Windows UI Compliance ; "intuitive"

18 Aug 2004 - 1:32pm
10 years ago
5 replies
403 reads
Jef Raskin
2004

The Windows UI guidelines are self-contradictory at points (e.g.
recommending noun-verb interaction but going the other way at times),
and lead to the kind of interfaces we all hate. To be an HCI expert and
to adhere to the Windows guidelines is, in my opinion, unethical.

Also, there is no such thing as "intuition" and interfaces are not
"intuitive". What they can be are familiar from previous experience.

For the whole argument see:

Raskin, Jef “Intuitive Equals Familiar,” Communications of the ACM
37:9, September 1994, p. 17

Comments

20 Aug 2004 - 5:52pm
Jonathan Korman
2004

I'd add to Jef Raskin's correct observation.

: there is no such thing as "intuition" and interfaces are not
"intuitive".
: What they can be are familiar from previous experience.

Commonly, what people are talking about when they say "intuitive" is
really "powerful but easy to learn and RETAIN."

The mouse as an input device is an example of "intuitive" in that sense.
Nothing about the mouse-cursor-click-action combination is obvious to a
first-time user. But with 30 seconds' instruction, it opens up an
enormous amount of power, and you will never forget how it works.

Contrast that with the controls for setting the time on the clock in the
typical microwave. The instructions are complex and difficult to
understand, and when daylight savings time comes around, you will have
completely forgotten how it works.

22 Aug 2004 - 3:49pm
hans samuelson
2003

[snip]
> The mouse as an input device is an example of "intuitive" in that
> sense.
> Nothing about the mouse-cursor-click-action combination is obvious to a
> first-time user. But with 30 seconds' instruction, it opens up an
> enormous amount of power, and you will never forget how it works.
>
> Contrast that with the controls for setting the time on the clock in
> the
> typical microwave. The instructions are complex and difficult to
> understand, and when daylight savings time comes around, you will have
> completely forgotten how it works.
[/snip]

Unfortunately, this comparison is not entrirely accurate, since these
two levels of intervention are not directly comparable. The mouse
could be better compared with the keypad entry system as a whole (that
is to say, as two different input modalities).

Setting the system clock on a Windows box (finding the control panel,
changing the time, selecting the various options for networked or not,
24- or 12-hour, etc.) would be a more reasonable, task-level comparison
with setting the clock on a microwave. Neither is 'intuitive,' and the
former is built atop a number of other levels of understanding, of
which mousing is only one.

Perhaps pedagogical utility could be a criterion: will I be able to
repurpose the knowledge that I have acquired in perfoming this task?
The microwave scores low, the control panel somewhat higher, since one
mental model is much more broadly applicable than the other.

That said, most microwave clocks are indeed foolishly difficult to set
(not to mention, non-standardized). And my microwave's popcorn setting
burns popcorn to a crisp.... which is a somewhat graver problem, at the
end of the day.

Another question: Why does a microwave have a world-oriented clock
anyway? I have other clocks in the kitchen that are dedicated to the
job of telling me the time, that do it better than the microwave, and
that have dedicated, simple, easily understood and retained controls
for setting the time. Do people actually set up time-dependent tasks
for their microwaves like they do for their VCRs ("I will require 10
minutes 25 seconds of cooking time at power level 8, from 6:12 to 6:22
this evening")? Wouldn't a purely internal, cooking task-oriented
clock be enough? Is there a reason for having a constantly glowing
clock, normally fairly unattractive, that requires my attention from
time to time without offering anything particular in return?
Featuritis, perhaps?

FWIW, there is a nice paper on affordances (which relate very closely
to questions of intuition, nature/nurture, etc.) at
http://www.cs.ubc.ca/~joanna/papers/GI2000_McGrenere_Affordances.pdf
which might have been brought up in another thread some time ago, if
vague memory serves me well.
It also segues nicely into the ongoing question of how to best
transition users from novices to power-users...

Hans Samuelson

22 Aug 2004 - 4:54pm
Peter Bagnall
2003

> Another question: Why does a microwave have a world-oriented clock
> anyway? I have other clocks in the kitchen that are dedicated to the
> job of telling me the time, that do it better than the microwave, and
> that have dedicated, simple, easily understood and retained controls
> for setting the time. Do people actually set up time-dependent tasks
> for their microwaves like they do for their VCRs ("I will require 10
> minutes 25 seconds of cooking time at power level 8, from 6:12 to 6:22
> this evening")?

Just as an incidental---
I have seen some microwaves which do indeed have a way to burn your
popcorn to a crisp at a pre-specified time. So it is technically
possible to come home to freshly burn popcorn, or more worryingly,
given what happens to the average roasting potato in a microwave if
cooked for too long, it's entirely likely you could come home to a
carefully pre-programmed house-fire instead.

I would argue that since microwaves are far too stupid to switch
themselves off when their contents burst into flame, any feature which
allows (even encourages) completely unsupervised cooking is not only an
unnecessary feature, but worse a potentially dangerous one. Convenience
is great so far, but I'm not going to treat something as being
completely dependable if the failure modes include burning my house to
the ground.

So in answer to your question - the clocks are a stupid idea! (But
having said that I use mine, since I don't have any other clock in my
kitchen ;-) ).

Cheers
--Pete

----------------------------------------------------------
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if
he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more
time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.
- Elwyn Brooks White, 1899 - 1985

Peter Bagnall - http://people.surfaceeffect.com/pete/

23 Aug 2004 - 5:02pm
Jonathan Grubb
2004

To continue the tangent...

RE: " Why does a microwave have a world-oriented clock anyway?"

This may be the result of an effort to increase customer
engagement/mindshare. If you look at the microwave whenever you need to know
the time, you're more likely to think of the microwave when you want to cook
something. Same idea with the cell-phone clock: make the user depend on the
phone to tell time and they're less likely to leave it at home.

That said, the microwave clock was probably thought up by an engineer to
demonstrate the modern LCD technology of the 1980's.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Jonathan Grubb
Yahoo! Mobile GUI
Office: 408-349-6122
Mobile: 415-722-9449
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

23 Aug 2004 - 5:46pm
David_Levine at...
2004

> Why does a microwave have a world-oriented clock anyway?

My guess would be that the first microwave had to include a realtime
clock and an LED time display to support the user story "cook for x
minutes," and some engineer said "hey, since we have to include both of
those hardware features we can give them a wall-clock display for free!"
("Free" in this case meaning "without additional hardware cost,"
ignoring the cognitive burden on the user as well as the engineering,
QA, and documentation cost.) The same thinking put clocks in a lot of
other devices.

Of course, once the first few microwaves had this feature it became a
competitive ("check-off") item and no one else could leave it out.

- David D. Levine, Sr. User Interface Engineer
David_Levine at mcafee.com (nai.com still works too)

Syndicate content Get the feed