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Non user-friendly

Computer compared with a car
 
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I don't know about portable computers, but if a car resembled my latest desktop model, it would have several steering wheels of several colours, shapes and sizes mounted all over the car, some even stuck to the outside.

This variety of access, shape colour, size etc, would apply to all the controls, from the accelerator to the windscreen-wiper. It would probably apply to the "windows" too.

My idea, my plea, my moan, my suggestion, is for a computer with lots of lovely memory and giant gigs of storage BUT ONLY ONE WAY OF DOING EVERYTHING.

I try not to use any of the multiple options in my present jukebox but accidentally hit one from time to time and get into a new and frightenimg minefield.

Am I naive? Simple-minded? Ignorant? Well I've "done" desktop publishing since 1984 if that's any help.

I've never done game-playing though. Is that what all the alternatives are for?

rayfo, Jul 01 2001

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       I like this idea. Now do i press tab and then enter or click OK to submit this annotation? Decisions decisions...
MrKangaroo, Jul 01 2001
  

       Unless you're driving a stripped-down Yugo or something, odds are pretty good that your car has a number of ways to do certain things:   

       Keep car from moving:
- Press and hold brake pedal
- Apply handbrake or far-left footbrake
- For automatic-transmission vehicles, put selector on "PARK"
- For manual-transmission vehivles, with engine not running, place car in first gear
  

       Change radio to 780KHz:
- Press second preset button
- Press "tune up" button a bunch of times until frequency reaches 780KHz
- Press "seek up" button a few times until frequency stops on 780KHz
  

       Open trunk
- Go to trunk, insert key in lock, and turn it
- Reach down near driver's seat and pull "trunk release" lever
  

       Unlock passenger side door
- Pull operating lever for door lock outward/upward
- Press electrical "unlock" button on driver or passenger door
- Press "unlock" button on remote key fob twice
- Insert key into door lock and turn it
  

       Maintain speed at about 57mph
- Vary pressure on accellerator pedal such that speed is maintained as desired
- Use accellerator pedal to reach 57mph speed, then push "on" and "set" button on cruise control
  

       Roll up passenger side window
- Push "window up" lever on passenger side door (assuming the window control is enabled)
- Push "front-right window up" lever on driver side door
  

       I could probably go on and on, but I think you should get the idea.
supercat, Jul 01 2001
  

       Some day* I'm going to write an essay on "Why Computers Aren't Anything Like Cars, So Stop Making That Tired** Old Analogy, Dammit". Hopefully someone has already done so, and I won't have to. (Not that usability isn't important, mind you.)   

       * Probably never.
** No pun intended.
egnor, Jul 01 2001
  

       I use analogies a lot to try and explain something to someone when they ask me 'why'. Cars work well enough for people who know zip about computers...
StarChaser, Jul 01 2001
  

       StarChaser: I think analogies are fine for explaining things; where I get annoyed is when an analogy is the basis for argument. "If cars were built like computers, we'd all die horrible flaming deaths and immediately sue the manufacturers. Therefore, we should build computers like cars."
egnor, Jul 02 2001
  

       Mephista: Unless your car is really incredibly stripped, though, it's bound to have at least some of them. Perhaps even if it is a stripped-down Yugo. Mr. Bean's Mini is the only car I've seen with only one way to lock/unlock the door, for example (using a padlock).
supercat, Jul 02 2001
  

       Perhaps there is no money in it for web / computer based companies to have something become part of the background, so to speak. It's a proprietary thing.
Much as each Television Remote for each Brand and even within Brand is different, so it is with Navigational Features of web / computer Based 'Toys'.
thumbwax, Jul 02 2001
  

       Thanks everyone. You've taught me a lot about cars and computers ... and myself.   

       And yes Mephista, it was an idea disguised as a rant.   

       I try to avoid being mock-serious but it creeps back. I'm an addict.
rayfo, Jul 03 2001
  

       OK, let's start removing redundant ways of doing things!   

       Currently, you can select text in an editor window by dragging over it with the mouse or by holding down the shift key while using the arrow keys. Let's scrap the mouse method - when you're typing, it's usually easier to keep your hands on the keyboard. Once you've selected text with the keyboard, you can cut it by hitting ctrl-x, or by hitting shift-delete, or by selecting "cut" from the Edit menu. We've got to scrap two of those, so let's do away with the keyboard shortcuts - the menu has the advantage of being self-documenting.   

       Under MS-Windows, if you want to change a filename, you can click on the name underneath the icon, or you can right-click on the icon and choose "Rename" from the resulting menu, or you can pop up the full "Properties" dialog for that icon and make the changes there. Two of those methods will have to go. Note that the "Properties" dialog is the most complicated option, and the one most likely to confuse people. But it would be strange to have a dialog capable of changing anything about a file except its name, wouldn't it? I say we keep that one and scrap the other two.   

       Is this the kind of thing you mean? If so, I fail to see how it's an improvement.
baf, Jul 06 2001
  

       I have Windows Explorer set up to show all file extensions. I'd like a quick way to highlight (so I can change) the file *name*, leaving the extension unchanged.
angel, Jul 08 2001
  

       See now, that's exactly the kind of thing that this idea *wouldn't let you have*.
baf, Jul 08 2001
  

       Mephista: "The Internet has been up and running for less than ten years."   

       Ahrgh. Your confusing the World-Wide Web and the Internet. WWW took off around 1993. ARPANET started catching on in 1977, and became commonly known as the Internet around 1982; the ARPANET officially ceased to exist in 1990.
jutta, Jul 14 2001
  

       [m-f-d withdrawn.]   

       Maybe, as the baby-boomers age, there will be a real market for Simple Editions of popular operating systems. They might not follow made-up rules like this one religiously, but they would choose in all details to be predictable, simple, hard to confuse. Certainly, even expert users of complex systems could profit from a better understanding of what's easy to use and what isn't.
jutta, Jul 14 2001
  

       Are you talking easy to *use* or easy to *learn*? They're not the same thing. Command-line interfaces are often the easiest to use (for those who have learned them), because they don't require the visual feedback that a GUI does. You just hit the keys and it goes. But in a GUI, it's easier to find out how to do things that you don't know how to do. At any rate, if you want predictable, simple, and hard to confuse, CLI's are definitely the way to go.
baf, Jul 14 2001
  

       Mephista: Huh? We're discussing the idea rayfo posted (and a few tangents). Why the implication that this makes us stupid or unobservant? Microsoft hasn't been sued for making their UI too complicated, so the lawsuits are tangentially related at best.   

       As for "not being allowed to discuss serious matters": I'd say that user interface design is a serious matter, and here we are discussing it. In a serious manner.   

       If you want to discuss Microsoft, the best thing you can do is point out how Microsoft relates to the discussion at hand, rather than merely berate the rest of us for not doing so for you.
baf, Jul 15 2001
  

       It seems to me that this is twisting the idea into its opposite. "ONLY ONE WAY OF DOING EVERYTHING" (caps his) - rayfo is saying that he has too much choice already and wants less! The abfab quote is really very apropos. It's the "escape from freedom" thing: computers make a lot of people insecure, and when people are insecure, choice is the last thing they want.   

       It would be easy to say now that this is exactly the sort of thinking that supports Microsoft. But it's just as prevalent elsewhere, as seen in the popularity of prepackaged Linux distros that make most of the choices for you, or the various "religious wars" about the "one true operating system" or the "one true text editor".
baf, Jul 16 2001
  

       I don't mind having a lot of options to choose from as long as I also have some transparent way of determining which would be the best choice for me (assuming there's any difference). The choice of CTRL-C or edit-copy or right-click-copy comes down to which one you find most convenient at the time, but as for which, for example, pension plan to join, I find there's often so many choices and no way to choose, other than picking one at random.
angel, Jul 16 2001
  

       //With software, I for one would like to be able to know how it works. You all can learn, so can I. There is no need for it to be kept mysterious and under the control of some self-selected elite. //   

       Mephista, I'm a developer and I know exactly how all software works <i>on one level</i> - sequences of statements selected and/or reiterated according to program logic - but that doesn't have tell me anything of value. I don't have a scooby how most software works, and I neither want to nor need to. It's not an arcane secret; it's just, well, you don't have to know how a building was built to work in it. And with the specificity of business logic involved in any individual application, thinking that you should be able to understand how it works on anything but a superficial level without ipso facto ending up as a specialist is like expecting everyone to be able to pick up a pen and become an architect - but not an *expert*.   

       But I used to work in admin and IT training before I defected to the "other side", so I have a lot of sympathy for novices and, yes, over-complexity of features is a big problem. I don't think it's about redundancy as much as inconsistency, though. Badpuppy programmers forget that users aren't all natural navigators / experimenters; and, unlike baf, I think windows-style GUI's can be harder to learn because users think they should be learning menus, shortcuts, f-keys and all possible paths to an end, all at the same time, before they're even sure how to switch the PC on. It's only a bad GUI, though, if the basic menu architecture is so cocked up that it forces the user to use all these other methods because they can't find the right bloody menu option. A good GUI with a sensible menu setup should be usable with a minimum of training. I think Microsith aren't too bad in this respect, actually; the basic desktop conceit is simple and intuitive to use (as, I'm sure, Apple would agree).   

       So, no, I think a lot of the problem is just to do with bad design rather than over-complexity. If developers had a little more self-discipline and consideration for users, and users had a little more relaxed attitude to learning instead of freezing up because "this is not the same; this is different; this is CHANGE... ", I think this would be much less of an issue. But that's a WIBNI.
Guy Fox, Jul 16 2001
  

       Choice can be a good thing...If your control key is not working, you have menu choices, if your mouse is broken you have 'hotkeys'. If you're trying to drag someone kicking and screaming through copying a bit of text, having a number of choices can be helpful.
StarChaser, Jul 16 2001
  

       Choice can be a good thing...If your control key is not working, you have menu choices, if your mouse is broken you have 'hotkeys'. If you're trying to drag someone kicking and screaming through copying a bit of text, having a number of choices can be helpful.   

       As long as they don't interfere with each other, having the other choices available doesn't bother me.
StarChaser, Jul 16 2001
  

       Downshifting doesn't stop a car, it just slows it down. If you need to stop in a hurry , shifting from fourth to some other gear won't do it. Reverse will just make lots of noise and smoke. Trust me on this...Control-C does exactly the same thing as edit/copy does exactly the same thing as rightclick/copy. This is not an analogy to a car.
StarChaser, Jul 19 2001
  

       I once had a computer that decided not to detect the mouse when it was first booted up... keyboard shortcuts helped then...
RobertKidney, Jul 19 2001
  

       [Star]: 'This is not an analogy to a car.' I know it's not, that was my point. If two or more options yield exactly the same result, a choice can be made on the basis of personal convenience. If they don't (or rather, if it's not obvious that they do), there needs to be some way of making an informed decision.
angel, Jul 20 2001
  

       My car has a computer in it, and I can play car games on my computer, could we put one inside the other, and make them recursive so that they eventually BOTH disppear up their own (metaphorical) arses?
TypographicErrot, Jul 20 2001
  
      
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