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Stupid Users

I've also being thinking about the whole "stupid user" thing. The underlying philosophy of GUI design seems to be to cater to the lowest denominator of stupidity.

You can't deny that some people really ARE stupid. But perhaps instead of just excepting this as an immutable unchangeable fact of life we should be trying to think of clever little ways to trick our users into becoming smarter?

I'm still a complete newbie to the whole world of Linux and software design, slowly plodding my way through documentation. - and I must say that some of it is pretty damn confusing.

I think that documentation should be considered an essential part of an (open source) operating system, not some kind of optional add-on. What is the use of an operating system which nobody can understand?

Most programmers, however, if you ask them how they think the platonic OS would be designed don't even *mention* the documentation.

I have found in my attempts to read the documentation which exists for Linux that, often you must have read later chapters before you can understand earlier chapters, and ALL the documentation assumes that you have a basic grounding in general computer programming principles and mathematics.

This is okay for me because I do have a basic grounding in general computer programming principles and mathematics, but this is not true of most people.

Most people, for example, wouldn't have the faintest idea what a compiler is, or what the difference is between source code and an executable. Most people probably wouldn't even know the difference between a file and an executable, they're both just icons on the desktop after all...

Also, most people don't have a clue what a 'parameter' is. This is why they couldn't use a CLI if their life depended on it. They don't have a conceptual model in their mind of a function as a little black box with input going in one side, and output coming out the other.

I don't think its necessary for everybody to understand pointer arithmetic and integration by parts, but I think that in this day and age, people who use computers regularly should have some kind of a clue as to how they work.

Joel explained in his article that you have to make sure that your interface co-incide with your users model of how the program works. This is 100% true. But I think that as well as adjusting our programs to match the model which users have of how computers work, we need to adjust the model which users have so that it corresponds a little bit more with reality.

This can't be done by giving a user a Linux box without X, and telling them to type man man and work out the rest for themselves.

It has to be done in baby-steps and people who do have a clue are the people who have to break down the conceptual model into byte sized chunks which all the "stupid users" can digest.

I have this idea of an operating system, which an 8 year old (or a 30 year old) with no clues about how a computer works, can sit down at, and learn about computers whilst using one.

Since most readers don't read, it will probably have to be done with flashy animations and music and lots of diagrams etc....

So... To summarize: I reckon, if Linux wants to have a really funky GUI which totally kicks microsoft's arse, then it has to be designed in such away that it is usuable by complete newbies, but at the same time forces its users to become more intellegent in an easy step-by-step way (rather than just confronting them with a cliff like learning climb and saying: climb or go-buy-microsoft)

If all the "stupid users" out there actually did have some kind of idea how their computers worked then I think they would get a lot more out of them and generally be happier.

Alice
Sunday, November 23, 2003

This comes up a lot.

The correct answer is - Stupid programmer.  Yeah, you behind the keyboard.  Quit thinking you know how to do the users job.  Actually go and do the users job, then go back and design your GUI.

It's called domain knowledge.  Go get some.

If your users are brain surgeons, would you call them stupid?  What about astronomers?  Waiters?  Mechanics?  Receptionists?  Nurses?  Surveyors?  Carpenters?  IC designers?  Graphic artists?

It's a big world out there, if you only know how to program, you don't know jack.

(I don't know jack either - but I know I don't)

AJS
Sunday, November 23, 2003

I often hear people claim that they're not computer literate when trying to use some application or other. I think what they really mean is the application is not 'people literate'.

Interaction Architect
Sunday, November 23, 2003

"I think what they really mean is the application is not 'people literate'."  And yet other people can use the app easily.

Yes you should pay attentions to how users expect something to work, but you also have to accept the fact that there are a lot of dumb ass users out there to.  You can take the "no user left behind" mantra too far.

Mike
Sunday, November 23, 2003

When someone asks me how I would design an OS, I don't mention documentation. That's because I consider it an expected part of the product. Not everyone omits that because they don't want docs, most of my coworkers omit it because *everyone* wants docs. But not everyone thinks they're OS should use the Fromatic Boogle instead of the Warkly Farkbag.

And I take issue with the assignment of all the stupidity on one side of the fence. Sure, many many bad user interfaces are the fault of bad program design. But many people also cannot figure out the application because they are dumb. There is blame on both sides.

I reject your suggestion that surgeons (for example) can't stupid. If a member of that profession can't use a given application, it may be because they are dumb. It may also be because the application is misdesigned, but it may not be, not always.

Sure, I could not do their job, but I should hope that if I tried, I wouldn't use a bone saw when a syringe was called for. Which is exactly what many of them do when using computers (not necessarily all or most, but at least one). Just because I can't do what they do doesn't make me dumb. And it doesn't mean that they can't be dumb.

I may be stupid, but that doesn't mean that no one else can be too.

Mike Swieton
Sunday, November 23, 2003

It's irrelevant whether the users are stupid or not. They are who they are and they will decide to buy your application or not. If they can't use it, it's of no consequence that it's "their fault". They still didn't buy your app.

The stupid programmers are the ones who don't see this.

sgf
Sunday, November 23, 2003

Intuitive does not mean stupid.

Think of automobiles. A poor UI on the radio can kill people because they look at the radio instead of the road. A doctor could be just as susceptible as a burger flipper.

Again, referring back to Donald Norman's The Design of Everyday Things, every function should have a button so you don't have to go searching through menu's to find things. That button should also obviously do what you want it to do.

Computers rarely have buttons anymore, you right click, left click, double click on the same icon to bring up different menus.

The difference between a computer and a word processor is that a word processor is specailized and you can easily put a button for every function on it. An OS is supposed to be generic so that the same UI applies to all programs.

Microsoft and Apple deliberately standardized the user interface between programs so that a bold B meant bold and an italicized I meant italics. The standardization surely helped this become the universally recognized symbol for these things, but also that each button had one and only one purpose surely helped.

File / Edit / Preferences / Help etc. are standardized menus, yet users continually have to hunt for what they want to do in them.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, November 23, 2003

It's not irrelevant whether the users are stupid or not. If all of the users are stupid, you must make things very very obvious. But what do you do if only 10 users are stupid? You cater to the biggest market, smart users.

There are many areas in which it's not possible to make it easy for an expert to use and easy for a novice, and easy for everyone in the middle. In these cases, you have to decide who you're going to leave behind.

It's just as dumb for a programmer to make an interface that is for the novice user when his market is experts as it is to make an expert interface for novices.

Making an experts-only interface does not make a stupid programmer; making such an interface in a novices-only market is stupid though.

Mike Swieton
Sunday, November 23, 2003

Consider this contrast:

When users can't understand software, the programmers get blamed.

When people ask questions about the law, there's no hint of saying the lawyers are too dumb to make the law clearer. Instead there's a clamour of posts advising to "see a lawyer," implying the user is the dumb one.

.
Sunday, November 23, 2003

"When people ask questions about the law, there's no hint of saying the lawyers are too dumb to make the law clearer. Instead there's a clamour of posts advising to "see a lawyer," implying the user is the dumb one."

People don't say "see a lawyer" because the law is something that just naturally needs lawyers or because people are "too dumb" to understand it. They say it because any other advice will result in lawyers making life hell for the foolish person who didn't submit to them. A lawer will often give the same advice that some random person here would give, but an insurance company will only cover the legal liability if there's a lawer's receipt. Please note that I quite clearly stated the lawyer was not being consulted for their superior intellect or even for their knowledge of the law, so your assertion that "see a lawer" implies that people are dumb is simply wrong.

It is not implying that people are "too dumb" to understand the law, but instead acknowledging the fact that the law is a minefield and that consulting a lawyer is necessary not to avoid the mines but to ensure you can get your leg stitched back on (with a few scars) when the lawyer makes a mistake.

When people discuss what the law should be, rather than what it is, the most common idea is that the law is too complicated, and should be made simpler and easier to understand, even though practical means of achieving that are harder to come up with.


Sunday, November 23, 2003

You mention insurance in one paragraph, but not in the other. However that's not generally the reason people are exhorted to see a lawyer.

In any case, working on that logic, users are often instructed to consult experienced support people, and businesses are often instructed to use experienced developers, but they don't, and still direct blame to programmers. (Oh, and Microsoft.)

.
Sunday, November 23, 2003

Oh great, now we have " " arguing with "."

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, November 23, 2003

> Oh great, now we have " " arguing with "."

Well, I say fuck 'em both

!
Sunday, November 23, 2003

The law IS tricky.

So is page-layout and typesetting.

So is accounting!

So is accessing databases, finding, organizing, analyzing and synthesizing information from a variety of sources.

It's not that computers are hard to use.

It's that people use computers to do things that are so  complex that no one other than an expert or very serious hobbiest would even have attempted it 20 yrs ago.

And if they did, they would have expected to spend months or years learning the new skills.

They would not have expected a novice to publish a newspaper or calculate various accounting scenarios without extensive training and they would not expect it to be something that was "just intuitive."

Software is an AMAZING success given that many people can do things that NEVER would have been possible for them to do before.

That some of them expect the taks to be so easy they can do it painlessly with no experience or knowledge of the field they are entering is just plain unreasonable.

Cars are also hard to drive! People study for months how to drive a car.

And yet many of the tasks people expect to do easily with computers, like accounting and publishing, take much longer to learn than learn than driving a car.

Why anyone should think otherwise is a mystery.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, November 24, 2003

I don't think accounting and publishing should be considered easy tasks, but certainly word processing, email and surfing the web should be.

Why can't my mother figure out how to copy photos out of her digital camera and e-mail them? Getting real copies of photos and sticking them in an envelope is easy. Why is browsing to your digital camera "drive", copying the photos to the desktop, then attaching them to an e-mail difficult?

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, November 24, 2003

MarkTAW,

You forgot the bit in the middle where your mom takes her camera to the studio/pharmacy to get them developed.

Now she can take photos and send them to you in minutes. A process that usually took a coulpe of days or hours if you were willing to pay $$.

btw... what did it cost in the past to take photos. Chemical vs Digital cost per shot over say 2 years. Throw in the cost of reprints, and I think you will realise that current technology and software is indeed an improvement.

Your mom's mom might not have been able to use a camera (I know my gran couldn't!).

Tapiwa
Monday, November 24, 2003

What about an interface which is not only easy to use, but makes you smarter at the same time? That is, the more you use it, the smarter you become....

Making an interface which is highly simplistic is going to make your program easy to use, yes, but its also going to give "users" an overly simplistic understanding of computers, which could actually be harmful to their intellegence.

The more "users" use highly simplified interfaces, the more deluded they become as to the true nature of reality (or at least the true nature of computers).

Now I'm not arguing that we shouldn't simplify things. If you don't simplify things then your brain explodes. Basically, I think that I'm arguing that "users" should be encouraged to play around more with the internals of their computers, and the interface through which they access their computers should help them do this.

Of course, if the "user" is some kind of half-wit with zero natural monkey curiosity, then fine, let them stay in their little pushbutton world, but if any of the "users" do develop a little curiosity whilst using their computer, the UI should actually HELP the user discover more about their computer. Does that make sense?

Alice
Monday, November 24, 2003

About your mother and the digital camera:

There are two solutions to the problem.

1. You put a big button on the desktop labeled "upload photos to email" or something, and tell her to click on it. That would be the easy solution.

The problem with this solution, is that next year, when she wants to rip a CD and send it by email, you're going to have to stick another button on the desktop labeled "upload CD to email"

Then the year after that when she wants to sing a song into her microphone and send that by email you're going to have to put in ANOTHER button labeled "sing into email" or something stupid.

Obviously, the number of buttons is only going to increase, and soon your desktop is going to get so full of buttons that your mother won't be able to find the one she's looking for.... and, even though she's been using a computer for three years now, she still doesn't understand about 'files', 'file-systems' or 'email'.

2. Teach your mother about filesystems. Tell her that everything is a file. Tell her that you have text files, image files and sound files. Tell her about filesystems. Explain to her how filesystems are hierachically organised. Get her to practice navigating through her filesystem moving files around. Explain to her about attatchments. Tell her that if she wants to send a file by email, be it text image or sound then she must first attatch it to an email then send it.

Now all your mother has to do is go into "email mode" click on "attatch" navigate through the filesystem to her digital camera, attatch the picture, click "okay", click "send".

Its really not that difficult if you've got a conceptual picture in your mind of how it all works. But if the only model you've got in your mind is that clicking a button causes something to happen, then you are inevitably going to have trouble managing your files.

In fact, you're not going to be able to do anything at all if there's not a button you click on which does it for you. So, if your UI is just a collection of buttons, you are going to end up with a bunch of users who are frozen and helpless if they can't find a button to do what they want to do.

If, on the other hand, you're UI starts with a couple of common actions encoded as buttons, and then proceeds to teach the "user" a few basic computing principles, like what is a file, what is a file-system, what is a function, what is a parameter etc... etc... then what you will have is a bunch of very intellegent users who can do all sorts of fabulous things with their computers.

Alice
Monday, November 24, 2003

I have found that it is fear of breaking the computer or destroying the information they are trying to use that stops people doing *anything* they have not been specifically told to do, stage by stage. There is a fear of not having the computer working and needing it working (common in home users) and even more powerful, the fear of being blamed for breaking the computer (common for work users).

Fear of blame and concurrent wish to blame others leads to a need for the use of the computer to be absolutely circumscribed. Then, if something goes wrong, they can always say it wasn't them because they "were told to do that".

The best way to deal with this is to demonstrate that everything is backed up and (for OLTP type stuff) is re-doable and retrievable. If you can give people confidence that they can experiment safely and without fear, they will do it. Training can help, but I find that ends up as "good in training/same at work".

Dominic Fitzpatrick
Monday, November 24, 2003

Alice,

There is an alternative to your two themes - a consistant metaphor.

Between getting your mother to understand how a file system words and having single task buttons are task oriented user interfaces.

Citydesk is a good example.  It allows a user to create and maintain a useful website without them having to know anything about files, ftp, html or anything like that.

I think clinging to filesystems is one of the things that is holding back the development of systems.  A database is a far more effective way of storing data. 

It will be interesting to see if Longhorn will start to change things.

Ged Byrne
Monday, November 24, 2003

Alice, I agree with you, up to a certain point.

1. Concepts
Teaching stuff like what is a file. How the directory structure works etc is fairly generic. I don't think it should be part of the UI. It certainly should not be application specific.... lets avoid duplication. It should just be taught as part of teaching computers. Maybe someone can write a "Welcome to {insert fav OS} that does this. I know there are commercial products out there that do just this.

2. Smart interface
I see two problems with smart interfaces. The first is that it adds a substantial level of complexity to programming. This I think is a bad thing.

Secondly, I think that doing this is akin to automatic theming. Try using a massively customized desktop. Even on windows (Litestep anyone?) I have seen some desktops that look/work nothing like a 'normal' desktop. You almost have to learn everything from scratch. Users familiar with one environment will struggle when they use a machine that has learn't from its master.

Throw in the support hassles. Imagine trying to support someone on the phone who's machine has adapted to their working patterns on the interface level. Nightmare.

Tapiwa
Monday, November 24, 2003

Back to the camera analogy, there's something else missing: grandma never used to have to deal with the faff of getting pictures out of the camera and printed. She used to pay an expert to do that.

Suddenly, the expectation is that not only can she do what that expert used to, but that it should be cheap and easy as well...

The instructions for photography used to start with "cut some glass into squares, then you'll need to go into the pitch dark and paint them with photoreactive chemicals..."

It used to be the domain of experts only. And people are still surprised when some of it is still complicated.

Katie Lucas
Monday, November 24, 2003

Tapiwa,

I can totally relate to what your are saying.

I have to give phone support to users, and the icons disappearing from the start menu is a nightmare.

For a Win9x user I can say - Select Start/Programs/Accessories/Notepad.  No problem.

Now I have to say, select Start.  Do you see those two little arrows ....

Its a complete nightmare.

Ged Byrne
Monday, November 24, 2003

About breaking the computer:

If the system is well designed it should be very difficult to break it when not logged in as root, and even when logged in as root, I, personally, at the risk of being laughed at by everything because I'm just a newbie who has only read *some* of the documentation and have the audaciousness to open my mouth at all, think that all the configuration files should be automatically backed up (it wouldn't waste that much disk space), and maybe even a file containing ls -alR should be backed up somewhere so even if you decided to login as root and start moving around and renaming your configuaration files, all is not lost... and if you use something like "the trash" (All removed files are actually just moved too some hidden directory somewhere and no actually deleted permanently until a week later, or something) even deleting files is not the end of everything. It should actually require a little bit of thought to destroy your computer.

About teaching the conepts:

Yes. It probably should be taught at school, but it isn't. What better place to learn about your computer, than, whilst sitting in front of your computer?


Just out of curiosity, what is the metaphor that Citydesk uses?

Is it really possible to create and maintain a website without knowing about files, ftp and html?
Not knowing about information, communication and markup?

If it is, then you'll probably make millions because everyone wants a webpage and very few people really understand files or ftp or html.

I don't know, maybe I'm just being idealisitic and unrealistic - never did have much business sense - but I really think that people SHOULD understand these things, and anybody with average intellegence CAN understand them.

A file contains information. ftp sends files over the internet. html is a markup language which describes meta-properties of the data....

I suppose the real key concepts are "information" and "multiple layers".

If you don't think in terms of information then you're never really going to understand files, and if you don't think in terms of multiple layers, then you're never really going to understand what a mark-up language is.....

hmmm.... so how to explain to your grandmother about information and multiple layers?

Alice
Monday, November 24, 2003

OSes are a really crazy topic.
_Interactive Programming Environments_ by Barstow, et al
http://research.microsoft.com/~daniel/unix-haters.html
http://www.jwz.org/doc/worse-is-better.html

There have been interesting systems from many decades ago, which concerned themselves with sorcerer's apprentices and object GUIs, but as Kernighan argued, technical quality is not the big decider for success.  Fortunately, there are a number of companies building on Unix variants to create friendly interfaces.  Apple, Novell/Ximan, Lindows, etc.

As to your recent points about users understanding the reality of computers more, I question what that reality is.  I see computers as devices which support modelling and ontologies.  That means they're designed to mirror the world (especially the mind), and focussing on the particulars of implementation is probably missing the point.

Again, you might like _Interactive Programming Environments_; it even has an article by Kernighan.  There have been many systems, notably the Smalltalk and Lisp ones, that used high-level languages as much as possible.  It made me angry that some of these companies did El Retardo things like go bankrupt because of 10 year building leases, dragging their tech down with them.  Much of the reason behind gnu/Linux's success is independence from the business world.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Monday, November 24, 2003

Alice:  If, on the other hand, you're UI starts with a couple of common actions encoded as buttons, and then proceeds to teach the "user" a few basic computing principles, like what is a file, what is a file-system, what is a function, what is a parameter etc... etc... then what you will have is a bunch of very intellegent users who can do all sorts of fabulous things with their computers.


No, you get a bunch of computer experts, or programmers.

If Granny wants to mail photos to people, put up a button saying 'email'.  Forget all the file/function/parameter crap.  Look at MS Office.  Open a document, hit File, Send To, Mail.  Done.  Like it or not, that's how your app should do it.

Take car engines.  Should you buy a car with overhead cams?  Twin-cam?  5-valves per cyclinder?

Years ago, a bloke named Fabio Taglioni came up with something called Desmo, a system used in some Ducati motorcycles to control engine valves.  Should you know what its advantages are?

The point is, users (drivers, riders) don't care.  Just make it red.

You need to study design, go read Donald Normans books, as well as Alan Cooper and Raskins 'Humane Interface'.  Go play with a Mac.  Look at object in the real world (kettles, bikes, vases) and figure out why the 'work', or don't.

AJS
Monday, November 24, 2003

I was going to say more-or-less what AJS said (when I buy a car, I want something that I can get into and drive; I don't what to learn a whole lot about the engine).  But another example ocurred to me.

My wife has a MS in micro-biology, and when we go to the doctor, she really knows what questions to ask ("Why don't you try medicine X, which is known to inhibit IgE receptors?", that sort of thing).  And she would say that any reasonably intelligent person should do the same--after all, it's your life the doctors are playing with, and sometimes they miss things.

And, FWIW, she's right that anyone could get reasonably well-versed in the basics--I've picked up a lot of info without devoting my life to it.  But how many of us (who think that users should understand black-box functions, file-systems, or God knows what else) do that?

The simple fact is that all of us interact with many complex systems on a regular basis, and every one of those systems has its evangelists telling us we should spend our time learning the internals (how much did you study about the market before investing in a 401(k)?  Do you know your house inside-out?)  From an outside perspective, when we tell a user that s/he should understand file-systems to use a camera, we're just part of that din.

Gav

Gav
Monday, November 24, 2003

One major problem with computers is that - as is mentioned - there is no common basis from which they all start. It's in their homes from day one and if nobody is around to help them, nobody is around to help them.

The "going to the pharmacy to get them developed" metaphor is moot because the pictures are already "developed" and sitting on the smart card in the camera.

There are cameras out there that give smart names to photos, when you plug them in you get a photo album immediately and you can re-name the pictures. From this interface, she should be able to select the photos to email, and drag & drop them onto her email program. Or at the very least, right click -> send to email.

Ripping a CD and sending it to email should be a matter of putting the CD in the drive, a track listing pops up, and dragging and dropping it onto e-mail.

This simple dragging & dropping most closely resembles what we do and real life - we put the CD or photos into the envelope.

Once that is done, an e-mail should open up with an iconic version of the photos or tracks. So if she accidentally dropped one of her bridge club when she meant to send baby photos, she could remove it and get the right one.

This isn't too difficult to accomplish. The problem is, the manufacturer of the camera didn't talk to the folks who designed the e-mail program. Think of that camera & printer with the built in camera dock that allows you to find the photo you want and push a button and print that one.

Are you going to again argue that she needs to have the domain expertese of a photographic printer? By the way, those experts you speak of are nearly universally high school and college age, or have you not dropped into your local shopping mall or pharmacy developing shop?

Heck, with advantix film, you drop the film into the machine, and it does all the work for you. If you want print #24, you type it in to the machine.

If you're going to argue that this user interface damages people's ability to think, then I think you should argue for a command line interface because "under the hood" all computers operate on that level anyway. Perhaps we should all learn assembly language while we're at it.

Do automatic transmission cars make drivers dumber? Are automatic transmission cars a bad thing for society? What about car engines that start without cranking them, surely this prevents the user from knowing about what's really going on when they turn the key?

What about VCR+, is that a bad idea that dumbs down society as well? You know, with CD's, an entire generation goes without knowing how to cue up Track 2 on Side A of an LP. Is that also dumbing our society down?

I told you, an intuitive interface doesn't have to be a dumbed down interface. There's nothing preventing someone with a little more knowledge from opening a photo editing program, doing some color correction, some cropping, and saving the files as alternates, perhaps with some compression, and e-mailing those instead.

Right now I'm looking at my hot air popper (popcorn maker). It has no on button. You put popcorn in using the measuring cup, put the top on, make sure there's a bowl to catch the popcorn, and plug it in. First of all, it removes the flame from the popping process. This surely is a dumbing down of our society. No longer do we need to think about what really causes corn to pop. Secondly, is an on/off switch a dumbing down of an appliance because it removes the user from thinking about the fact that the electricity comes from the wall and not the switch, or is it a great innovation because it allows the user to use the appliance without constantly plugging it in and pulling the plug?

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, November 24, 2003

I don't know about your mom, but my mom has no problem getting her photos off of her camera and emailing them to me. In fact, maybe you could let me know what system your mom is using, and I'll tell my mom to upgrade to that, then maybe I won't receive 15 photos of her dog and her coffee klatch friends going antiquing every other day. :-)

That said, what exactly is she using? My mom's using iPhoto and seems to have no problems. My dad isn't very computer literate, either, and he seems to have no problems using the photo features on XP, but he did have numerous problems before he upgraded to an XP laptop...

your momma
Monday, November 24, 2003

I'm not sure. I think her old computer runs a Win9x variant. She's planning on upgrading her computer as this one is old and slow. I wonder if she'll send me her old one when she's done, it is a laptop after all...

Also, being a laptop, and old enough to not have built in ethernet, she has to remove the card that connects to the camera in order to attach the card that connects to the internet, so browsing to the camera from her email program was probably an impossibility.

If your mother sends you photos every 15 minutes, she probably uses her computer & digital camera a lot more than my mother does.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, November 24, 2003

Yeah, I don't see how it could be any easier than iPhoto makes it unless you have a wireless interface between the camera and the computer. You plug your camera in. iPhoto automatically opens up and gets the photos and shows them. Select the photos you want and hit the email button and you're done.

Someone with a grandmother who is not a computer expert should just go with an iMac and be done with it.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, November 24, 2003

Isn't this just a rehash of the 'Leaky Abstractions' thread of awhile back?

It's been a concern of mine for some time that things will be so abstracted that no one will really know much of how anything works.

"Look I press this button '2' and this button '3' and this thing '5' shows up!"

"Wow, I wonder what that means?"

Greg Kellerman
Monday, November 24, 2003

Perhaps your right.
Maybe people really do have better things to do than learn. Time is Money. Why spend time trying to understand something when you can pay somebody else to understand it for you?

"information" is a much more difficult concept that "cause and effect". Nobody has time to think about these things. Just give 'em some magical buttons and they'll be happy.

Alice
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Bingo - magic buttons.

More precisely, design your app around the user, taking into account how often & for how long someone will use your app for.  eg Tax software gets used 1 day year, so you'll need lots of help/hand holding.  (Unless you're a tax agent, then you want something different)

People will learn if there is a good reason.  What you think is a good reason isn't.

Was talking to recriuter today who was surprised I'd never learnt C++.  My response - 'Why should I, I've never needed it'.

AJS
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

It does not make sense to blame the end user for a poorly-designed program, knowing that it is not the end-user who designed it in the first place.

dsa
Tuesday, April 06, 2004

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