection it is there just less discoverable and requiring more mouse clicks and more mouse movement to use.

I agree on the ribbon though - it is a menu, just one that stays open all of the time and presents larger targets. I'm not totally convinced that it's better than menus + toolbar, because the hierarchical nature of it means that you need more mouse clicks and movement to use two actions that are on different menus. The only real complaint about it I have is the amount of screen real-estate it takes up - this is not a problem on a desktop, but Word on a laptop with a smallish screen ends up with less than 50% of the screen usable for actually displaying the document...

Re:Users disagree with him (4, Interesting)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334302)

This is why it should be important to have something like Google Analytics for applications. There's already several such solutions for games, like Playtomic [playtomic.com] , but there only seems to exist such for mobile applications. This could give app developers and UI designers great information on how exactly users use their application.

But truth is, users need clear interfaces and sometimes they really need help doing even simplest things. This is why Ribbon is better for new users, and design goal Apple has too. I own several websites and we use heatmaps to determine how users navigate and where they click on site, collectively. Things like that provide good information on how optimize applications or services.

Re:Users disagree with him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334370)

This is why it should be important to have something like Google Analytics for applications. There's already several such solutions for games, like Playtomic [playtomic.com] , but there only seems to exist such for mobile applications. This could give app developers and UI designers great information on how exactly users use their application. But truth is, users need clear interfaces and sometimes they really need help doing even simplest things. This is why Ribbon is better for new users, and design goal Apple has too. I own several websites and we use heatmaps to determine how users navigate and where they click on site, collectively. Things like that provide good information on how optimize applications or services.

Not sure if you are implying otherwise or talking about it being avialable to 3rd party app developers, but Microsoft most certainly have this and use it extensivly to inform their development (including the ribbon), as referenced in detail in many of their developer blogs (where building Windows 8 is the latest example).

Re:Users disagree with him (1)

robmv (855035) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334446)

There is one for Android applications [google.com] at least

Re:Users disagree with him (4, Informative)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334422)

The calendar has a Go To Date functioning the menus under the View menu (Shift + Command + T). It goes directly to the month, or day in question without having to switch through various months.

On the address book, if you double clip the bookmark ribbon (placeholder) graphics, you can see both contacts and groups in the left pane (Command + 3), although selecting one or the other will show you that specific view in the right side (Command +1, Command + 2, & Command + 3 toggle these views respectively).

I actually prefer my groups to be partitioned from my general contacts, but as with all things, everyone has their own opinion as to what is functional and what is fluff.

Re:Users disagree with him (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334448)

This is what happens when you post prior to your first cup of coffee. Oi...I can't believe I butchered not one, but two sentences and never noticed.

Menu-izing the Ribbon for screen real estate (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334508)

I'm not defending the ribbon, but as for the screen real estate issue with Ribbon, you can improve that by double clicking on the "Home" tab (or any other tab). The meat of the ribbon will be hidden, and now it's more like a good ol menu (gosh!!). Double-clicking on Home again restores the ribbon to it's full, bloated glory.

Re:Users disagree with him (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334518)

you know, the slow page flips and whatnot are usually toggle-able in the settings somewhere. (sure, that means you have to know what a 'settings' is, but it is sort of assumed at this stage that you are not just drinking the apple juice)

Re:Users disagree with him (1, Troll)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334568)

You're complaining about a page turn animation that takes a tenth of a second? Try viewing by year if you need to see months without animations.

I'm convinced the 10.7 Address Book development team was kidnapped by Microsoft.

Re:Ribbon (0, Troll)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334228)

Oh, it's you again. Nice astroturf.

See my "Easy and Advanced" comment below. I don't like the Ribbon, and I don't like corp. gamesmanship forcing me into it. So I installed a plugin to put the old menus back so I could get my real work done.

Re:Users disagree with him (5, Informative)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334260)

Actually I very much agree with him, and I'm a user. I feel like OSX is trying to make me do things with mittens on, the freedom of my bare hands obstructed with a warm fuzzy enveloping layer. And I absolutely disagree that the Ribbon is a better interface as well, I want to know exactly where things are and have them there all the time even if they aren't related to the current context I'm working in.

I am not however rejecting "new" interfaces - now that there's an extension to add a taskbar to GNOME 3 (shell) and after tweaking it a bit I feel like I can use it more efficiently than GNOME 2 now, and like it. I'm an old user, and though I resisted a bit I'm all for change and I'm enjoying change that lets me take more control and work more efficiently.

As for the Ribbon and new users, I have clients who hated it so much that when I showed them OO/LibreOffice they immediately switched. That says a lot if you ask me.

Re:Users disagree with him (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334542)

Aww diddums. Maybe you shouldn't use OSX and instead use Slackware 5 running CDE and leave everyone else to what they prefer.

" I have clients who hated it so much that when I showed them OO/LibreOffice they immediately switched. That says a lot if you ask me."

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Yes, it says either that you're full of shit (which you are), or that your clients are morons (which they must be if they hired you). No-one running Office software in a production environment would pick LibreOffice over Microsoft Office for anything other than the most basic of mundane word processing. This may also suggest that your clients are doing something that doesn't involve doing anything more than writing a letter with their Office software.

Re:Users disagree with him (5, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334374)

I will agree with you I don't know where all the ribbon hate comes from, at least from a UI perspective. Now the API interface, for it SUCKS, if I wanted to use XML to build my interface, I'd write a browser based app, thank you very much. I don't see the ribbon as being much different from the old toolbar from a user perspective though. If anything its how tool bars would have been if displays had been higher resolution in the past.

The modern Apple and MS Bob like one to one metaphors are wrong headed. The author is dead on there. It does not scale at all. It works ok for things that have a good one to one metaphor with near universal familiarity, but it falls down for more esoteric things.

I struggled for nearly a half an hour the other day with an OSX machine. I wanted to add a new certificate to the system wide trusted roots. I have a pretty solid understanding of the functional elements of public key cryptography the stumbling block was entirely UI. I knew what I wanted, but the UI was not easy. First finding the darn thing, then trying to make sense of the really forced key chain metaphor. I suppose the key chain makes sense of user certificates but falls down when it comes to roots and intermediates. Perhaps something like a notary stamp icon would make more sense, but how many users would recognize that? Computers are all about abstraction all the way down, both in terms of what we do with them and how they operate. One to one metaphors don't offer a flexible frame work for things that don't have a physical analog.

  Its terribly inefficient from a developer perspective you have to create a new interface for every task, or its terribly confusing from a user perspective you force something on them that really does not make any sense. It also means that every application is different with its own rules, users can't take knowledge with them from task to task. Not only do they have to know what they want to do, but they have to know the unique mechanics for doing it. Instead of just going ok I want to store my changes, I am sure there is a save command on the file menu, now its um ok I drag the icon to my book shelf?

Re:Users disagree with him (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334476)

The problem is that it hides, shifts, and obfuscates functionality. It increases the base mousclicks by at least one to do a task.

Basically it is disorganized and makes work harder to get done.

It's only designed this way so they could shift to touch interfaces.

Re:Users disagree with him (1)

SiliconSeraph (996818) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334402)

It really is more of a question of how it's deployed and targeted. Some software users (many many Office customers) don't actually know their way around their systems. Visual Studio on the other hand isn't known for nagging in the same manner. Just keep letting people who actually know what they're doing disable the inane tips and guidance.

The one advantage of the ribbon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334460)

It took me a while to get used to the ribbon, and I'm still not sure I like it; however it does have one advantage: reformatting options can give you a full-document preview before you make the change. With a drop-down menu that's visually more difficult.

Going back to the original post, it's not so much condescending in the sense of over-simplification, but rather entertainment for those with poor concentration.

Re:Users disagree with him (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334462)

Real people use toolbars to get real work done.
Kiddy office users use broken Ribbon interfaces to write postcards to granny.

The interface is obtuse and was designed by the idiot Vista team who created an absolute mess stuck between traditional UIs and a touchscreen orientated UI. (or people with extremely terrible eyesight)
It is, quite literally, a freak child.

Anyone who praises it doesn't do serious work or is from Microsoft. It is completely backwards.

HA! that's a condescending comment! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334514)

To paraphrase you:

"Ribbon is better, and if you don't like it, that is because you are resisting change"

I think that's the biggest mistake the designers and proponents of the new UIs are making (mind you, not all of them, but it is widespread to the point of being annoying).

Easy and Advanced (5, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334204)

We're back to this discussion again.

Unskilled Users (not necessarily new!) like the new Padded Rails simplicity. I have advised a couple of such users now and they really do like things being as "Safari is the internet". They don't know what a web page address is. They just type words into the search bar until it (hopefully!) shows up.

So if companies would quit playing Proprietary Lockdown games, we really do need "Basic / Advanced" versions of a UI at the click of a button.

Re:Easy and Advanced (4, Insightful)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334258)

Experienced users want it the way they got used to.
Finding interfaces that new computer users can learn quickly and be productive in is difficult (you also need new test subject all the time).
This story and the GNOME3 discussion on /. seems to be a case of "I want it like it has always been", not being interested in what could be done better. I know new ideas in UI development can make you very productive, a very good example is Mylyn [eclipse.org] .

On a related note, Apple has always used silly analogies ("Desktop", "Trash", Eject by dropping to trash). I hope I offended everyone now.

Re:Easy and Advanced (5, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334582)

In my opinion it doesn't have to be the same way people are used to, as long as it can be much faster.

I'm happy that Apple, Microsoft etc are taking care of the "newbie" users - that's actually a good idea.

BUT in my opinion they should also provide short-cuts so that skilled/trained users will be able to do things much faster.

Not everyone remains a "newbie". Being skilled at complex stuff is not beyond normal people. Many gamers can do many actions-per-second. And look at some of the experienced "old-school" supermarket cashiers (who can identify products and enter the correct product codes faster than low-end barcode readers can read a barcode) or those using those "dumb terminals" - using all the short cut keys to jump to various fields/pages to enter the data or search for stuff quickly.

But what I see nowadays are UIs where you have click/swipe, _WAIT_ for fancy animation, click again, _WAIT_ for fancy animation, then only finally get what you want. That gets old if you already know exactly what you want.

Any non-idiot can create a UI that allows a user to manage 1-3 windows/items. Give me a UI that allows a normal user to manage magnitudes more than 3 items/tasks easily. One that actually _augments_ humans, rather than gets in their way.

All those fancy animations and pauses are like those cut-scenes in a game. They are very nice the first few times round, but most skilled/experienced gamers skip them in order to get to the real stuff they want to do.

In most games, if a weapon/skill that has a long fancy animation before it actually does stuff, it's considered a disadvantage of the weapon/skill by experienced gamers. The same applies for Desktop GUIs.

A Desktop GUI is crap if even GNU Screen is faster at managing "windows" in the hands of users who are experienced+skilled in both.

Re:Easy and Advanced (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334584)

It's not that we want it the old way, it's that the new way is slower, takes more clicks, and is extraordinarily difficult to find tasks you don't know where they were in the first place.

Look at windows 7: some settings in windows 7 now take over 5 submenu/windows to get to instead of 1-3.

Re:Easy and Advanced (5, Insightful)

visualight (468005) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334268)

The problem is that if weren't unnecessary abstraction layers and illogical "real world" metaphors there wouldn't *be* any unskilled users. These interfaces not only assume you're ignorant, they *keep* you ignorant.

The premise that I disagree with is that it's okay for people to go on thinking that "Safari is the internet". This isn't rocket science. Having some basic grasp of a hierarchy, or understanding the concept of a URL would not be difficult if the UI(s) weren't so disconnected from reality.

Re:Easy and Advanced (4, Insightful)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334324)

It's more ignorant to think that users need to know the underlying system or how URL is formed to use computer or internet. Truth is, no one wants to have to learn things they don't care about. While you may think it's essential for everyone to know how computers operate, many people think otherwise. Likewise, I bet you don't have to learn things you don't care about just to enjoy them. We have almost 7 billion people on earth - we can specialize in things and enjoy all the things world offers but someone has to simplify it for the rest of us so that we have the time to enjoy and use everything. You can't learn everything, and for majority of people computers are just something they want to use, not something they want to learn to understand.

Re:Like and Okay (4, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334348)

It's a difficult problem!

I remarked that my two Anecdotal Users "liked" that ultra low level understanding of Safari = Internet. I think it's rather disturbing, but I will politely call it the "wide base of learning problem" where any brand new field of information will have a wide swath of extremely confused users in a big circle at the base. These are decent guys who just didn't get the whole Computer Revolution thing, but they're stuck needing to check their email, so that's the best they can do.

Likewise, don't ask me any car questions. Or road navigation. Or hunting/fishing/golf/_____/____/_____ questions. I'd look equally dumb. Not even Command Line ones! (Oops, is my Geek Cred now at risk? Oh well!)

However, once I DO know how to do something, the message for companies is "don't take it away later." It's like the story Harrison Bergeron - "Let's move everything around so much that Everyone Becomes Equal because none of the stuff the old power users liked works anymore."

Re:Like and Okay (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334534)

> Likewise, don't ask me any car questions.

The difference being that you'd probably be embarrassed by your lack and knowledge and want to correct that. So, if someone said to you "you use a Ford to access the Interstate" you'd call them out on that as it seems wrong.

Yet many casual computer users revel in their ignorance.

Has he ever actually talked to users? (4, Insightful)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334206)

I've spent a decade in the firing line (developer exposed directly to users), and this goes directly against everything we've heard from the vast majority. Yes, your power users are going to be frustrated by simplified UI, sorry guys, you're not our main audience. The average user does not want to spend time learning the UI, they want to pick up the app, do what they need to do and move on with their life.

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (4, Insightful)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334250)

I don't think he has. He sounds like grumpy old guy who just wants to do things the old, especially since he is talking about how Windows Classic theme "just feels right" because he knows how it functions. He just wants to use something he has got used to it, and doesn't even think if it's really better for other users. Having used both, Windows 7 theme is still much better than classic one, especially since it groups windows in task bar and only show icons with a hint of the windows title. When you hover your mouse over the icons, it quickly shows all windows. This is much better design than in the Windows Classic theme where everything was just dumped together.

Re:Windows 7 theme (1, Troll)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334296)

You're fun. Who's paying you?

I got a new Win 7 machine at work a few months ago, and the first thing I had to do to it was to unhook a lot of the annoyances of the Win 7 theme. Grouped Windows was a disaster for me. As for "Dumped" of course you know that in Win 7 you can physically move your related tasks in the task bar next to each other. Moving them also lets you visually see your priorities.

I hate "pinned" apps. If it's not open I don't need it "pretending" to be open on my task bar. It's already got a desktop shortcut.

So yes, sometimes it's possible to have a golden age then begin to slide away from it.

Re:Windows 7 theme (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334346)

Ah, the shill argument, the first resort of the "my opinion is obviously objectively right" nerd.

At least you have the courtesy to start out with a line that lets us know you have nothing useful to say.

Re:courtesy (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334408)

Nah, UI is one of those topics that isn't "objectively right".

But opinion is growing that the fellow I replied to is a commissioned marketer somewhere related to the Microsoft-oriented sphere. Check his posts, he's "on message" a lot.

So I gave him the slightly-snarky tip of the hat, in that sometimes it's fun to banter with a paid marketer.

Re:Windows 7 theme (4, Insightful)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334364)

I hate "pinned" apps. If it's not open I don't need it "pretending" to be open on my task bar. It's already got a desktop shortcut.

In turn, this is one of the things I love about it most. I rarely see my desktop. In fact, the only time I do is when I boot up my computer. If I have to minimize everything to start a desktop shortcut it messes up my workflow and the window orientations. I pin my most used programs to taskbar and they're quickly there if I need them, and they're out of way when I'm actually using them already. If it wasn't for that I would have to go to start menu, write part of the programs name and run it there. I also do have separate pinned programs in start menu, but they're ones I'm not constantly running. In task bar I have those that are almost always running. That combination makes things much faster and nicer.

Re:Windows 7 theme (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334540)

In XP (and Vista) I have a Quicklaunch section of my taskbar for those apps I often open when I have something obscuring the desktop and then I have the taskbar itself showing me what is actually open. In Windows 7, Quicklaunch was merged into the taskbar, so certain apps are indistinguishable if they are open or just a quicklaunch icon. Additionally, in XP if I have multiple windows of an app open and there is room on the taskbar, they show as separate instances. In Win 7, they show as a single instance and I have to pick them out when I hover the mouse over them.

Re:Windows 7 theme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334532)

I hate "pinned" apps. If it's not open I don't need it "pretending" to be open on my task bar. It's already got a desktop shortcut.

I Love that i can pin my commonly used programs to the taskbar. I have my task bar running vertically, up the right side of my monitor, and i often have multiple windows open plus tones of notes with sticky notes. Having those programs pinned, allows me a one click solution to opening them, if they were on the desktop, i would have to minimize all the windows first before clicking, or pull a windows+D then click. Again, one click solution for pinned items.. sounds like a great idea to me :)

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (3, Interesting)

zigfreed (1441541) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334574)

He's older than that. You have some powerfully tinted rose-colored goggles if you want OS X to look like OS 9.

Back then, the Mac desktop was filled up with aliases, you didn't default copy things from disk (you just made 'links'), and the dock was more like a control panel with advertising for whatever you installed. Although his argument could apply to OS 10.7, a user can turn the extra features off.

With Windows, the 'classic' Windows 7 theme is a lot less usable than a 'tuned' Aero Windows 7 theme. Aero has better notification, better window management, and buttons that cram more usefullness out of limited screen real estate.

What is condescending in Windows, and most graphical interfaces, is the requirement of using a program like AutoHotkey to do custom keyboard shortcuts. When touch devices start to wear out (or when the mouse pointer goes mad), (i)OS X and Windows don't have an alternative, fast method for an experienced user to navigate the system, but Ubuntu Unity does.

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334264)

There are two types of users: casual users and power users. Catering to one group currently often means frustrating the other, but computers are flexible enough that this needn't be the case. Power users may not be the majority of your audience, but if you can cater to them by offering an alternative interface, why not? The power users are potentially powerful advocates for your app, much more so than the casual users.

To take the Ribbon as an example: Make the damn thing default but provide the classic menus and (customizable) toolbars as an option.

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334316)

Why not? Cost versus return. Supporting the advanced UI does take away some resources.

However, what I would say is not being discussed in this feature is lack of clarity in the UI. I've seen quite a few ambiguous UI options, where I couldn't tell what option was selected, let alone what it did. Ok, so this was mostly just older open source UIs and even that's not something I see too much now, but it's stuck with me.

Because it was the most annoying BS ever.

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334306)

I've spent a decade in the firing line (developer exposed directly to users), and this goes directly against everything we've heard from the vast majority. Yes, your power users are going to be frustrated by simplified UI, sorry guys, you're not our main audience. The average user does not want to spend time learning the UI, they want to pick up the app, do what they need to do and move on with their life.

Not anymore. This has been the rallying cry my entire life, from the late mini-era thru the birth of PCs to today. For decades we've been telling ourselves all the growth means "most users will be noobs". All must bow their heads and bend their knees to the whim of the noob because only noobs matter. This cannot go on forever and is changing.

Standard /. car (err, motorcycle) analogy: Imagine the motorcycle is invented, and its the first form of 2 wheel transportation to exist (no bicycles). Noobs need training wheels. A whole industry and ecology springs up around training wheels and the assumption that all users are noobs. Plain training wheels, free/open training wheels, solid gold training wheels, really expensive and well designed training wheels, the whole thing. Everyone needs training wheels and its antisocial and unpractical to suggest a motorcycle could be used without them. "noob focus" is nearly total. Eventually, people realize they are simple not useful, are gaudy, and mostly just slow you down and get in the way. Bye bye training wheels to all but the 6 year old kids.

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334350)

Exactly why GIMP is a total PAIN.....the UI is far beyond me and I worked helpdesk at a college and have used everything from Adobe CS to Auto CADD, to you name it. Yet GIMP still never ceases to anger and infuriate me.

I have no doubt GIMP is great software, but i cant figure the thing out in enough time whenever i need it

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (5, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334464)

I've spent a decade in the firing line (developer exposed directly to users), and this goes directly against everything we've heard from the vast majority. Yes, your power users are going to be frustrated by simplified UI, sorry guys, you're not our main audience. The average user does not want to spend time learning the UI, they want to pick up the app, do what they need to do and move on with their life.

And most of us have absolutely no problem with the "For Dummies" theme that's skinned over so many products today.

The problem isn't even if it's the default look and feel.

The problem is generated when frustrated (and experienced) users cannot change it to suit their liking.

And while you may be doing your job to address your "main" audience of "I'm-too-damn-lazy-to-learn", I wonder if they recognize the irony of the downward spiral they're helping perpetuate by forcing you to placate to the masses that continue to lower the bar. You know what they say when you constantly try and make something idiot-proof. Someone usually comes along and builds a better idiot.

We keep this up, and computers are going to look like Babys first cell phone because people don't want to spend more than 17 seconds learning anything these days.

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (5, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334480)

which is exactly why the new UIs are so poor.

Remember when Windows first came out, it has menus and every app had the same menu bar. Everything had a file menu that had new/open/print/etc items on it.

You could open any app and instantly know how to create a new document - because there was the file|new menu item, every time. You'd received training for all apps, instant familiarity, instant productivity.

Fast forward to today and we have different interfaces for everything. The new UIs with shiny orbs and animated transitions mean you have to figure out where all the new bits are for each app. Then some of them start working differently (eg Excel that has multiple icons in the task bar, but they're all running in a single instance so you close 1 you close them all kind of bo**ocks), and some don't even have menus - well, they have menus, but they're tucked away behind a little coloured icon so they appear when you click it, if you can find the f***er in the first place (eg the new hide-everything-away browser interfaces). The the ribbon comes along (which is a fine toolbar repacement BTW) but is used as a menu replacement too - with loads of bits hidden away in little menus behind tiny ">" icons.

The old interfaces were fugly, but functional. They made us productive and really that's what is needed for line-of-business apps. No-one really cares that excel looks cool, not when you're typing in the accounts.

Training Wheels (5, Insightful)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334490)

I look at it like training wheels on 2-wheel bicycles. They definitely make it easier for a beginner to make it down the driveway and back, but at some point they become a hindrance and you'll want them off.

This isn't about old geezers pining for the UI they used back in the day; they're used to changing UIs and have been through many. This is about not being able to remove the training wheels, or to get a bike without them.

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334492)

Because slowing down an app with a page turning animation makes it easier to use?

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (0)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334552)

Yes; the issue is the length of animation used, but the basic concept of using an animation to reflect a transition of display from one state to another is sound. You generally want such animations to be aroun 200-400ms though, so your eye just as time to catch it, but it's not something you're generally aware of.

Re:Has he ever actually talked to users? (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334564)

That's not what he's saying, but hey, why try to understand an argument when it is going to threaten your conventional wisdom anyway.

Wait. (3, Interesting)

knuthin (2255242) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334210)

No mention of Unity? It has been made to look worse than the ribbon these days (by techwriters).

Also one could comment on UI on websites, webapps, phone apps. The author didn't seem to mind them at all, though they are the ones that successfully annoy the shit out of me.

Re:Wait. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334450)

But in reality Unity is pretty much a normal desktop, with the bottom bar moved to the left. And also dash replacing launching applications.

My thought of the day for Paul Miller (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334212)

It's not your lawn, Paul. We don't have to get off of it.

Most People Need Handholding (1)

Froggels (1724218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334214)

Although most Slashdotters do not. Most "normal" users out there do however require as much handholding as they can get and it's a major selling point for commercial OS manufacturers. (They call it "user friendliness") I also switched the interface to "classic" (or whatever it's called) on my windows 7 installation which I hardly ever boot anyway.

Doesn't everyone run in classic? (1, Insightful)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334218)

I thought everyone that knew about computers and used windows already ran it in classic mode. It's the obvious thing to do.
It was especially obvious in Windows XP where the main theme looked like an amusement park for disabled kids.

Re:Doesn't everyone run in classic? (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334244)

Haven't got access to change to classic at work because of locked down environment. But even if I had, there's no Office "Classic" mode. Been using ribbons for quite a while now, and it's still not logical.

Re:Doesn't everyone run in classic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334278)

I ran XP in Classic, but when I switched to 7 I just tweaked the colour scheme a bit and I've been fairly happy with it ever since. Happier still since installing the Explorer portion of ClassicShell [sourceforge.net] , but overall everything else they did to the interface I was fine with. I'm sure I'll be on the lookout for something similar to get rid of the damned ribbon in Window 8 if I bother upgrading...

Re:Doesn't everyone run in classic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334288)

Switching to a classic/minimal theme and deactivating all effects is the first thing I do when I use any OS. When I am sitting behind a machine for hours on end, the last thing I need is eye candy exploding my retina.

Re:Doesn't everyone run in classic? (4, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334318)

Nonsense. I like my eye-candy, and the silver Luna theme in XP was awesome.

If I'm going to be staring at my computer screen all-day, it might as well be pretty.

Re:Doesn't everyone run in classic? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334418)

Eye-candy gets in the way. The XP theme in particular for some things to be bigger or to have rounded corners. This is clearly a non-optimal use of screen space. A computer is a tool to get work done. The UI should be functional, and not waste any of the computer resources needlessly.

Re:Doesn't everyone run in classic? (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334482)

Meh, the additional screen-space is so minimal that it didn't bother me. The browser bars that everyone ships their software with take up much more space than those corners.

And a computer is useful for many things, work just being one thing. Visual Studio on one monitor, Doctor Who on the other. I could code for hours / days like that. But we're out of Doctor Who...

Re:Doesn't everyone run in classic? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334502)

s/for/forces/

Re:Doesn't everyone run in classic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334524)

Oh God, the gradients... The horror.

It's not condescension (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334220)

Many users really can't use menus and other less "condescending" UI concepts. The UI is meant to be helpful, not condescending, like holding the door open for someone isn't condescending, even when they can open the door themselves.

This (2)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334224)

... is what a lot of Slashdotters have been saying over the past few years/months regarding the weird new direction of Ubuntu/Gnome: It's not that they've made it simpler to do what you were doing before (as in Program Manager to Start Menu), but rather you can't get there from here. It's actively and actually harder to do stuff you used to take for granted before.

Options. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334226)

They say you can't please everyone. You probably can't, but I've got a secret trick that gets you most of the way.

Options.

Yawn (0, Flamebait)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334232)

This hatred of the Ribbon is becoming a lame cliche. Don't like the Ribbon? Would rather use key commands? Cool, hide the Ribbon and use key commands. Or wait, that would be too easy -- or it wouldn't let you whine as much.

Re:Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334304)

I Solve the ribbon problem by using Open/Libre Office

Re:Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334310)

You know what is even lamer than that? People who adopt the opposite to whatever is the popular opinion within a group just so they can stand out.

Re:Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334326)

Does microsoft pay you with a check or direct debit?

Re:Yawn (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334412)

Except there's no consistent menu bar.

They didn't retain the consistent default text-based menu bar that typically starts with "File, Edit, View...", and usually has selections like "Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste, Perferences, Options, Tools, Blah blah blah..."

You can't press "Alt", and expose the menu bar. So FTFY.

Re:Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334420)

I agree. I like writing tracker music. I used protracker a lot: http://www.pouet.net/screenshots/13364.png

See? Buttons everywhere! Why browse through menus when you can just click on something. What I can't figure out is how microsoft managed to get a patent on it. Prior art anyone?

I recently switched my UI too. (1, Funny)

Old Sparky (675061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334240)

OK, it wasn't really recent; it was in 2001. And I switched to Linux, and I've never been happier!

The article is a bit over the top really... (2)

hattig (47930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334242)

I fail to see how a UI THEME somehow makes a UI less 'condescending'. The Ribbon is still there in Windows 7 'classic', you just lose the GPU acceleration, and instead get the plain grey (with wider window borders) ugliness that Windows has had since Win95 (when it had to look okay in 16 colours). Of course, the Ribbon looks really out of place in the classic theme.

As for the faux-real-world UIs in the Apple apps, the real issue they have is that they present an expectation of more functionality that should be present because they are so similar to the real world example. They're only offensive if you think of the wasted RAM and CPU cycles that go into rendering these interfaces. Then again if you sync with Google you can just use Google's rather stark online applications instead and not worry about the bit of faux leather or torn paper UI silliness.

At least Office on the Mac still gives you the menu alongside the Ribbon. Best of both worlds eh?

Re:The article is a bit over the top really... (1)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334392)

That's because he doesn't really hate the feature changes. He just wants it to look the way he got used to, ie. Win95.

Re:The article is a bit over the top really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334566)

The boarders are thicker in the non-classic themes, transparency adds nothing and can be annoying in some cases (I don't WANT to see whats under this window), the little preview windows add nothing for me, and the top reason, I prefer the behavior of the classic ctrl-tab switcher (I know theres a registry hack, but why bother).

"Upgrades" a justification for price? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334246)

At least in the case of Microsoft, the "new look" seems to be a justification for maintaining a high price point.
The new interfaces also seem to be vendor lock-ins.
MS Word became bloated _years_ ago. I hope Libre Office doesn't follow suit like the OS UIs!

I so needed to hear this! Thank you! This needs to be stopped, and unlike the United States government, let's work together to make this happen!

maybe he should use vi. (5, Insightful)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334256)

it's not condescending. it assumes you have memorized dozens of little one-letter commands.

Re:maybe he should use vi. (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334312)

You really only need the "i" and "esc" keys. And "esc-:wq". with those three things you can use vi.

Re:maybe he should use vi. (1)

allo (1728082) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334376)

and each additional command you learn will double your productivity again.

Re:maybe he should use vi. (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334466)

and each additional command you learn will double your productivity again.

learning VI is like learning skyrim dragon shouts. Very good!

Re:maybe he should use vi. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334512)

Everyone is so productive these days! Press a key and DOUBLE your productivity! What, exactly, do you produce? Is there a mountain of stuff or food somehwere produced by you? And if you're so productive, why does it take 25 years to pay off a house built in six weeks? Seems like you're about 200 times less productive than a mason or a carpenter.

Re:maybe he should use vi. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334488)

Protip: STRG+c instead of ESC will put you into command mode without the trek to the upper left corner.

You don't memorize them (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334398)

They become part of you.

Re:maybe he should use vi. (3, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334470)

Ah Slashdot where there is never a middle ground, its vi + tex or Office 2010.

Re:maybe he should use vi. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334530)

If someone is trying to publish any relevant text, MS Office (or any other office application) doesn't cut it, while TeX and LaTeX attained the status of de-facto standard in any publishing means. MS Office is to the publishing world what MS Paint is to the graphics design world: it's readily availble, it's widely used but it simply is impossible to do any real work in it.

Adreesbook metaphor (1)

jruschme (76180) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334314)

Mr. Miller talks about the physical book metaphor used by the Mac OS X Address Book and iCal. This is nothing new, though, or confined to Apple. I can well remember using a few different "daily planner" apps back in the late 90s that used the same kind of visual, right down to little metal "rings" in the center of the window.

This again? (2, Interesting)

Gumbercules!! (1158841) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334328)

Surely we've had enough of this ribbon is bad garbage by now? It's actually not bad - it's the result of trying to cope with massive numbers of command potentials, instead of trying to arbitrary declare they belong under files, options, tools, edit, etc. It was Microsoft saying "there's been a proliferation of new commands in Office and we can't just keep putting menus and sub menus like this forever" - and good on them for realising it. It allows for more generic group and rapid navigation between them. Hot keys still work for common tasks (alt-f-s etc).

Just because some developer / blogger is now past 40 and can no longer learn new things, doesn't mean new things are bad. This is the geek equivalent of visiting your grandmothers to hear all about how things were better in the old days. It basically boils down to "I learnt something and felt special because I was good at it and many other people are not. Now it's no longer relevant, so I'm upset". Well, go get good at the next thing!

If you hate it that much, turn it off. Google "hide ribbon office 2010" and about 43,700,000 people are pretty happy to tell you exactly how to do it. I don't see much complaining about Firefox, Chrome etc removing the old style menu. Seems to be just another anti-MS/Office rant. Boring.

Re:This again? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334428)

"Surely we've had enough of this ribbon is bad garbage by now? It's actually not bad "

No, but it helped me get the entire company off of Microsoft Office and only Libre office without a fight. on a test group of 10 we set up both. All of the test group told us they preferred Office 2003 first and Libre Office second. none wanted Office 2010.

I personally love "ribbons" it helped me continue the switch away from Microsoft in my company.

Re:This again? (2)

Gumbercules!! (1158841) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334538)

So what you're saying is because people weren't immediately familiar with something new & different, rather than guide them through to new knowledge, you helped them find a way to stay where they are now, on a less feature rich product? Well done!

It's a matter of priorities (2)

overshoot (39700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334336)

In office products and other general computing tasks, performance/productivity isn't really very important. It's much more important to be "friendly," whatever "friendly" means to the people making buying decisions (often the ones running the help desk.)

When performance is important, you get a different picture. For instance, how many FPS games have a ribbon-type interface for weapon selection? FPS is probably the single most performance-emphasizing part of general computing, so there may be a lesson or two to be found there.

Re:It's a matter of priorities (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334560)

Yea, where is Clippy when you need him? I just imagine:

Clippy: 'You appear to be trying to take out a unit of virtual Nazi soldiers with no backup, would you like me to recommend a weapon from your inventory?'

User (while taking heavy damage): *clicks yes*

Alternative interfaces (0)

frisket (149522) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334342)

I wish there was a similar OS 9 mode for OS X.

It's called Unity :-)

Desktop effects (1)

Hero Zzyzzx (525153) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334344)

I often wonder how many aggregate person-lifetimes are wasted waiting for desktop effects to complete. . . could we, for instance, bring up the designer of the OSX minimize effect on murder charges?

Non sequeter (1)

ilsaloving (1534307) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334378)

First he complains about things like the ribbon bar, or the way apps like iCal look, and he 'solves' it by changing the OS theme? How exactly does that help?

Why is amazon cool and apple junk? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334382)

Miller's got some harsh words for Apple, too: 'And of course, there is the transgression of the century: Apple's downward spiral into overt 1:1 metaphors. The physical bookshelf, the leather desk calendar (complete with a torn page), the false-paginated address book...these new tricks are horrible and offensive [and likened to Microsoft Bob]. They're not only condescending and overwrought, they're actually counter-functional.

Why is amazon.com cool, and apple junk?

If the design teams were switched, I would imagine the worlds biggest online retailer would be something like second life, no "grep" or "search" just have to walk endlessly around a virtual walmart, standing in virtual lines at the checkout counter, trying to sign virtual credit card receipt after being handed it by virtual slacker teen by waving the mouse around to make cursive signature, and empty because no one uses it, no one would ever put up with that garbage. If a website tried anything that stupid, it would be insta-replaced by a slightly more intelligent website. God only knows what stock trading websites would look like if OS UI designers made them. Imagine if /. were designed by the same gang of idiots, we'd have a cork background and have to use MS-Paint with virtual dry erase markers to hand draw our comments and then push pins inserted with mouse gestures. Overall, website UIs are much better than OS UIs, because they have to be.

I would theorize that the cost of setting up a computer OS and hardware business creates so much friction that competition cannot create a better UI. Sure, I could trivially do better than MS or Apple or Unity, but I cannot afford to try, so we get junk.

You want to see the future of OS UIs, go to websites. The future looks a lot like the google homepage, or Amazon.

I have the technology and skills to make a website UI as bad as an OS UI, but I'm not dumb enough to try it because market forces would crush me. Won't happen to multibillion dollar multinational corporations, so thats why their products are trash.

Re:Why is amazon cool and apple junk? (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334572)

Amazon.com would make an interesting FPS. First Person Shopper?

User interface as a message from the designer (4, Insightful)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334404)

The best advice I've found for thinking about user interfaces is by CS. De Souza, the author of the
Semiotics of Human-Computer Interaction [google.com] . She calls the interface a 'design deputy', meaning that the interface is to be seen as a message from the designer saying "this is what I know of you and what I think will serve you best".

The most the designer knows about the users, the better tailored the interface will be. A designer may indeed be condescending when giving that message if she doesn't really know enough about the targeted user.

It's not better, it's different. (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334410)

And that is the problem.

Every single Iteration of Linux or Windows creates a ball of confusion for everyone. Microsoft starts hiding things, moving things, or WORSE, re-naming things.

Honestly, if you put in consistency so that a person looking for system tools like. Updates, Software Manager, Hardware Manager, etc.. It's easy to find.

But the latest iteration of Ubuntu and Mint, it's easier to drop to a shell and type sudo apt-get update than it is to find the farking Update manager.
In windows, Add and remove programs is now renamed. And unless you change away from the "idiot at the wheel mode" of control panel you will have a bugger of a time finding it.

Microsoft renames and reshuffled everything to force their certifications to be updated every release, but the Linux people have ZERO excuse for making thing confusing as hell by renaming and putting something important like Update Manager Under "Menu,Other" It fricking goes under Menu,System... Anyone in charge of layout in Mint that put it in "other" needs to be beaten with a sack of doorknobs until they lose consciousness.

It seems we have entered into the era of change for the sake of change and not for the sake of better. I honestly am waiting for Windows to rename "control panel" to "shiny stuff" in windows 9.0

Indeed (3, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334424)

That appears to be the focus of GUIs these days.

A well-designed GUI is fast, efficient, user-friendly, and conveys the maximum amount of information possible to the user without overloading the user's senses.

Many GUIs these days fail to do this. Why? Many reasons, which I will now list:

1.) The CLI Guys -> these people believe the command-line interface is that cat's ass. Anything that can be done with a GUI can be done with a CLI, plus it works with pipes! What's not to like?
2.) The Artists -> these people think that a GUI is a social commentary on the growth of the computing industry and mankind's adjustment to technology. They treat every GUI like it should belong in an art gallery somewhere, and their work tends to resize like sh*t. Elements are not anchored correctly, discerning what is an clickable element and what is just an image / background may take several moments and a careful read of the online help manual. Look for navy blue text (size 8) on a royal blue background.
3.) The LCDs -> these people create GUIs for the lowest common denominator. They assume that the user is an absolute idiot, and make even the smallest configuration changes go through a 15-page wizard. The greatest experience an IT professional can feel is setting this program up correctly once, and never having to run one of those wizards again.
4.) The Minimalists -> these people are like the CLI guys, but they decided to include a half-broken GUI just to tease you into thinking that you won't be spending several hours looking through various usenet posts looking for the proper flag to launch the GUI with. The GUI will be extremely simple, with a poor design and badly labeled elements (the checkbox with a non-descriptive name or in a few instances, no name), which includes a link to the manual explaining a highly comprehensive scripting system for anything more complex.

   

So wrong in so many ways (5, Insightful)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334536)

This article is terrible.

People don't like the ribbon because it sucks, not because it's condescending. It makes doing the job HARDER for both new users AND experienced users.

The bookshelf/faux leather metaphor is simply that. It has no functionality. It doesn't get in the way, so it's a complete non-issue. It is slightly offensive to anyone with a design-sense, but the world doesn't end because of it.

The fact that geeks like this author feel like they are being talked down to is why the millions of other non-geeks call us geeks. Computers aren't the sole domain for us. Companies have to make money, and when there are millions of more computer-challenged customers than experts like this guy, so they'll make their product for them. The fact this guy is mad about that tells me somebody should give him a Linux build.

please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38334558)

Please. If you think you're clever, focus on custom software that is used within a company. Now, that's horrible. I could only WISH!! it was 1% as good ("condescending") as MS's and Apple's. Stop complaining about pretty good UIs, Mr. never have to do anything substantial on a PC.

Windows Classic theme (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334562)

I have been using Windows Classic scheme, with "optimize for speed not appearance" for ever. It removes drop shadows and animated windows opening and closing etc.

But despite this, the theme does not extend into the application user interface. If the user has selected windows classic, why cant the applications also decide to dispense with all the bells and whistles and provide a clean UI? I would actually like to set one knob that says, "I know what I am doing, treat me like an adult" all the way down to "I can't find my own nose in fog" and all parts of the computer, from OS user interface all the way down to application user interfaces and dialogs inherit the setting and behave appropriately?

I want to vandalize the ribbon designer's homes... (3, Funny)

Zaphod-AVA (471116) | more than 2 years ago | (#38334576)

I want to break into their houses, and take all of their possessions out of their closets and drawers and nail them shut. Then I'll lay all their stuff out in piles sorted by type and leave a note that says "There! Now you can find all of your stuff more easily! Have Fun!"

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