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547 comments

computers: still not for lay people (4, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491275)

Some pretty good long-standing beefs listed on that blog -- beefs I've never seen addressed. (Kind of like a recent article I saw talking about cell-phones, and that consumers would much prefer seeing the cell-phone issues and problems addressed before the crap like cameras, mp3 players, video recorders, etc. get incorporated into the "phones".)

Off the top of my head I can add three that drive me crazy:

  1. In Windows I always define my task bar to autohide. Typically I have it to the side of the screen, wide enough so when I mouse over it pops out wide enough for meaningful text to show what tasks really are. But it drives me freaking crazy when events trigger auto-popout of the task bar, often right under my keyboard, or mouse and I end up typing something, hitting enter and triggering something I didn't want, or just plain obscuring something I'm trying to see. (It's so annoying when the network gets flaky and apps that disconnect and re-connect (gaim, "hello (Picasa)", et. al.) proudly interrupt what you're doing to announce they've reconnected for you. Fuck you. I get it! (I had lunch with a best buddy and complained about that task bar behavior, and asked how to disable it -- figured he'd be the one to ask. He rubbed his chin for a second and said, "Hmmm, that's a good idea, I don't have a clue how to disable that!)
  2. Meaningless jargon in messages. (this was addressed in the blog.) I got a worried e-mail from my Mom -- she was trying to start "gaim", and it kept giving her a dialog message, "An instance of gaim is already running". What the fuck? Why do we give computerese like "instance" to lay people? I can think of a few more meaningful messages than that off the top of my head that would let her proceed with confidence.
  3. Cutesy tooltips. It's no end annoying when I have new apps installed, and the "START" menu in XP puts up the "new programs installed" tooltip, obscuring the "logoff" or "turn off computer" button I'm really trying to get to.

Yes, we're a LONG way off from interfaces that are easy to use and that make sense to the average user.

computers: still not for the disabled (3, Insightful)

CDMA_Demo (841347) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491310)


From the article: Every single little tiny-weeny little interaction-shraction requires your visual attention."

We are a long way from HCI obviously, as the article does not seem to consider blind computer users as Human. If we focus on the hard problems (one of which is improving the interaction with disabled users) the easy ones will simply fall into place.

Disabled users aren't normal users (2, Insightful)

Mr Guy (547690) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491525)

If we focus on the hard problems (one of which is improving the interaction with disabled users) the easy ones will simply fall into place.


Bull. Disabled users aren't the same as normal users and designing for them isn't the same. I'm willing to bet blind users would prefer a text only computer, with the information organized in table form so it's easy to follow the hierarchy of information. The CLI, I'd think, would be ideal for blind users.

The real problem right now is that people who are technophobes don't like to admit how good of a tool the computer really is, and how well suited for it's purpose it is. Nearly every solution I've ever seen isn't practical for how computers are actually used. Voice activation in cubicles? 3D immersion just to check your mail?

HCI isn't going to improve vhastly until there's a good system for direct mental interaction, and even then it'll take a long time for people to trust it.

Re:computers: still not for lay people (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491341)

MOD UP. Does anyone know how to prevent the Taskbar from poping up when it's on Auto-Hide? It drives me insane. Especially in MSN IM, every time someone messages you, the taskbar pops up, blocking what you're doing! I've literally ended conversations with people simply because this is so annoying.

(I've seen some suggested registry hacks, but I haven't seen them work properly in XP)

Re:computers: still not for lay people (1)

Leibherk (112156) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491431)

There is a Power tool for win XP called Tweak UI that you can get from this site [microsoft.com]
I dont know for sure that it can stop this but it may help.

Re:computers: still not for lay people (1)

ghukov (854181) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491522)

I just dont auto hide the taskbar anymore. I just use a higher resolution / bigger monitor. That popping up of the taskbar all the time finally made me give in.

Re:computers: still not for lay people (3, Interesting)

Mike Keester (911612) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491373)

I really fucking hate how every program you install nowadays has some kind of agent running in the background on startup. What's worse is that a lot of new programs make it impossible to disable them.

You know what? I'll decide when I want a certain program running on my computer, thank you very much!

Re:computers: still not for lay people (3, Informative)

cerelib (903469) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491416)

Install Microsoft's Antispyware program. It is a good app that I did not use until I put it on the computer I was giving my dad. I had installed it and then went to install another app that wanted to load something at startup. Microsoft Antispyware popped up a dialog informing me that the app was trying to register a new startup program and asked me to confirm. This impressed me and prompted me to put it on my own computer.

Re:computers: still not for lay people (1)

Afrosheen (42464) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491638)

Wow, so it does exactly what Teatimer does, that's pretty fancy.

  It's part of spybot s&d now, basically it babysits the registry and alerts you to attempted changes. If you install/uninstall software alot it can get on your nerves, but that one registry change from a random app is all it takes to hose your box.

Re:computers: still not for lay people (1, Funny)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491419)

You know, it's funny -- I haven't noticed any programs doing that. It must just be a Windows thing...

Re:computers: still not for lay people (0)

kindbud (90044) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491374)

To get the taskbar to stop popping up when an application sends notice, disable autohide. Now its up all the time, and it won't interrupt you. Furthermore, your maximized apps will not overlap it. Peace prevails.

Re:computers: still not for lay people (1)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491462)

So the solution is to basically stop using a feature I want to use? Wow! Sounds like a Microsoft solution.

I don't like the task bar hanging around, that's why I hide it. I know my maximized apps will not overlap it, but there goes precious real estate.

Doctor! It hurts when I move my arm like this!... Then don't move your arm like that.

sigh

Re:computers: still not for lay people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491399)

Here's a tip to improve your productivity immensely: turn off auto-hide. Only the clumsiest of users turn it on in the first place. The taskbar shows you everything you have running and allows you to instantly shift to whichever program you want (one step, no ridiculous scrolling through a list or multiple alt tabbing). If you're moving between two or three windows, then alt-tabbing is fine. Otherwise, the taskbar is always faster, and being able to see all the active programs before you start moving your mouse toward the bar saves you a couple seconds each time you use it, which should probably be on the order of hundreds of times a day.

Re:computers: still not for lay people (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491552)

Meaningless jargon in messages.

Although a lot of programs may lay it on a tad thick, computer users NEED to learn a bit of jargon if they hope to have any shot of dealing with modern technology.

You can't use a car without understanding what the brake and accellerator (and sometimes a clutch) do. When you take it in for repairs, even if you don't know how to fix it yourself, you want to know if you need a spark plug or a timing belt (not just "it broke, please pay $xxxx for the next 20,000 miles...").

The same goes with computers. Your example, of an "instance", I consider not that bad... How do you phrase that better? "GAIM is already running"? Since such errors usually happen when you have a ghost process, I suspect most users would find that even more frustrating (I know how my grandfather would react - "God damn it, if I already had it running I wouldn't have tried to start it, you worthless pile of (stream of obscenties ommitted)").

Cutesy tooltips.

I agree 100%... You can actually turn those off, at least the ones that come from Windows itself, but XP has a rather obnoxious bug wherein you will eventually get them back, and can't turn them off again (because you already have them off).



Oh, and your peeve about the task bar - Drives me absolutely batty. To re-quote the grandfather, "God damn it, if I wanted to switch to that window, I'd click on it, you worthless pile of (stream of obscenties ommitted)!". :)

Re:computers: still not for lay people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491628)

quote:

I had lunch with a best buddy and complained about that task bar behavior...

Dude, it's the 21st century, go ahead and say boyfriend.

And here's the answer of an amarok developer (3, Interesting)

Knome_fan (898727) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491280)

Re:And here's the answer of an amarok developer (0, Troll)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491396)

so why don't any major Desktop Environments exploit the screen corners?

I have a good reason: it's because they are the easiest spots to hit with the mouse.

So require the user to click first. The article mentions this, and mentions that their "Start" Button can be activated this way.

But you know what's weird about Windows XP? You can throw the cursor into the lower-left corner, click, and... nothing. Windows is nanometers from doing the right thing, but still manages to miss it.

Re:And here's the answer of an amarok developer (2, Informative)

litghost (704377) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491620)

Actually, I just tested it, and throwing the mouse to the lower-left and clicking does infact bring up the Start menu.

Slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491287)

Why hasn't Slashdot donated any money to the victims of hurricane Katrina? I understand OSS people are cheapskates, but this is ridiculous.

Shame on you, Slashdot!

Re:Slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491320)

Well as I understand it, http://sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] is offering their entire software library, available for download, FREE OF CHARGE!!!

Not so great? But what about focus-stealing. (4, Interesting)

Kosmatos (179297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491292)

"After more than 20 years of research, development and competition in the field of HCI, not one single leading operating system developing company has come up with an OS that utilizes the four corners of the screen."
 
  "Browse the internet by hitting the screen corner? Check mail in the screen corner? Get Info in the screen corner? System preferences in the screen corner? Switching applications in the screen corner?"
 
The first and most obvious problem with this concept is that the user must know what each corner does. You should not expect the user to remember this by heart. Therefore, you have to either allocate screen real-estate to show it (doh!), or pop up the information about what happens when you move or click here (doh!). If you allocate screen real-estate, then that should be clickable as well. Doesn't sound like such a great idea anymore, does it? If you pop up information, then you just made your interface more annoying because the mouse sometimes tends to end up in the corners by mistake.
 
  "Ray Charles figured that out. Stevie Wonder figured that out. And they would probably make a better design team than any money-driven market thugs."
 
Gee, which market thug are you thinking of? :)
 
I wish Microsoft would fix their most fundamental user interface problem: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever steal my input directed to one window and start providing it to another. I don't care if the applications are not playing ball properly. Don't allow it. How many times have I hit "enter" while typing, say, in a word processor, but just before I hit "enter" a message box pops up and my enter key is swallowed by it, taking the default action, and I don't even know what happened because I never got the chance to see the question. Or my password being entered into one window's field but ending up in another. Bad.

Re:Not so great? But what about focus-stealing. (2, Insightful)

Prophet of Nixon (842081) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491363)

Yea, I don't see why I should want an OS that performs arbitrary actions just because I moved a cursor to a screen corner. That would drive me mad. Also, how would it work for people who have their cursor wrap around the screen?

Re:Not so great? But what about focus-stealing. (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491556)

Having attempted something similar, i can tell you that it works poorly. :| Using OSX's hot corners and Desktop Manager (cursor wait on screen edges pulls you to a new desktop space) renders hot corners basically useless, unless you want to really screw with the delay until activation for one or the other. And then i'm the impatient sort, so i've just been making due with Expose since my attempt.

Re:Not so great? But what about focus-stealing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491457)

I think that the blogger's point was that, once you do learn the spatial position of something (esp. regarding the cutlery analogy), you don't need to think about it anymore. So while, initially, you will have to learn that the top-left corner lets you pop up a browser, after that one time or few times, you no longer need to be told. Certainly, while the user may not know this by heart at first, to continue on assuming that you don't know this by heart could be somewhat insulting.

Allowing both the beginner and expert approach to the screen corners problem goes along with his idea of one "growing" with the GUI.

Re:Not so great? But what about focus-stealing. (1)

CoffeeJedi (90936) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491519)

that was one of my biggest problems going from Mac to PC years ago. AOL Instant Messenger. On my Mac (OS 9 days) AIM would just flash the Apple symbl with it's icon and i could attend to the window at my leisure. When i went to Windows, the message window would pop up in front of my browser or whatever and continue to pop up every time my buddy would say something. Add 5 or 6 talkative people online at once, and i couldn't do ANYTHING for more than a few seconds without interruption. Thank god they changed that eventually.

Re:Not so great? But what about focus-stealing. (2, Insightful)

kisrael (134664) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491574)

Good point about the corners.

I think people who do HCI with a stopwatch are missing an important point, that A. initial friendliness to newbies, ideally to let them ramp up and B. "mental load" for experienced users, how much they have to keep in their head, are both as or more important than an extra millisecond.

One random addition to this discussion:

"If people were going to use computers all day, everyday, the design of such machines was not solely a technical problem-- it was also an aesthetic one. *A lousy interface would mean a lousy life.*"
--Myron Krueger

I need to read more carefully (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491325)

for a second there I was wondering how an acid could have an age. ;)

explanation for the chemically challenged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491474)

HCl = hydrochloric acid

(where "l" is a lowercase L)

Re:I need to read more carefully (1)

ddx Christ (907967) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491590)

Admittedly, the same thing happened to me. I had to read the brief description because I couldn't figure out what hydrochloric acid had to do with anything.

Ultimate HCI format (4, Funny)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491330)

1. Find a computer geek

2. Yell and beat the computer geek into submission to do your computer work.

3. The geek does the interfacing with the PC and not you.

4...profit?

Mac OS X 10.3 (1)

seann (307009) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491332)

"After more than 20 years of research, development and competition in the field of HCI, not one single leading operating system developing company has come up with an OS that utilizes the four corners of the screen."


Hot corners are not new.

Not just 10.3, earlier versions too! (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491466)

Bah, it's not even necessarily talking about hot corners! Even if you don't set up exposé that way, at least the upper corners are still being used: the upper left is the Apple menu, and the upper right is the clock (or Spotlight, in 10.4). Even though the icon doesn't look like its in the corner, it acts like it is.

Anybody else read this as HydroChloric acid? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491336)

HCl looks like HCI in a sans serif font!
At first glance, I was thinking the article was about etching things in stone using HydroChloric acid.

Re:Anybody else read this as HydroChloric acid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491446)

I was thinkung it was something to do with finding out that stone age people had discovered Hydrochloric acid.

The four corners of Mac OS X... (5, Informative)

shawnce (146129) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491342)

Just to clarify what is built into Mac OS X by default...

In Mac OS X, built into Mac OS X 10.4, you can trigger any of the following from any of the four corners of the main screen.

1) Expose - All Windows
2) Expose - Application Windows
3) Expose - Desktop
4) Dashboard
5) Start Screen Saver
6) Disable Screen Saver

Also on the main display (the one with the menu bar) you can slam the mouse into either of the upper two corners and click. On Mac OS X 10.4 the upper left corner brings up the "Apple" menu and the upper right corner brings up "Spotlight". The later allows typing for spotlight search without having to click to gain focus.

Re:The four corners of Mac OS X... (1)

Knome_fan (898727) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491390)

While we are at it:
I'm currently using gnome and:

Top left corner: main menu
Top right corner: calender
Bottom left corner: show desktop
Bottom right corner: trash

Note though, that you have to actually press a mouse button to trigger any action, which might be a good thing, as it prevents accidently triggering something you don't want to trigger.

Seriously, I don't know what OS the self proclaimed expert, who wrote the article, is using.

Re:The four corners of Mac OS X... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491506)

> Seriously, I don't know what OS the self proclaimed expert, who wrote the article, is using.

It looks to me like he read one of Tog's articles and decided to rewrite them in a "ALL YOUR OS ARE TEH SUCK! HAHAHA!" style of writing.

Re:The four corners of Mac OS X... (1)

DevNova (24921) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491547)

Not only can you trigger various Expose features in OS X 10.4 from the corners, but just *clicking* in the top left and right corners activates the Apple menu and Spotlight menu respectively.

The ideas were ok... (4, Funny)

RandomCoil (88441) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491349)

But I don't trust documents on "usability" that employ
"<<" and ">>"
in non-standard ways. Anyway, the first reply to the post was, perhaps, the most appropriate:

This blog is awesome! If you get a chance you may want to visit this discount cat furniture site, it's pretty awesome too!

Screen Corners (1)

ABaumann (748617) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491350)

"After more than 20 years of research, development and competition in the field of HCI, not one single leading operating system developing company has come up with an OS that utilizes the four corners of the screen."

What about OS X? Expose uses screen corners.

Great (2, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491351)

... more unfounded opinion masquerading as insight and research. And about HCI again.

Great.

'useless' screen corners (3, Insightful)

cataclyst (849310) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491352)

From TFA:

Have you ever seen a system which lets you, out-of-the-box, hit a corner in order to do anything at all even remotely related to anything having anything at all to do with a document or application?

Hmmm... yea... yea, I have... In the lower left corner of the screen for 99% of out-of-the-box systems when they are on there's that little start button, which does have something remotely to do with apps & docs... Also: what about the menu bar at the top? Upper right-hand corner: close window..
Honestly, I don't know WTF half the articles are on here for... other than us flaming the crap outta 'em..

Re:'useless' screen corners (1, Informative)

Cloud 9 (42467) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491558)

In the lower left corner of the screen for 99% of out-of-the-box systems when they are on there's that little start button, which does have something remotely to do with apps & docs

Try moving your mouse all the way to the corner of the screen and click. See what happens? Nothing.

Also: what about the menu bar at the top? Upper right-hand corner: close window..

Again, try moving your mouse to the top-right corner and click. Again, nothing.



Also from TFA, the author addresses this issue. Maybe you should go back and take a look.

Re:'useless' screen corners (1)

StarManta.Mini (860897) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491587)

Also: what about the menu bar at the top? Upper right-hand corner: close window..

The menubar is not at the top (in Windows), it is about 20 pixels away from the top. The top contains the 90%-of-it-is-worthless titlebar.

And the top right corner is not reliable enough to use for close window, especially in XP - when an application decides to make itself as big as the screen, instead of maximizing. XP's little rounded corners mean you'll click air. Or worse - click the close button of the application behind it.

hell, (1)

s388 (910768) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491357)

yeah, Expose implements some screen corner usage. great. but Mac OS X stil doesn't have any visual feedback when you hover over buttons or any other clickable part of the interface. (no special mousepointer for window resize, no visual button changes to indicate that youre hovering on the proper clickable space, etc.) i'm a-- mostly-- contented mac user, but that really gets my goat. and my goose.

what's the hold-up? it's not like we're talking about the video-game directional pad which was patented decades ago and has a reason for not being standard. (in other words, there's a reason for all the CRAP alternatives. i hope to god there's not a sleeper patent on the GUI/OS feature i'm talking about....)

HCI (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491368)

It's a sign of the End Times when a front-page story on /. actually explains what an acronym stands for.

The End times... (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491388)

It's a sign of the End Times when a front-page story on /. actually explains what an acronym stands for.

Hello...? Slashdot is going CSS, does that give any hints?

1. Screen Corners (2, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491376)

Chock of shit, well almost.

I actually wrote an application that timed how long it took to click on a small red box with the word click me written on it (distance / time)

After doing the math you could nicely fit a straight line to the points, I even tried splitting out the results based on the direction of movement and their was very little difference and setup a test to explicitly test the 'corner of the screen' theory.

In the end it was no quicker to reach the corners of the screen than a small box anywhere else on the screen. That it probably why no one utilizes the corners of the screen in the way suggested.

I wrote a few more tests and was going to put together a Java applet so that world + dog could help out.
Things like giving your menu entries sensible names and keeping things consistant were far more important for novice and experienced users. I was also looking at things like colour coding, 'vanishing' and growing buttons and other UI elements depending on how often they were used etc...

The main reason for the lack of good user interfaces is that no one ever seems to o solid scientific testing on them, the kind of testing that proves innovations in UI outclass current designs instead of relying on a designers hunch.

Re:1. Screen Corners (1)

kisrael (134664) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491604)

"solid scientific testing" depends on making the right assumptions and setting the right test. Saving a few milliseconds of movement with the mouse might be outweighed by the amount of time it takes to remember to click there.

And of course these days, with big screens, it can be quiet a journey to get to the edge.

Re:1. Screen Corners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491625)

The point of hitting the corners of the screen is that you don't need to look, you don't have to aim or decelerate, in fact, it requires very little thinking at all. I can reliably and quickly close a maxmised window while looking at another part of the screen.

Soviet Union? We have The Leader... (1)

mattkime (8466) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491380)

I bet you my bunny the former Soviet union could have designed a better operating system GUI than any of the software vendors of today.

We have The Leader (Steve Jobs) thank you very much.

Re:Soviet Union? We have The Leader... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491507)

I'm sorry, you can't quote that and expect this wouldn't happen...

"In Soviet Union, better operating GUI designs you!"

Sorry...I'm not seeing it. (3, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491381)


The author of this article has some valid points here...it's unfortunate that he chooses to embed those few valid points in a sticky matrix of hyperbole, hysteria, and inaccuracies.

Just a few things:
From TFA:
So is it possible to design a system that's suits both beginners and professionals? (No t33n-N30, the answer isn't Pr3f3r3nc3Zz!!!!!!!! 1337-H4XX0R5!!!.)
That's funny....I was under the impression that preferences were exactly the answer to this issue.

Also from TFA
We wish to rotate an image, shrink it 50%, attach it to an e-mail and send it to a deaf musician.

A. Utilizing a modern interface: The procedure would involve several clicks, mouse drags and keystrokes, and also require expert skills in order to complete the task in less time than one minute. Moreover, in order to complete the task at all, a number of subtasks (which are actually unrelated to the task at hand) need tending to. We need for instance worry about choosing a file name and a location in the process of storing the image, and then, from the e-mail application, locating the image we just stored in order to attach it.

B. Say Tip a quarter to the right, crop by half and e-mail to Stevie Wonder.

By the way, did you know that one-knob faucets were originally designed for disabled persons?
By the way, did you know that a) Stevie Wonder is blind, not deaf, and b) 'shrink' is not synonymous with 'crop'?

Re:Sorry...I'm not seeing it. (2, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491471)

### That's funny....I was under the impression that preferences were exactly the answer to this issue.

The problem with preferences is that they are quite often not used to configure important stuff, but more in a terms of "We don't know how to do it correctly, so lets the user figure it out himself via Prefs". This than leads to inconsistency and throuble, since you can't predict how stuff will work on the users computer (MacOSX style menu at top is not much fun with focus-follows-mouse, etc.).

But I agree that configurabilty is absolutly important especially for the UI of tomorrow. Tomorrows UI must be able to adopt to whatever problem I throw at it, but at its core it has to be consistent, so that even which changed preferences there is stuff one can depend upon when developing applications.

Clear as mud (2, Insightful)

miketo (461816) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491382)

I really tried to get more than halfway through the article. But after phrases like " a belly-barn shackle in the reunion of unjustified friends", I couldn't continue. He bemoans the lack of clarity in HCI, yet his writing is a stream-of-consciousness mess.

If he can't communicate his ideas better, maybe he's not the best person to describe what's wrong with HCI. I'm not the brightest bulb on the billboard, but come on -- this guy needs an editor.

Define "editor" -- you were a little vague there (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491512)

I'm not the brightest bulb on the billboard, but come on -- this guy needs an editor.

In the sense that the article is essentially an overlong rant no better or worse than the usual slashdot missive, and that it's on the home page right now, it did at least get past one "editor." Let's see... Ahhh yes, that would be Taco.

We all have our peeves and pet ideas about user interfaces. Only the rare among us write so many ponderous, wooly rhetorical fluorishes into our opinions about those that our opinions undergo a sort of apotheosis, ascending to the level of "article" rather than mere "post."

Re:Define "editor" -- you were a little vague ther (1)

saintp (595331) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491606)

In the sense that the article is essentially an overlong rant no better or worse than the usual slashdot missive, and that it's on the home page right now, it did at least get past one "editor." Let's see... Ahhh yes, that would be Taco.
Don't worry; Zonk will dupe it before the day's over.

Ha -- I started to attempt it, too (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491632)

Acting on your impulse, I decided to pare the original text down to its gist to see whether there was anything worthwhile left. Unfortunately the first clause --
"Let me introduce you to one of the greatest mysteries of our time:"

-- put me off somewhat. Oy oy oy. I imagine the author writing term papers in her or his Freshman courses in college. What attention getting device shall I employ this time? "Let me introduce you to one of the greatest mysteries of our time"? How about "One of the most profound challenges ever confronted by humanity..." instead? They're both such proven winners.

Continuing with the first paragraph, we get some other gems:

"Any five-year-old earth child..."
"...a better design team than any money-driven market thugs."

Personally I'm skeptical about the "earth" children. Maybe we should hold a focus group that includes some other types of children, too. When we hold it, we will keep those marketing "thugs" from intimidating the kids. That's always been the problem -- thuggishness, motivated by money.

Yeeck.

Top reason HCI is in its Stone Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491394)

Because it burns!

The goggles, they do nothing!

Pet peeves... (4, Insightful)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491402)

Menus that change. Whoever thought up the idea of menus that hide unused items or change the displayed order based on frequency of use should be one of the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes. Changing menus are one of the worst productivity enhancements of the last millennium. Forget that you can turn it off. It should never have been invented in the first place (no doubt it's patented, too).

Unsolicited offers from the system to remove unused shortcuts on my desktop. I don't need help removing my unused shortcuts. They are there for a reason and just because I haven't clicked on them in a month doesn't mean they're not useful.

Special buttons to page forward/page back in the web browser. I don't know how many times I've accidentally erased my latest diatribe by inadvertently paging backward on Slashdot. Good grief, at least put the function behind a modifier key.

Caps Lock. Who named this key anyway? In Windows, it's not a caps lock key, it's a caps reverse key. And who the hell needs a caps reverse key? hAS aNYONE eVER rEALLY nEEDED tHIS fUNCTIONALITY bEFORE? I wonder where some people's brains are sometimes.

I could go on...and on, and on, and on...

Re:Pet peeves... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491545)

Uh..
Whoever thought up the idea of menus that hide unused items or change the displayed order based on frequency of use should be one of the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes. Changing menus are one of the worst productivity enhancements of the last millennium. Forget that you can turn it off. It should never have been invented in the first place (no doubt it's patented, too).

At the risk of being the lone dissenting voice here.. I actually like the "personalized menus" in MS-Windows. Especially for things like the Favorites menu in IE - I have many, many favorites, but don't want to see them all, every time I go to the menu. I wish I could get the same effect in Firefox (go on, someone please point out a FF extension that I've overlooked, that does exactly this)..

Yet another fucking dupe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491406)

Taco, you're a whore.

Thats nice (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491408)

My response: thats nice, but I don't have time to care about your whining. Awww poor baby windows treating you bad? I would have respect if the author had proposed solutions, preferably with some diagrams / mockups. Anyone can whine about problems, but if you want respect you should attempt to solve them as well. It would be like if NASA kept releasing reports on how gravity is heavy and then never did anything. I also enjoyed how he took extra time out to mock microsoft and apple. Because I'm sure making an operating system is so easy that the author could do a much better job, all by himself. bah.

The largest key (5, Insightful)

Se7enLC (714730) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491410)

...what the LARGEST KEY ON THE KEYBOARD does. Well... this key? Right over here? Ah, the chubby one! It.. spaces... kind of... leaps.. a tiny bit. In the text... See...? Nothingness! Hey, I know how this must sound... Hey! Wait!! No!!

Hey, how about maybe it's the largest key on the keyboard because it's the MOST FREQUENTLY USED? Wow, imagine that, making something that you use often larger and thus easier to find. Doesn't seem stone age to me, seems more like tried-and-true.

Re:The largest key (2, Funny)

angrist (787928) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491488)

imagine that, making something that you use often larger and thus easier to find

Funny, I seem to get a lot of emails about supplements for that kind of thing.

The real reason that HC1 never took off (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491421)

is because they used way too many acronyms and way too confusing words to describe it in the first place.

80 percent of the battle is always marketing - the reason my first commercial (non-military) applications were used by so many people is we wrote it to a grade 10 level for a group that had to have a high school graduation, and we avoided acronyms where ever we could, never assuming anything.

Sadly, it's still true.

Why does /. even link to this? (5, Insightful)

ABaumann (748617) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491424)

It's a rant on a stupid blog. Slashdot refers to it as an "Editorial"

The guy's simply a moron. At least half of his "points" are opinions. Others are just not really points at all. "4. Multiple representation of the file system. ... See point six." And what's with 8 having no title? Point 8 isn't a point. It's a use case.

Finally...

We wish to rotate an image, shrink it 50%, attach it to an e-mail and send it to a deaf musician. Say Tip a quarter to the right, crop by half and e-mail to Stevie Wonder.

You sir, have failed. You just sent it to a blind musician, not a deaf one.

Re:Why does /. even link to this? (4, Funny)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491490)

You sir, have failed. You just sent it to a blind musician, not a deaf one.

I think the assumption is that Stevie Wonder will then forward it to Beethoven.

Re:Why does /. even link to this? (1)

ddebrito (33316) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491523)

The only reason I can think think that slashdot refers to this blog is because they wanted to slashdot it. Time to mod down the people who submitted this "article"/blog.

Editorial? (4, Insightful)

jdog1016 (703094) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491428)

I'm sorry, but I don't think "editorial" is the terminology I would use here. The correct phrase is "random blog post." Who is this person? Nowhere on the page are the credentials of the author, and nowhere in the post does he/she address anything directly related to HCI. Interfaces of popular OS's and windowing systems represent a very, very small subset of HCI, and attacking these with 8 poorly researched, poorly thought out, hardly substantiated claims is a laughable way to go about showing that HCI is in its "stone age." Human Computer Interaction is a very new thing, much newer even than computer science, which is also in its infancy, and mostly everyone that knows anything about HCI knows this. I realize that sensationaliziing common knowledge with irrelevant bullshit is amusing to some people, but Slashdot is supposed to be about news.

A lacking field (1)

AndreiK (908718) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491430)

Unfortunately, HCI is an extremely lacking field at the moment. There are too many coders writing the interfaces, but not many are looking at the faults with them. The result? We are stuck with weird things that make no sense.

I am lucky to attend a college with one of the top HCI labs in the country [UMD], but from what I can tell, their main focus is children's interfaces. We need people to actually study what normal users think of interfaces - not the programmers.

Whoa. (1)

kirkb (158552) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491448)

I'm reluctant to trust an article written by a guy who admits to daydreaming about "sweaty, bare-chested carpenters". And I definitely don't want to consider the symbolism behind the small red tool in his hand.

Heh (1)

aftk2 (556992) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491450)

These points are not bad, per se, but I do have one very large problem with two of them, at least insofar as the same author has combined them into the same list:
2. OS GUI's are Designed for Beginners.
Ooooh. there's nothing wrong with that, as long as you can grow with your user interface. Problem is, we outgrow it in a matter of hours, and after that the OS is nothing but a nail in the eye
...and...
5. Our love of choice
I bet you my bunny the former Soviet union could have designed a better operating system GUI than any of the software vendors of today. Not only would their GUI allow you to get the job done faster, it would completely lack preferences, freedom of choice and any settings even remotely related to changing the way you interact.
Well, which is it? How can the same list bitch about the folly of designing interfaces solely toward beginners, and then later advocate for one (and only one) way of accomplishing various tasks. Here's a hint: there is not one and only user.

Am I wrong, or do these two points completely contradict each other?

Spatial Mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491451)

What I hear the most about spatial mode is that:

* The latest Nautilus has it
* It totally sucks and everyone hates it

So I think I can get by without spatial mode (or
3D effects, or any other stupid, distrating eye candy).

Console. (2)

isaf (912891) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491452)

This is why we always go back to that little thing we call console. If you use a console instead of a "traditional" desktop, pretty much none of the points made in the article hold true.

Let's see...

1. Four corners..
  I bet i can type out a simple command faster than most people can move their mouse to the corner of the screen.

2. OS GUIs..
Any application can include their own console for an experienced user to do things in a faster, more aggressive manner. (yeah, im talking about autocad ;)

5. *ash... so similar, yet so different.

6. Spatialness loses all meaning when you can get to any point in your filesystem with a simple command

8. It's called scripts, and it's a matter of writing scripts that can do things like what the author describes... This is pretty much the sole reason why the console can be the most powerful tool in the world, given time and good interpretation of spoken english. A voice-recognition console for your grandma, so she can say things like Tip a quarter to the right, crop by half and e-mail to Stevie Wonder and have it done in an instant.

Long live the console!

Wah Wah Wah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491461)

TFA is just a lot of uninformed whining really.
Where's the link to the author's code contributions to HCI design? That's the real question, isn't it?

About Those Screen Corners... (3, Insightful)

falcon203e (589344) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491463)

Here's my problem with the screen corners. Because they're the easiest to get to, they're also the easiest to land on by mistake. To simply have a corner activate a process is annoying, so there must be some sort of confirmation. A click, perhaps. Well guess what, Apple already has you covered, as the top two corners, when clicked, activate the Apple menu and the Spotlight menu. If you put something in the corner, it requires some sort of input to activate, and some other sort of input to perform its task. I'm not sure what you'd want to put in the corners, but for the sake of example let's say you want your application switcher there. Are you sure about that? Would you really rather mouse to the corner, activate the switcher, mouse to the app you want to switch to, and click again? Or would you rather find your app in the Dock/Taskbar and click it?

GUI's suck at iteration (1, Interesting)

kindbud (90044) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491465)

How often do you do something like this in the shell:


for file in `find . -name \*.[ch] -print` ; do mv $file /var/backup; done


I have yet to see a GUI that allows me to select files in this manner, and perform the same operation on all of them. A large collection of archive files that need to be unpacked is usually quite difficult to do in a timely manner on Windows, or in any KDE or Gnome desktop. Oh, you can use the GUI filemanager in Windows or Unix to find files whose names match a pattern, but how do you apply the same operation to each one? In Windows, you will get a new Winzip window opening for each archive, and you will have to operate the controls for each file: extract, close window; extract, close window; extract, close window - over and over and over. What makes it even worse is all the repetitive mouse movement required to hit all the buttons. The extract dialog pops up over here, the close button is over there... you end up moving your mouse around excessively just to land on the controls. Click click click click click click click. I get sick of it.

Suggesting that the corners of the screen ought to do something is right out of the stone age, too. Stop making me move my mouse cursor all over the place. I hate that.

Screaming for a joke (4, Funny)

saddino (183491) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491468)

I bet you my bunny the former Soviet union could have designed a better operating system GUI than any of the software vendors of today.

Yes, but then the User Interface would be controlling us.

physical limitations (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491473)

our keyboards and mice cannot be controlled by software. What I mean is this: if you are scrolling through a list of items, the items that are grayed out and the end of the list cannot be communicated to the user through keyboard/mouse. Wouldn't it be neat if the end of a list was communicated back through a keyboard by pushing the key up, so that the user couldn't press it down anymore? For example arrow up and arrow down keys, arrow left, arrow right, page up, page down, keyboard keys. All of these could have the feature disabling the user from pushing the key at some specific points.

The tiny red hammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491476)

"GUIs are for beginners ... " Then the article makes the analogy of a carpenter who uses the same little red hammer that he used when he was five.

You aren't stuck with the GUI. If you want to go fast, use keyboard shortcuts. You aren't stuck with looking at the screen, use keyboard shortcuts.

Since I touch-type I have created audio cues so I can look at the source material not the screen and still know what's going on.

I think the article is right that UI could be improved a lot. On the other hand, it doesn't solve the problem.

The Four Corners Thing... (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491486)

Back when I first got my Windows 3.1 box in 1994, I installed Norton Desktop for Windows (NDFW) to escape the ugliness that was Program Manager. One of the things that NDFW had was a really nice screensaver package for the day (not as nice as AfterDark, but better than the Windows 3.1 defaults). One of the REALLY nice features (which I believe was lifted from AfterDark) was the hotspot corners. You could push your mouse all the way to one corner and click to trigger the screensaver now. You could push it to the other corner to keep it from launching at all for those times when you don't want the screen saver activating. You could push it to still another corner and cycle through the screensavers by clicking repeatedly in order to set your default screensaver. I'm kind of surprised that Xscreensaver doesn't do this at this point. There really aren't many other uses for the four corners though...

counter argument (1)

coshx (687751) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491510)

1. Screen Corners

In terms of using screen corners, Windows uses the lower left corner for an applications menu, the lower right corner for system/application information, and the upper right and upper left corners for application control when the app is in full-screen mode.

As he mentions, expose is invoked by going to a screen corner as well, but apparently has disrespect for spatial navigation, so this does not counter his point...wtf?


2. OS GUI's are Designed for Beginners

Just using the term OS GUI tells me what an amateur the author is, since the OS and its windowing environment are different concepts, and even though one may always be packaged with the other, they are still distinct ideas.

Why are preferences bad? The author makes fun of them without actually making an argument.

What about kde? gnome? OS X? how about some examples? or do we just get to hear a bunch of rants?


3. Visual Attention - Sine Qua Non

The user has to take focus away from an app to scroll? really? there's no such thing as a scroll wheel? Right now I'm using a touchpad and can scroll both horizontally and vertically without looking away from the text I'm reading.

The author has clearly never used *box, kde (others?) where you can alt+left click to move a window and alt+right click to resize, since again here, you don't have to take your focus away from what you're doing to find a teeny-weenie button.


5. Our love of choice

apparently, choice is bad, and users should be forcd to one pre-determined mode of operation? is this a joke? yes, i agree that it can be confusing to beginners to have too many ways of accomplishing the same task, but this has to do with throwing too much information at them, not having many choices.


6. Our Disrespect for Spatialness

so spatial navigation is apparently great, but there was not one mention of nautilus, or how well its spatial navigation was accepted.


7. Terminology
The terminology we use is a strong indicator of stone age: User-oriented design. User centered design. Come on! Around whom else would the design be oriented?!

apparently the author does not understand the difference between user-centered and data-centered design. apparently the author does not understand much, and I fail to see how this is even a point.


8. [convoluted example]

there is always a trade-off between flexibility and ease-of-use. I can imagine a computer specifically built for this purpose, where you could tilt it to the right (which would rotate your image) and then hit the "email to deaf musician button"

But in actuality, you can simply click on the image, select either the ROTATE option, or click on the button with a rotating arrow, then SAVE the image, and then email it. A fairly complex operation that can be done by beginners.

a big BUT... (1)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491511)

This is a nice article with many nice points, BUT, this guy doesn't make a single suggestion about how to make things better. If he is so smart, then how exactly does he think we should go about solving this problem? Forget that, I dont need to know exactly, just generally. Anything? Nope.

I, for one, have found that the most productive interface I have ever used is bash or zsh, preferably with several instances next to eachother on a screen so that I can look back and forth between them.

-d

Useless corners explain science fiction (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491544)

I always wondered about the octogonal screens in Battlestar Galactica.

In the future, they figured out that corners are useless, so they cut them out!

Um, this guy is off... (4, Interesting)

Godeke (32895) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491559)

So I read the article, and all I find is a diatribe by an apparent madman. Why are we taking user interface design from a person who tries to send "rotated and cropped" pictures to blind musicians? I thought at first it was an attempt at irony, but apparently it is just part of the stream of consciousness that produced misused angle quotes, improper grammatical constructs and just plain odd statements.

Examine his (central) point about corners, for example. Yes, corners *can* be hit easily with the mouse. Isn't that a long way to travel to achieve ones goals? His point about scrolling with the spacebar press is on target (and a feature I appreciated), but then he goes on a tangent about the biggest key on the keyboard producing "nothingness". Considering that each and every word must be separated from each and every other word with "nothingness", I fail to see where its place of honor is diminished by the lack of pixels being illuminated by its use.

Crying shame too: usability *is* important and should be a central consideration. Sadly, I don't think this guy is the one to much of that consideration. Maybe once he grasps the utilization of natural language a bit more, I would consider his ideas on more natural interfaces.

Core problem: non-centralization (2, Insightful)

Minna Kirai (624281) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491582)

The prime reason why HCI (aka "GUIs") is in such a poor shape is that each application still controls its own GUI.

New OSes have little opportunity for HCI improvements because too many of the details are left down for the application programmers to decide upon. At best, the OS vendor provides a shared GUI library (buttons + widgets), and a guidebook [apple.com] teaching app authors the "right" way to do it.

But, depending on each individual author to carry out the instructions is fundamentally limited and slow. Not every programmer will be aware of the guidelines, choose to obey them, or be capable of following it exactly even if he tries.

And even if all coders were magically obedient to the published standard, it's still non-optimal. New ideas to improve the HCI guidelines cannot be uniformly implemented without waiting years for all programs to be updated. Computers are supposed to REDUCE redundant labor- instead of each app's GUI being written separately, all trying to implement the same guidelines, one piece of code should handle all that functionality in one place. Code reuse is a fundamental rule of software design that has taken far too long to penetrate the HCI world.

What we need are applications written to a high level GUI description service, so that the OS can implement a UI consistent with other programs and exactly tailored to the limitations of this user (Colorblind? Blind? No keyboard? No mouse? No muscular control besides blinking [medgadget.com]?)

Moving and Resizing Windows (1)

alucinor (849600) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491591)

Moving and resizing Windows should be unneccessary. The window manager or DE should handle this for us, learning where we like our applications and what combinations we use them in.

I also think that the UNIX Way (tm) of doing applications (small, modular, and easily integrated) should be brought to the GUI level, so that our apps better communicate with one another, even to the point where you can hook multiple apps together into a single "app group".

Bad devices are the root of bad interfaces. (1)

Hoplite3 (671379) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491592)

Reason 0: The keyboard/mouse combination is lousy.

No, seriously. We only go along with this crazy thing because we've been trained that way. We got the keyboard because there were typewriters. We got the mouse because it was better than cursor keys (mostly).

The tablet PC shows some promise, but it is strange that the tablet part isn't offered as a peripheral to an honest computer. I mean, a nice LCD monitor that you can write on with a stylus. You could take it down to do detailed work (photoshop, etc), or put it on a stand and use an old-fashioned keyboard to type quickly.

It would at least be more intuitive to write on the surface you want to manipulate rather than moving the mouse in a plane roughly orthogonal to the plane where the action happens. ...But this is a side point. My deal is that the mouse/keyboard got pressed into service. There's been no serious search for new interface devices that do the jobs a modern person does on a modern computer in a quick and easy manner. We're all just going along with it because it's all we know.

And, on a side note, WTF is up with the spatial deciples? Just go use gnome/nautilus and leave the rest of us to our "stone-age" file system tools. We like them just fine, thank you.

Speech interface made easy! (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491605)

Say Tip a quarter to the right, crop by half and e-mail to Stevie Wonder.

This guy deserves it when his computer promptly sends a micropayment to the person in the right side of the image.

Oh, and all you slashdotters worried about Stevie Wonder's blindness preventing him from benefitting from that image, don't worry, he'll just:

Say >>Tell me what is in the image.

Yet more HCI whining (1)

Illserve (56215) | more than 8 years ago | (#13491607)

While things are far from ideal, I don't think HCI people are nearly the poo-flinging chimpanzees this guy presumes they must be.

For example, the spatial attention thing is a great point, but there are good reasons we use symbology in the interface, because that's how the underlying computer works! It's not that these people are idiots, it is clear that space is important, it's just that they haven't yet built enough layers of abstraction on top of the underlying computer to turn everything into space.

And big surprise, layers of abstraction come with a cost in design research, as well as a CPU hit. It's only been in the last 5-10 years that computers are good enough to support a more spatially aware interface, and, surprise surprise, we're starting to see it appear (witness the OSX expose and dock features, which this guy seems to ignore).

Also, points 4 and 2 are directly contradictory. If you want an interface that works well for both beginners and experts, you'll need different modes of functionality. Witness different ways of accessing files.

Theory, meet reality (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13491616)

Repeat after me - blogs are not news. And they should have something more to offer than a simple rant to get posted here. All this person has done is summarize the major UI criticisms into one page, and not even offered any concrete, real solutions. Just foaming at the mouth about "what is wrong with you people?!"

Look, here's the things with the four corners and the like - they're great but humans need *identifiable* concepts and workable UIs. That is, there are uses for the four corners (and BOTH MS and Apple uses them to some extent) but an argument of "do everything in the four corners" is silly without concrete, "here is how to do it" suggestions that can be refuted or supported. This is just yet another person telling us - hey, usability could be better. I read this theory in this book, and even today's GUIs don't base *their entire GUI* around it. What horrible interfaces!! Please. So how would our blog author design their OS? I'd really like to know. All I could tell from the blog is that it would have a spacial file manager and probably not allow you to do many of the things GUIs today do for you because it would break a theory. :)

It's all great to wave your theories around, but OS 9 supported many of these things better than many modern OSes do, and that went the way of the dodo, with a few die-hard usability people screaming bloody murder and the rest of us saying "gee, I'm glad I don't have to have 20 windows popped open to get to a folder." OS 9 was great - in theory. In reality, I wouldn't touch it after the move to OS X.
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