Friday, September 02, 2005

Top 8 Reasons HCI is in its Stone Age

1. Screen Corners
Let me introduce you to one of the greatest mysteries of our time: 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. Any five-year-old earth child has probably already figured out that the screen corners are the easiest points to hit - the only locations hittable without looking. 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.

It gets better: The irony is that we argue about whether systems should be application-centered or document-centered, probably the two most important entities in a computer. 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? So maybe documents aren't the most important entity in a computer. 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? No, or, well. In Mac OS X you can trigger Exposé by hitting a screen corner, although Exposé rhymes bad with point six below, so that hardly counts.

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, a cow in the car, a space tit, a belly-barn shackle in the reunion of unjustified friends. Just something you have to hazzle with. 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!!!«.) Leaving the question unanswered for now, let's just face the fact that we are all beginners the first few hours in our computing career. The rest of the time, we're victims. Wait... an image is forming in my mind... It's a sweaty, hard-working bare-chested carpenter with a tiny red plastic hammer in his hand. Yes. This is his tool. Yes. He's been using it since he was 5.

3. Visual Attention - Sine Qua Non
Every single little tiny-weeny little interaction-shraction requires your visual attention. And I'm not talking peripheral attention, nooooo, then we could all go home and interact, couldn't we? You have to actually drop focus on what you're looking at and move your eyesight in order to find that tiny little resize button of the window. If your screen is large enough, you are even forced to move your head to find that window resizing widget. There's more penalty: once you're done, you must relocate that thing or text you were reading before you got the divine idea of resizing the window. The same goes for moving, scrolling, closing, zooming, panning and... <insert anything here>. The Alfred Einsteins over at Adobe's somehow found out their users like to pan their documents (inside information? mole in the building?), so they assigned the SPACEBAR to invoke the »divine semi-mode of panning«. All respect to Adobe for that - they did better than the combined efforts of Redmond, Cupertino, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder (which equals the combined efforts of Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder). However according to my book, an action as atomic as panning mustn't be mode driven. In this particular case, Adobes panning only works if the user isn't inside a text object typing, in which case that »divine semi-mode of panning« is reduced to nothing but a space. An unwanted space at that.

»But sir, all the other keys were busy!!«.
No they weren't.

Situations like these make me feel sorry for the spacebar. So big and strong... He totally rules over the other keys, and yet all he produces is... nothingness. I hope I never find myself in the situation of having to explain to aliens 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... <demonstrates> See...? Nothingness! Hey, I know how this must sound... Hey! Wait!! No!! Come back!! But we just met!! COME BACK!!«
That's alright, they would probably have left anyway as soon as they saw me clicking »Start« in order to shut the computer down.

4. Multiple representation of the file system.
I'm talking files and folder here. One representation on the desktop and another one when opening and saving files (yes, dialogs). See point six.

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. And there's more: Their GUI would provide one way and one way only of accomplishing an atomic task. Imagine what that would do to a context menu!
Throw one preference at my bunny and he'll probably tell you why it's unnecessary.

By the way, did you know that one-knob faucets were originally designed for disabled persons?


6. Our Disrespect for Spatialness.
Spatial navigation is a condition for eventually being able to navigate by using muscle memory. Muscle memory, along with prediction, is superior to any other navigation method in terms of speed.
This, of course, requires that you know your own file system.

In order to explain what spatial navigation is all about, we shall delve into a comparison to (say) getting cutlery out of kitchen drawers:
Before you open the kitchen drawer (which you can easily locate since it only exists in one place and in one shape), you already know the forks are on the left side. Even if you don't, you can easily localize the forks by just looking, and you will soon have learned that forks are stored on the left side.

Adding non-spatialness to the same example would mean that you first have to locate the kitchen drawer. Even if you have a nice and shine drop-shadowed kitchen drawer in your mind, your mental model of the kitchen, you still have to associate it with the name »kitchen drawer« in order to find it. Because the string »kitchen drawer« is what you're looking for. Eventually you locate and open the kitchen drawer and see but cutlery labels - »forks«, »knifes«, »spoons« - and you are forced once again to recall what the thing you're looking for is called. ("Zirconium oxide kyocera knife"...)

You will eventually open the non-spatial drawer again... (that is, after you've located it, for who knows? It might be easier this time. Perhaps you're in a part of the kitchen close to the drawer? Or maybe the cutlery drawer is in the recent items list? Go and have a look, but beware - if it isn't there, you have to navigate to the kitchen drawer »from scratch«) ...and you may figure that this time, at least you know exactly where to look... (this is true only if you manage to find and open exactly the same representation of the kitchen drawer you used last time) ...BUT, you would then be using spatial navigation!

»Spatial navigation eventually renders the declarative knowledge of the kitchen drawer secondary to the task of opening it, making way for an autonomous stage in retrieving cutlery out of kitchen drawers.«
(WELL PUT J R Anderson, The Architecture of Cognition, 1983!! (Ok. Somewhat modified to fit the example.)

Folders hosting a large number of files pose a problem no matter what representation you use - probably because 1000 files in a folder cannot be called »organized«.
Spatial navigation is in our nature. A desktop is entirely spatial, so what's the point of having a non-spatial metaphor?

Anyway, predictability is the key word, and is along with screen corners by far the thing I lack the most in modern operating system GUI's.

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?!

8.
We wish to rotate an image, shrink it 50%, attach it to an e-mail and send it to a deaf musician.
I'll leave this one up for you to decide: Which of the following approaches do you think would prove to be the easier one?

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?

213 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9/05/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MacOS X allows you to utilise the four corners of the screen through customisable preferences. You can set any of the four corners to show, through a nice animation, current application windows, the desktop, all windows, etc.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SymphonyOS, that now is on Alpha4 stage, is built upon the concept of the four corners of the desktop doing different work for the OS (computer view, program view, task view, search view).
Read the design laws on the website
www.symphonyos.com and take a look to the screenshots.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous QuantumG said...

one-knob faucets blow.

9/06/2005  
Blogger Tom Dison said...

I use the screen corners with Linux and XWindows to Autostart and Disable the XScreenSaver. I remember doing the same with Afterdark on Windows.

9/06/2005  
Blogger e2mtt said...

I agree with you about using the screen corners... a long-time pet peeve of mine, and you can't even find 3rd-party apps that do anything about it.

Your quip about not needing or allowing customization is just wrong though...(beside somewhat contradicting item #2) People with different needs on their PC NEED different configurations to do their things best. No other industries' experts, anywhere in the whole world, are so set against custom solutions. From personal items to industry, today's competitive edge is all about customizing products and services to fit the user/consumer. HCI "experts" seriously need to get off their high horses and stop degrading customizable. (However, good defaults are essential!)

One last tip... PLEASE stop using the "click Start to shut down" adage to bash Microsoft. So maybe you wish they used some other name for the "start" menu, but I really can't think of a better place to put the shutdown/logoff buttons then where they are, considering how the rest of the system is set up. After all, I don't think we need a entire dedicated "shutdown" menu.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These kind of articles come along all the time and the interesting thing about them is that they really don't offer any solutions.

What the author seems to be saying is that there should only be one way to do anything, the user shouldn't be able to customize his/her system, and should be able to do ANYTHING in the GUI by utilizing one of the four corners of the monitor or speaking to the computer.

The problem is that with any serious look at any of the points here, the arguments start to fall apart.

I'm not saying interfaces can't be improved, but to imply that anyone could do better ignores a few decades of development and the work of hundreds if not thousands of people.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of your points are well taken but some are just out there. Spatial navigation? Again? That's been tried many times in various ways and it almost ends up being harder to use.

See, it clashes with the OS-for-newbies point: nobody actually relates the "desktop" on the computer with an actual desktop. In ten years, and with computers everywhere (hardly just on the desktop) this metaphor will be lost in time and only of interest to etymology researchers.

The part about the e-mailing isn't really fair to anyone. Of course you can do it via the filesystem, but have you ever heard of drag'n'drop? It was supposed to be the cornerstone of something called GUI interfaces. I can drag pictures both from my drawing program and even from the web browser to the mail program with no problem.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Screen corners
Have you ever, in your dear lide, used a NeXT station or GNUStep (WindowMaker?)

Before you post something grandiose, please read and experience more about user interfaces

I dunno, maybe stop using Windows...

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Julien Couvreur said...

Re: screen corners

Various OS made progress in avoiding the corners being dead (in Windows the start button now covers the corner, the window close button covers another one,...).

One problem I see with using just the corner pixel is that it's prety hard to learn/discover.

Also it's easy to hit by accident, but a good design should be able to work around that issue...

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to be a pedant, scenario b mailed the music to a blind musician. A may be more difficult, but it meets spect! ;)

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take a look at the GNOME 2.10 Desktop.

Upper left corner: "Start" menu

Upper right corner: Clock and Appointments

Lower left corner: Show Desktop

Lower right corner: Trash (and switch desktop)

Windows is in the dark ages, you need to try something else!

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"One last tip... PLEASE stop using the "click Start to shut down" adage to bash Microsoft. So maybe you wish they used some other name for the "start" menu, but I really can't think of a better place to put the shutdown/logoff buttons then where they are, considering how the rest of the system is set up. After all, I don't think we need a entire dedicated "shutdown" menu."

Please STOP excusing M$ and look other solutions. Gnome uses a entire "Actions" menu with much more than Shutdown, and i think MacOSX does something similar.

And BTW the best OS that fits the article requests is GNOME. Go see it for yourself.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say that is one excellent post!

Be nice seeing things like that in computer magazines.. but of course many of them have Microsoft adverts in and so cannot have anything 'anti-microsoft' in 'em

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Mac OSX, you can assign actions to any of the corners, but also, the default behaviour is that if you drag the mouse pointer to the top right and click (ie click in the upper right corner) you open the SpotLight search engine. If you do the same to the top left you open the Apple-menu, with access to various things, including recent documents, applications, and servers. Most Mac users I know use the lower right corner to start the screen saver. If I remember rightly, this convention comes from the After Dark screen saver from the late 1980s. Anyway, I use the corners all the time, and have done for years.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rotating, shrinking and emailing a photo?

Try OS X. Takes me about 30 seconds - start with picture in iPhoto, click rotate, menu > share > email, select size, mail opens automatically, type first few characters of persons name, click send, done.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha this is funny cause i'm taking a HCI course at the moment.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, just out of curiosity I did open a picture, rotated it about 20 degrees clockwise, made it 10% of original size and saved it. Then I mailed it to myself. It took me 25 seconds to do that. And no, I do not live in a paint program. I did this in WinXP with only my browser (Firefox) open to start with.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything you just said went out the window with the pro spatial navigation approach. It's a waste of time and effort; one can use 'broswer' mode, hit up the tree and type their way to whatever file one is looking for; which is faster than using the mouse will ever be.

P.S. Anyone remember AfterDark? Screen corners. :p

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder why ereryone is so obsessed with screencorners / borders. Do they have so big problems aiming that they think scrolling over the full screen justifies things like that?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder why ereryone is so obsessed with screencorners / borders. Do they have so big problems aiming that they think scrolling over the full screen justifies things like that?

It's called Fitts's Law. The corners are "infinitely deep", and so if you throw your mouse at the corner, you'll end up on that pixel. It's not about "aiming"; it's about speed. Empirical studies have shown that Mac OS-style menubars can be activated up to five times faster than Windows-style menubars for this reason.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want to use all four corners. I like to keep my mouse in the top half of the screen. The mouse is too slow of an interface device for me to want to roam the entire UI with it.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article sounds like someone who is a know it all. I don't want to ever use an OS like the one you describe as it would be a horrible user experience.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, given the general lack of support for using screen corners in most OSs, why would somebody devote a whole screen corner to activating the d*mn screen saver in an OS that does support it?!?!? Has anybody, in all their life, said "Gee, I think I need that screen saver going right now..." ??

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When my six year old son uses my Mac, he is constantly triggering Expose, which I have configured to work in the bottom corners. This is a highly annoying for him because he keeps wondering where his Transformers cartoons have went (Right on, Optimus!). Now, moving windows is one thing, but imagine if those corners launched app's! I can just see Mail and Camino launching right as Megatron is about to take off with all of the Energon! And the distorted audio from limited memory... Egads! My son's day is ruined, due to those "brilliant" screen corners...

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Screen Corners: Hmm. Three out of the four corners on my (browser maximised) XP screen do useful things ('Start menu'; Window management menu; and Close). I wonder if you tried clicking in the corners before writing this blog?

Designed for beginners: The OS provides rudimentary functionality only (thank goodness). I'm glad my hammer is the same shape and purpose as it was when I was 5!

Visual attention: Funny, I can do all sorts of stuff without visual attention. Of course that requires that I use the "expert" capabilities (Function- and command keys etc.) that the original author may not have discovered yet!

Multiple representations of the file system: Yup. Its a sad situation! Curiously, its one that Longhorn (Next Windows release) is addressing. I'm not sure if it's going to get better or worse though (I think worse!)

Choice: If you look at purpose-built interfaces (e.g. like that used by directory assistance telephone operators) you'll find that limited (or no) choice has its place.

Spatiality: Funny, my File menu is always on the left, and my Help menu always on the right.... As to the file system & kitchen drawers: I suspect that if the number of things in my cutlery drawer grew much past 10, and kept changing, and was different from everyone else's then I too would have to create a storage system which went beyond the spatial.

User Centered Design: Isn't your whole blog about how the OS has been created without adequate attention to the user and his/her needs and capabilities? Developer Centered Design is how most of design happens (I know, I work in the business)

Speech Interfaces: Won't it be nice.... My wife doesn't understand me half the time - having a machine understand me might provide some comfort!

9/06/2005  
Blogger Christopher Davis said...

Has anybody, in all their life, said "Gee, I think I need that screen saver going right now..." ??

Yes.

A screen saver configured to require a password, while hardly perfect, is a good way to at least keep casual snooper-types from reading what's on your screen, or running things as you. So, for many years, I've had a reflex that when I get up from my desk, I shove the mouse cursor to the lower right corner to lock the screen. (I've used built-in screen savers and add-ons from xlockmore to Dark Side of the Mac.)

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with those who encourage the author to experience other user interfaces. I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but OSX + Quicksilver addresses probably half of these points squarely (including such non-obvious things as keyboard shortcuts for damn near everything: no more "visual attention" required, see?)

The other half of the points, IMO, are farily weak to begin with. I concur with others' criticisms of spatial navigation, for example.

What *would* be interesting would be a nice list of solutions to these problems that have not been already implented *and* that would realistically evolve the state of the art toward something closely approaching the ideal. The key is "realistically" -- these suggestions need to make it through product development, marketing, etc. How about that?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"OK, M(r/s). User, I'll crop by half.

Oops, sorry, you didn't want that the upper left corner?

Oops, sorry, you didn't want the lower right corner?

Well, what DO you want?

Oh, you wanted *scale* by half."

Replacing the "point and grunt" interface with a "grunt" interface isn't going to be progress, and it's why we still aren't talking to our computers, even though the technology is now effectively built into the operating systems most people use. It *sucks*. Seeing something like this crop up in a bitch session about HCI is effectively 100% a sign that the bitcher has correctly identified the truth that things could be better, but has no real clue what's really wrong, and no real clue about what to do about it, just some quasi-magical solutions that have been tried, and somehow fail to be quite as efficacious as advertised.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Caine said...

Re: Screen corners

If there's something I hate, it's people assuming that monitor is the same as screen space. I've got multiple-monitors, I sometimes rotate one or the other to read a document on screen, I sometimes switch their positions. I don't want any "clever" GUI-designer to use the corners, since he has no idea how and where my corners are configured.

9/06/2005  
Blogger Judah Himango said...

You've been slashdotted!

Ugh, too many of the comments left here are utterly pathetic. "Look, M$ is teh stoopid, you have to click start to shut down! Go use Gnome 2 be the bettar!"

I think there's a lot of space in all operating systems out there for improvement. Linux especially, as it's created almost exclusively by programmers, thus suffering from programmer art, programming usability, and programmer design. Apple OSX seems to be a good mix of ease of use and functionality. But in any case, all OSes could improve in this area.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stevie Wonder is blind, not deaf.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your radical ideas about user interface design have already occurred to others...

See: MacOS X, Spotlight, Expose, Dashboard etc etc...

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whiner.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is not only uneducated about HCI development and the breadth of OS options, and indeed about the state of current OS work, but it also makes some serious generalisations about what "people" want from an OS and how they use it. Criticism of HCI is a good thing; this post is a waste of time and effort.

Oh, and the plural of knife is knives...

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a big deal, but Stevie Wonder is blind, not deaf (see 8)

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Screen corners!?!? The ancient acanemic (that's "academic" combined with "anemic") argument about the infiniteness of screen edges/corners is throughly flawed.

1. Any time you use a mouse-centric GUI, you will, by design, have to point and click with a fair amount of dexterity tens, hundreds, thousands of times in various places on the screen to accomplish any task. Each point-and-click is important to your task : there is no benefit to prioritizing four "most important tasks".

2. Keeping cursor actions (clicks, etc.) spatially localized is a net productivity gain over large sweeping motions back and forth from a focal point (document, dialog, etc.) to a designated location elsewhere. Disabling and starting screensavers are more ideal candidates for screen corners specifically because they imply the user does NOT need to refocus the cursor for a while, and this is available in many guis.

3. Having four "special" locations is simply more to memorize, unintuitive to new users, and bound to be only used by advanced users who accidentally happen upon it.

4. Users eyes are naturally drawn to the center, not the edge, of the screen.

5. The infinite size of the corner from the perspective of a cursor is defeated by the infinitessimal size of its visible area. That is, the larger the button/icon/image in the corner is, the less it appears to correspond with the infinity beyond the edge.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this guy's writing shows he's full of himself

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fine, GUIs are for beginners. Time to graduate to the command line where you can get some real work done. It's been said before that the mouse is a hindrance and the keyboard is far superior.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1 and 6: So you want corners, but they arent spatial, so you dont want corners?

2 and 8: Interfaces should be easy, but not for beginners?

3: Got any suggestions? How else will you resize your app, "say make bigger" how about enlarge? By how much? Maybe your step preference isnt the same as someone elses, maybe it changes today, then tomorrow, so now you have to say make 50% bigger, or maybe grow x 8 pixels y 10 pixels. Now its just getting clumsey. At least with the drag method we dont have to worry about numbers at all, we see the size we are resizing to, and do it. The same is true for just about all other interactions

4: So you want multiple representations, or you think that having a fs dialog that exactly mimics the desktop interface is too complicated? If you want more, theres always the command line :) If you want less, I personally would hate for it to save, then have to go to your desktop, bring up your fs explorer, then drag a temp file from the app to the new location, then rename it from tem134.tmp to mydoc.file. Thats just absurd. See point 6, I'll comment on that part later.

5 and 2: I thought you wanted it to grow, so how will you make it grow if it does not have options. If there are no options, there is one thing to learn, and thats that. Beginner or no, things will always be done the same way it "would completely lack preferences, freedom of choice and any settings even remotely related to changing the way you interact" and "would provide one way and one way only of accomplishing an atomic task" so this means nothing different for beginners or advanced users, the system cannot grow, as it has been locked in by the 2 previous statements.

6: I almost agree with this, except for one tiny little problem. The Mechwarrior Neuro-Helmit iterface hasn't been developed, so the computer cannot give us sensations, so we can't feel the virtual drawer open. So we have to make due in 2 dimensions using a mouse as our navigation tool. We *CAN* keep our folders organized so we always click on the same part of the window to get to the same location every time. But that isn't really the same. We could also make 3-D simulations where you "walk" though your computer Doom style, but that is much slower since you have to account for "transit time" instead of a simple double click. So until we all get plugs in our brains like in The Matrix, or mechwarriors mech interface, I don't really see how software can really do something about this.

8: You said yourself, Application oriented, Document oriented, as well as user oriented. You could even make a system that was server oriented, designed to make interactions with a server easier for the system. So yes there are other things to orient design around.

8, and the rest. It really sounds to me like you want the computer to know what you are thinking, and respond accordingly. I agree, this would be nice, but until we get brain scanners, plugs, neuro-helms, etc, this simply isnt going to happen. No amout of software can make the computer read your mind.

I also will agree, some things we do in computers are silly, like pressing the start button in windows to shutdown the computer (Please MS, just take the shame, and change the name of the start menu, or put shutdown somewhere else!) However, other things, like making the corners an option only are smart. I hate it when I accidently hit a corner and activate something I dont want to on my BSD box. I also hate in Dev Studio at work having that annoying dialog toolbox pop out from the right side of the screen just because my mouse was near it. So no turning on corners by default, or not making them able to be disabled is just plain annoying, and would cause more headaches then any of the above mentioned "problems".

Finally I'll say that you seem rather confused. Usuaully every time I start to write an article like this, I get about half way through, trying to build a solid argument about something that annoys me like you did. I try and make sure my arguments dont conflict at all, if they do, I remove those points from the list. Then I begin looking for why things are the way they are, and see if I can argue any of those reasons away. Assuming my argument hasnt fallen completly apart by this point, I try and offer real world suggestions, not idealistic nonsense. Everyone is generally working towards some idealistic philosophy, but is constrained by reality, as is this. If I come to the point where my argument is one of idealism vs realism, I drop it. Unless of course, I am willing to put in the time money, OR effort to truely champion the ideal I am arguing for, AND I have some plan on making the ideal fit in to reality, which hasnt been done here (unless you are going to tell me you just got venture capitol to develop some sort of direct brain interface, or at the very least, have some real ideas on how to make a better interface with software, and are at least looking for talent, capitol, etc to make it a reality)

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: screen corners, ever wonder why the trash(or recycle bin) comes in the bottom right(or left) corner? This means that in the original design, only one corner was left blank by default. Also, once you do learn an OS, the usefulness of the spatial/graphical interface drops off considerably. Working with both hands on the keyboard, an experienced user can work much faster and more efficiently than when switching back to the mouse or using the mouse alone. (to make this work, see quicksilver [osx], approcket [win], etc). Granted OSX and WinXP need a good deal of work, but many of the issues have solutions already.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Total rubbish.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me find that knife for you...

cd kitchen && find ./ -name *[Kk][Nn][Ii][Ff][Ee]*

9/06/2005  
Anonymous thinsoldier said...

one of the main problems is that the developers are sure to be advanced users and subconsciously they target semi advanced users. The thing is, an advanced users's concept of a semi advanced user is usually 40x more advanced than your real average user.

Take the notion of keyboard shortcuts. I've taught photoshop to many dozens of people and only about 8 have ever comprehended that photoshop is best used "2-handedly", with the left hand usually being used "4-fingerly".

There is a lot of life and a lot of power left in the keyboard that next to nobody knows about. Screw screen corners and mice.

Funny Story:
A friend brings over a 'floppy' for me to print his homework. I get up from my desk,taking my wireless mouse with me as I use it in remote-controll fashion to find my favorite song. As I'm making a sandwich in the kitchen he asks "when are you gonna bring the mouse back?"
I put the Mayo, mustard, and mouse in the fridge. Kick him out of my chair. Navigate to the A: drive, open, spell-check, save and print his report. Troubleshoot the printer. Realize the massive 300dpi image in the word document is the problem. Copy it to photoshop, Save for web, re-import into Word. Print sucessfully, re-log-into msn messenger, check my yahoo mail (firefox-find-as-u-type), load killer instinct in zsnes from the command line, make it as far as fulgore, THEN retrieve my icy cool mouse from the fridge all ready for a hot, sweaty game of counterstrike!

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Wyrd said...

You used the wrong word. "crop" does not mean "shrink". This is not trival. Even the comp interface that does what you *say* will still not do what you *mean*.

Think how often you have trouble communicating with your fellow humans. And you expect a computer, no matter how good it's AI, to be able to understand you? Ha! I say unto thee. Ha, Ha-Ha. Ha!

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Want to be more productive using Windows OS? Try dropping your mouse behind the desk and forgetting about it.
The keyboard is a much better input / control device than the mouse will ever be, given the mouse's inherent weakness - movement. Move your hand from the keyboard to the mouse, moving the mouse, moving the hand back to the keyboard. All movement is wasted time and energy.
Using your 'Faucet for the Disabled' analogy, the only reason the mouse exists is because people are too lazy to learn how to properly operate their system, and therefore require a crutch which actually expends more physical but much less mental effort.

A Few Examples:
Alt-F4 - Close Window
WinKey-M - Show Desktop
WinKey-Pause/Break - System Applet
WinKey-L - Lock Computer
WinKey-E - Windows Explorer
F3 - Search
WinKey-R - Run a Command


As for the whining about using the Start button to shut down Windows.... I've been using my car's Ignition to turn off my car for years.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does HCI stand for?

If you are going to blog about usability and interface, maybe you should utilize the tools bult-in to HTML that let you define acronyms and/or link to sites that explain what you mean.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol yoru a dumbass n00b!

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok a couple things


Dude with the 6 year old who is watching transformers. set up a user for your kid and turn off hot corners
(system prefs) this is also a good way to let you child use the machine without screwing it up or getting into any "pr0n" etc. check the help menu for users in the system prefs

yeah the hot corners have been there for a while.

photoshop's spacebar trick works when you are in a text tool if you add in a option (it might be ctrl)

actually more importantly. the naswer to that wuestion is customizable menu keys for all of pshop (which is available )

you can make anything do anything.

guis are built for the lowest common denominatior. the 5 year old user playing oregon trail at the library (which is now devoid of books)

superusers/ H4><0rz and all the rest of us are just going to have to live with the pain of making up hotkeys and taking advantage of unpublished things to make OUR UI better or more supportive of OUR workflow.

if M$ or Apple did this. noone would buy their stuff. cause it wouldnt be easy enough for USERS

once you've excelled beyond user. its your responsibility to make the changes or just live with clicking start to get to the shutdown command. (which by the way can also be accessed by ctrl alt delet just like the old days)

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Robby Slaughter said...

Everybody knows modern software interfaces stink, and the improvements we made in the past three decades are minimal at best. We also know that just about anybody can think of better ways to design these interfaces. This is not news.

However, what we don't understand is why HCI continues to be done so poorly. Why do people keep downplaying interface design, avoiding usability tests, and making improvements? There's something wrong in the CULTURE that keeps us from doing what this blog proves we obviously know how to do.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christopher Davis said...

Has anybody, in all their life, said "Gee, I think I need that screen saver going right now..." ??

Yes.

A screen saver configured to require a password, while hardly perfect, is a good way to at least keep casual snooper-types from reading what's on your screen, or running things as you. So, for many years, I've had a reflex that when I get up from my desk, I shove the mouse cursor to the lower right corner to lock the screen.

How often have you accidentally locked the screen, requiring you to enter a password and disrupt whatever you were doing?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, I have a round LCD panel...so no use of 4 corners for me.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On OS X 10.4 clicking in the top right hand corner activates spotlight, which lets you search for documents and applications.

The top left corner brings up the apple menu -- used for things like shutting down the computer, software updates, &c.

You don't have to click the Apple or the Magnifying Glass to make it work. Anywhere in the corner will do.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought that this guy had to say something but really this is just a bunch of whiny crap. No ideas just a little boy screaming. When I get tired I can bitch better than you :)
So what do you want to do with those screen corners? You do not like preferences and at the same time you use customized desktop. Guess what, I like when my program says that it lost connection as this happens rarely and I also do not like hiding task bar and I hate it on the left or the right side of the screen.
This guy is just a moron.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On KDE you just right-click on any image, "actions->", "convert and rotate->", "Rotate 90 deg.". Then again right-click, "actions->", "compress and resize->", "resize to 640x480" (or resize custom...), well, you get the idea.
At last, again right-click, "actions->", "send as e-mail", fill in the address, or pick from your address-book, click send, done.
This won't take more than 20..30 seconds, mind you.

Well, KDE just rocks, but I am pretty sure it could be as easy in OSX... maybe, I don't know.

I think today's GUI's are not as outdated as you say, just your knowledge of modern GUI's is truely outdated.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read all the comments yet and someone probably already posted this but it bears repeating; the top corners on OS X are well used. The fact that you don't seem to know this puts the rest of your article in question as well.

Top-left: Apple menu
Top-right: search menu

The bottom corners (as well as the top though I don't recommend their use) are available for custom actions.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

Speech interfaces invite ambiguous expression and erroneous results that can often be avoided by visual indications of what will be achieved, as in a GUI.

Here, you mistakenly used the word "crop" when you meant "scale". The words themselves do not illustrate the function performed, and since you told your computer the entire sequence of steps to see the photo on its way, presumably you would have sent Stevie Wonder some arbitrary half of the photo, rather than the entire photo at half size.

This is pretty bad, but it gets worse. Stevie Wonder is not deaf, but he is blind and will not be able to see the malformed photo. Perhaps you intended to mail it to Beethoven?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Windows XP "Start" menu is a perfect example of motor memory and how the UI is working against us. Who here can remember the first time they upgraded from Win 98 or Win 2K to XP? I don't know about you, but for the first month, every time I told my hand to go to click the "Programs" submenu in the start menu (which is something I do dozens of times a day), it kept landing on a random "recent application". I was so happy when I found out that I could right-click the Start button to configure-away the "new" XP Start menu back to something that behaves a bit more spacial. The default XP Start menu is now a travesty--the "recent applications" order keeps changing according to what's recent--no way to develop motor memory.

To the poster who said his "File" and "Help" menus are always in the same place, I can only partially agree. Your "File" menu is only always in the same place if you either use MacOS (X or pre-X), or if you always use Windows with windows maximized. I don't know of any modern OS which always puts help in the same place (it is constantly moving, based on how many menus are located to the left of it).

Maybe I'm way off base here; maybe folks have been using Windows XP and a non-spatial MacOS (read OS X) too long to even remember what "motor memory is". But think about it next time you go to hit that "Start" button (yes! they did THIS part right!) And think about how you don't have to think about aiming for the Start button, and how your hand automatically just goes to that lower left corner and clicks it when your brain thinks "I want an application...". Your hand knows.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And BTW the best OS that fits the article requests is GNOME. Go see it for yourself

Gnome isn't an OS it's a window manager, and a piss poor, ugly, slow, clunky abortion of a window manager at that.

If you're going to slam somebody, at least slam them with authority and knowing what you're talking about.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ugh, too many of the comments left here are utterly pathetic. "Look, M$ is teh stoopid, you have to click start to shut down! Go use Gnome 2 be the bettar!"

"Look, programmars are teh stoopid, Lunix is unusable! Go use OS X for bettar UNICS!" Isn't much better.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can stand more than a few minutes of Tom Cruise, watch Minority Report for something resembling spatial nav. It *is* science fiction, tho.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I maintail a page of various GUI mechanisms and visualizations Ive seen, mostly around the information security space. When is it that people are going to realise that cool graphics are not about getting the most out of the computer, visual queues and visualization should be able getting the most out of the human operator of the system.
http://www.tauceti.org/research.html

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew that Stevie Wonder was blind, but deaf too?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a UI debate going back at least 20 years if not 30 or more.

Spatial navigation and muscle memory were at the heart of one of the most productive graphics systems ever built ... by Genigraphics and Quantel. They were a bitch to learn to use (very flat learning curves as reflected by mastery (v-axis) over time (t, x-axis). The key to their speediness was that once the operator's muscles learned where the menu items were they almost never needed to look at the UI and they could concentrate on that they were doing. Absolute position of the the cursor controller is a must to achieve this; pretty easy using a drawing pad and stylus instead of a mouse.

In the early 80s I was working for a startup computer graphics company that, among other things, built the first 24-bit paint system on a PC (Leading Edge, DOS 2.1, 512k RAM, 10MB hard drive, 12 mHz 8086) introduced at SIGGRAPH in Milwaukee/St. Paul in the summer of '84. A couple of years later we were bought by Genigraphics and I came to respect their dedicated approach to UI development, which focused on making experienced users very productive, not making the system easy to learn to use and thereby introducing UI strategies that actually reduced productivity as much as 30% or more for routine tasks -- all in the name of "user friendliness."

Until absolute positioning input devices make a comeback, however, I fear there is no hope for spatial UIs that incorporate muscle memory in other than minor ways.

Clay Gordon, Westchester County, NY

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous. You got anything better to bitch about? Get over it and accomplish shit like everyone else whose used a computer to do something instead of waisting our time complaining about the tool.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, for your point number two, have you ever heard of keyboard shortcuts? Also that would prove that the spacebar is quite useful in Windows, since it is the main shortcut to maximize, minimize, and restore window sizes. But you wouldn't know this, since you're the advanced computer user that feels his mouse is the only real way to perform tasks on his computer.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How are we supposed to take any of this seriously when it's on a site that crams all the text into a strip that's usuing about 15 percent of the width of my browser (let alone my screen)?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a programmer, so I am used to type fast. My simple answer to fast navigation is 'keyboard shortcuts'. I would never be that fast using mouse, all the actions that I do often have keys assigned. On a common keyboard, I have no "multimedia keys". The problem is when you go to someone other's computer - OS (or navigation principles) would probably be the same there, the keyboard shorcuts are not.

9/06/2005  
Blogger calaban said...

You're looking at the spacebar incorrectly if you think all it does it skip a little. The spacebar, as the largest key, is the button we hit when we've defined the most "atomic" section of our language, a word. Appropriately, a larger concept in our language , the paragraph, is the second largest key on our keyboard. This concept we could surely explain to aliens.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you just cut off half your picture if you cropped it by half.

OOPS.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take a look at http://dontclick.it/ ...

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't you put down the pen, pick up the keyboard and write your own GUI. It is easy to criticize... but it is another to shut up and do something about it. Perhaps you should re-title - "Top 8 Reasons why abstract opinions are worthless..."

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You clearly stepped into an area you do not fully understand, and this post read more like a rant from a bored person, rather than a professional opinion.

User interfaces have evolved with the years, there are now color codings for windows, various toolbars, menu bars, and what not. It comes down to choice, because the UI is so customizable these days, it can look different from computer to computer.

Sure, Screens are rectangular, but so are pictures drawn by the world's greatest artists. Is that not the case? And let's not forget that research by Micro$0ft that showed most users use their applications in full screen. In such a case, the X button is indeed in the top right corner. The "Start" at the bottom left corner, the computer clock and widgets at the bottom right, and the less frequently used application icon is on the top left. So the corners are used after all, are they not?

And Spatial Navigation Systems have failed repeatedly over the years, no matter how well they were designed or made. VRML has failed miserably as well, on its original promise of a 3D web. Things like "There" are mostly used for games and social interaction. Visions such as the one described in the book SnowCrash by Neal Stephenson, where Hiro Protagonist has a room where he stores all his "cards", which float in a big mess in the air, each representing a collection of media (text/video/audio) - that vision is nowhere near. It looks like the real world is going to be closer to "The Diamond Age" by the same author, where the book is digital, uses advanced nanotech to do nifty stuff, but hey, the book is rectangular as well, what will we do with those damn corners..?! :-)

Skaag

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT: How interesting that the first comment to your post is blogspam. Yeah, that's usable!

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone wrote:
> cd kitchen && find ./ -name *[Kk][Nn][Ii][Ff][Ee]*

How about just:
find kitchen -iname *knife*

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That last example? You're going to love the UNIX shell...

pnmrotate 90 picture | pnmscale 0.5 | uuencode picture | Mail -s "Here's the picture" stevie@wonder.invalid

The UNIX shell is really an amazing user interface built around a language model rather than a visual model. It's got a lot of flak over the years, but I've yet to see something that beats it.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point number one about screen corners takes for granted that they are god's gift to the earth. They do have a certain novelty to them at first, but the human hand, especially when holding a mouse, is not a pin-point accurate device. Furthermore, many applications rely on movement over the entire screen, and as a result it's all too easy to hit a corner and (on Mac OSX for example) suddenly you waste several seconds making Expose go away. Screen corners are one of the first 'features' I disable on those OSes that support them.

Point number three is quite valid; locating small buttons does waste time, and there is probably a better way to do this. I'm a little confused by the rant about the space bar; it's size and position are very logical given the position and range of movement of the thumbs on the human hand.

Point six is valid on OSX, where there is no universal or useful maximization mechanism. Even well-behaving applications will usually fail to cover the whole screen. The end result is a sea of windows with very little organization and zero support for spatial navigation.

One of the things I believe Windows has got dead-right is its very complete support for maximizing. I really have no need to see 20 windows at the same time; I'm working on one thing at a time and the other 19 should wait in line rather than vying for my attention. If I do need to see two things at the same time, I can resize the windows just as easily as on any other operating system. When I prefer to see one thing, or alt-tab back and forth between two things, I have the full support of the OS to do so. And as a result, Windows has very reasonable spatial navigation; the File/Edit/etc menus are always in exactly the same place, as are the minimize/restore/close buttons.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Terry said...

Back in Windows 3.1 days, moving the mouse to one of the screen corners would immediately activate the screen saver and lock the keyboard, if configured, and sending the mouse to another corner would cause the screen saver to never activate.

This was a 3rd party screen saver, and I haven't seen one since that worked that way, although it was hugely useful

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like most of these comments about the corners are kind of silly. The hot-corner idea (see AfterDark) is pretty terrible since, as has been stated, it's very volatile and irritating when one's unaccustomed. However, the paradigm that's become pervasive throughout all of this has proven very powerful: move to the corner... click. It's proven powerful for OS X and for Windows.

There are quite a few things that could be added to those corners that has yet to be truly captured: List of the current application's windows comes to mind, a la the old "Windows" menu in OS 9. Maybe a bit redundant with Expose, but not much.

Also, all of you people crying about the corners being far away have clearly never tried just flinging the mouse to the corner.. it really is quite easy.

ALSO.. those noting how windows already has its corners locked down, if I'm not mistaken, that's just not true. The Start menu is in the bottom-left, legitimately, but the top two corners, even when maximized are taken up by buttons that are a couple of pixels away from the corner. That strips them of the infinitely-large glory that is the corner. Admittedly, especially for the close button, that is a very good thing, because otherwise it would be too easy to select it.. but that once again points out the potential utility:... clicking the corner is almost... too easy.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're trying to force the user to use only a mouse for interaction. Most advanced users I know have graduated to having one hand on the mouse and one on the keyboard, unless typing.

Keyboard shortcuts, as many people mentioned, can work wonders. Those that can be universal, usually are: like CTRL-Z, X, C, V, O, S

To the person who says WinXP uses 3 corners already for the Start menu, Window close and clock -- no it doesn't. Those are offset and not in the actual corner. The idea would be to whip the mouse down and not have to look or get it "just right".

Hot-corners can be a royal PITA, since the mouse frequently ends up there by accident.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

Response Not Recognized. Repeat.

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

Response Not Recognized. Repeat...

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Start the internet wizard. Start the shutdown. I don't see a difference.

Do you get all up in Scotty's face when he commences shutdown on the engines?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Windows does in fact use hot corners, if you apply the proper theme. The current (unlicensed) theme that I'm using is smaller and has the click areas for start/close positioned at the actual corners.

This is very convenient - I can very quickly and without looking close an application or bring up the start menu. Yet since the action requires a click, it doesn't have the accidental-fire problems of hot corners.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, using the corners for stuff works OK until you start using a multiple monitor system. Then, it is totally unworkable.

A lot of Human Factors people tout the MacOS's menu bar as a good example of using an edge. It is a million times harder to use if you put the second monitor above the primary display in the configuration because you loose the edge.

Also, I really hate it when HF people rag on current UI design and offer little or no practical advice to make things better.

Furthermore, the market seems to indicate that having good human factors designs in software seems to have a strong negative correleation to commercial success. Example: Gnome vs. Mac vs. Windows. HF seems to add nothing to the bottom line.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please STOP excusing M$ and look other solutions. Gnome uses a entire "Actions" menu with much more than Shutdown, and i think MacOSX does something similar.

Yes, and those two operating systems were such a smash hit with the end user that Microsoft is now shutting it's doors for good. Oh wait, nevermind.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Few Examples:
Alt-F4 - Close Window
WinKey-M - Show Desktop
WinKey-Pause/Break - System Applet
WinKey-L - Lock Computer
WinKey-E - Windows Explorer
F3 - Search
WinKey-R - Run a Command


Actually, you may want to use WinKey-D to switch to the desktop, as it allows you to press it again to recreate the window layout you had up previously. Very handy stuff.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you should try using a mac, or format your drive and replace windows with Linux. Then, go read some HCI books. Try more than one. You contradict yourself too much. (you want the GUI to grow with you, but then pick on that very aspect of what a context menu enables an experienced user to accomplish). Next time time try having a clue about something before you declare it's in it's "stone age". If it weren't for innovations in HCI, you wouldn't have this blog.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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«.

1 - if tipping 1/4 rotates 90 degreed, th does tipping allthe way to the right leave the image unchanged?

2 - crop by half will not shrink the image by 50%

3 - Beethoven is a deaf musician, not Stevie Wonder.

So this miracle interface of yours, it really lets you do what you want, eh?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An OS w/o preferences is nothing but a nail in the eye.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always been a proficient computer user. I discovered on my own exactly where the 'Shutdown' knife within the 'Start' drawer was, without being utterly confused. The problem isn't the design, it's the psychology. Imagine if everytime someone got a kitchen drawer, they called the manufacturer to ask where their knives are, without first trying to open the drawer. That's what we're dealing with, not bad interfaces, but users who are afraid to explore them.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corners: I've got TWELVE of them on my physical desktop, but only the four that match logical screen corners would be "easy" to access. I could make either of them relatively easy to access, but that would render the other four 'inverted' (i.e. sticking into the screen area) and thus useless.

I'd love to see the writer's concept for a graphical method for specifying a search for all documents (or files) containing any one of six different strings, but NOT containing any of a different five strings that were modified between 1 and 6 weeks ago. Or perhaps for something that is actually complicated!

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, anonymous spammer at the top:
Fuck off and die.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On KDE you just right-click on any image, "actions->", "convert and rotate->", "Rotate 90 deg.". Then again right-click, "actions->", "compress and resize->", "resize to 640x480" (or resize custom...), well, you get the idea.

In ACDsee for Windows, Control-R resizes, and Control-J rotates. The task in question would take about 10 seconds.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

about Fitt's Law and screen corners:

As the law says: "to improve chances of hitting target, make it bigger or bring it closer"

Corners are "infinitely large," but especially on a laptop w/ touchpad (poor hci but saves space...) it's often a long way to go.

Why not try "closer?" I envision a circular area centered on the current pointer position, with wedges labelled for different options. Then, a few pixels in the right direction gets you there. Ever since I read about this years ago, I've been waiting for it...

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for Mac OS X, CornerClick provides mechanical advantage of Fitt's Law. (disclaimer: I'm the author of it. it is free.) (note: Unfortunately OS X 10.4 gobbles the top right corner for spotlight.)

Some of the people ragging on your point #1 obviously don't get the ease with which the corners can be used to trigger applications and other actions. someone said something about "people don't like using the mouse with pinpoint accuracy"... the screen corners are the only places you can click on the screen where you don't need pinpoint accuracy, that's the, er, point.

However, some people, even after trying it, still don't really get what the deal is, but I think it's because they are not power-users, which makes me think that even if OS X had a built-in generic way of using the corners for anything the user wanted to do, most users wouldn't do it and wouldn't know why it was useful, unless it was presented in a very intuitive way (and it definitely could be).

Commercial operating systems have to cater to the customer, which means making them simple enough that a neophyte is able to use them. It would be great if Mac OS X or other systems offered higher levels of customization to appeal to power-users, but I think that's where third-party efforts can be useful. See quicksilver.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want spatial navigation stick to the keyboard. That's what it was made for after all. To be able to navigate, type, open, run, close, print, email, etc.. without even having to look at the screen or your hands. How can you beat that?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Carlos said...

Einstein's first name was Albert, not Alfred... and your grammar is horrific. Besides that, ditto most of the above posts.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Fiid said...

I find screeen corners really annoying to use as a UI feature - since I often slightly overshoot the thing I am going for (Apple Menu or Fast User Switch Menu). I think if this was a non-changable "feature" that I would find it very annoying. I do actually think supporting user's preferences and allowing the user to change them is a good thing.

I think the editor Emacs might be a good example of a system which works very well once you know it, and that is not designed to be easy for the first hour.

BTW - I also don't like one-knob faucets. They may be great for beginners, but they often leak and make it difficult to make an accurate temperature selection.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're an idiot

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Jasper said...

The #1 reason HCI is in the stone age, is the fact that we still use our hands to enter information, and (which is less of a limitation) our eyes to take it in. The rise of a true Brain Computer Interface wil be the major change in this field.

9/06/2005  
Blogger Anthony said...

Let's see ... two of our problems here are "OS GUIs are designed for beginners" and "Our Love of Customization". These two desires are self-contradictory.

You're at once pretending you can give the expert the ability to build a workflow that handles his peculiar set of tasks at the same time you're taking all customization away. That won't work. Unless by "only one way to do things you meant" ... only one way that could then be customized if an expert needed to?

And the second point - about customization - is both presumptive and revealing. The idea that you, the UI designer, can anticipate and/or satisfy all the ways that an expert might need to use the machine is just silly.

But even more so, it's revealing. I've heard this kind of argument before - from people arguing that there should be one true user interface, with one true customization, with one true programming language, with one true set of idioms, and with one true formatting syntax.

To me, it's clear that the people who say these things are people who simply want people to do it their way and who DON'T have any experience actually observing people working in the real world, where you will see a vast variety of people using a vast variety of tools to get a vast variety of things done --- 99% of which won't fit in any box any particular UI designer can think of in advance.

Without customization and preferences, the only way to extend an interface would be to write a new program - creating a divide between the programmers and the non-programmers. If we take the no-customization suggestion seriously, we wouldn't even provide an API to modify the interface ... and then users would never have been able to create programs like QuickLaunch(PC) or the even better QuickSilver(Mac) which kick the asses of the UIs of the underlying OSes and with which I have seen experts create workflows to do in ten seconds what a normal progammer can't do in an hour.

I see the carpenter from your image handcuffed to a well-equipped toolbox containing only a hammer, flathead screwdriver, pliers, and drill ... staring morosely at a kitchen sink he can't fix without a Philips head screwdriver, putty knife and basin wrench.

-the Centaur

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is my problem with your point #8. You can easily say you want to

"rotate an image, shrink it 50%, attach it to an e-mail and send."

however, this is not a well-specified task, and the problem has very little to do with User-Interface design.

1. Do you want to rotate clockwise, or counter-clockwise. By 90 degrees or other? Should the canvas size be fixed or the image content fixed? How would you like to store the results - the same file format and quality? Some smaller, lossy web format? What is the best trade-off between quality and size?

2. Do you want to shrink it to be 50% of the image area or 50% of the width and height? What type of resampling?

3. What email account should it be sent from, who should it be sent to, what subject would you like to use? Should the body text be kept blank?

These and hundreds of other small questions are being explicitly or implicitly answered when you perform the task with e.g. in Windows XP.

So really, you arent bitching about the UI in your computer, you are bitching that your computer doesnt know what you mean - it doenst understand context. This isnt anything to do with UI, this is called AI and its a much harder problem than using the corners of the screen more effectively.

It will take decades or longer before computer AI has advanced to the point where this type of human-computer interaction is possible, so I hope you are feeling patient.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spatialness in all it's glory can never beat the human minds ability to associate. By letting go of the mouse and using the keyboard more one will discover that the fastest way around a filesystem is by staring to type the name of the file/directory one wants.

Sure one migh have to traverse a couple of directories before reaching the file one wants, but it's still faster than having to from the cellar to to attic and rummaging through the box to find the box to find the photo at the bottom.

Sure, you might know where the photo is, but what's the difference of knowing where something is in the physical world and in an abstraction? If you know where it is and know how to go there it's all the same.

What you have been complaingin about is that you don't know how to walk around in the computer. I on the other hand can reach almost any file faster than I can get a fork from the drawer.

As a sidenote: My personal experience of HCI is that there's a lot of talk that sounds nice i theory, but when turned into practice it does not work so good. Not to say that all of it is bad, but on some areas, especially concerning GUI on PCs it's the HCI-field that is still in the Stone Age.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous KC said...

Just for the record. Beethoven was deaf. Stevie Wonder was blind.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stevie Wonder is not deaf.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The blog is mostly without substance as for the purpose of HCI design but interesting for me as a person trained in cognitive psychology as an example of how people think and feel about UIs. I found myself agreeing with a lot of the posters that the blog was not well informed since there have been many attempts at doing what was proposed.

One poster talked about spatial representations not working well ... it is unfortunate this is so since the blog was right in implicating that our spatial memory is much better than most other types of memory. One problem is that the abstract concepts we have in files or programs don't fit well with a spatial / desktop metaphor or most other general metaphors for that matter.

Speech Interfaces were mentioned and that is probably the wave of the future if the technology can be perfected well enough. I expect it will be. I already use speech to text software that works well enough to take dictation at a speed faster than I can type.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous slabman said...

I don't want to be a critic so I'll suggest an alternative.

I find that most of the navigation I do is aimed at bringing information to the top center of the screen where my eyes naturally stay focused most of the time. If I'm acting on that information, I'll also be clicking around that spot.

If I follow the logic of speed and muscle-memory efficiency to its ultimate conclusion, I'd dump screen corners, menu bars, toolbars, etc. and only have contextual menus that appeared where I clicked and were truly smart about what options to show. I'd maximise this by having mouse buttons for each finger with a different action category assigned to each button. Let the computer use its smarts to figure out what I'm likely to want and present me with the right options. Let it also learn and adapt to my behaviour.

Folders and other filing system metaphors (even the phrase 'filing system' is a metaphor) would no longer be necessary since a 'store/retrieve' action would invoke a smart search. Kids now are using file/folder metaphors when they've never even seen a filing cabinet!

By thus designing from the outset as a tool with reference only to usability, not pseudo-familiarity, the computer would be simple, fast, and intuitive to use. With no visual clutter, there'd be none of that 'DVD-player meets lawnmower' interface tomfoolery, but it would still be light-years ahead of the command line. And for those who think the command line is 'pure', remember that it's just an on-screen analogue of a teletype.

A computer is no more a metaphor than a piano.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone believe that speach recognition is the next big thing. Hmmm...
Imagine the typical American company, with 50 ppl in a room divided in cubicles. And all of them talking to the screen. I don't think I want to work there!

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's funny to see some comments made by people who supposedly are intelligent... don't these idiots realize that a breakthrough/innovation doesn't follow the rules at all? If the author of this post showed "some knowledge of current HCI design" then he/she wouldn't be thinking about anything others before him could have thought about - by merely appplying the same "path of thought". Of course innovative ideas have to seems stupid in the beginning. There's nothing like idiots with a "I'm so smart" mask.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Scott Ahten said...

SCREEN CORNERS

The Apple and Spotlight menus except mouse clicks in each corner.

MULTIPLE REPRESENTATION OF THE FILE SYSTEM

In Mac OS X, you can drag a file from the Finder into any open file dialog and the dialog will navigate to that location.

ROTATE, SCALE and EMAIL on Mac OS X

No filenames, file dialogs or searching for files....

01. Right click on image file and choose "Duplicate"
02. Drag image to Photoshop icon in Dock
03. Choose "Image > Image Size"
04. Change pulldown to "Percent" enter 50, click OK
05. Choose "Image > Rotate Canvas > 90 degrees CC
06. Press CMD + S
07. Click and drag document icon in title bar to Mail.app in dock
08. Enter email address
09. Enter Subject
10. Click send

Sans scale by 50%, it goes down to 8 steps (preview doesn't have a scale option).

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in Windows 98 I seem to remember being able to set the corners to control how the screensaver timer worked for certain screensavers (normal, start screensaver immediately, or keep it from starting period.

I wish that option was still there in XP, for all screensavers...

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Jay Levitt said...

Tip a quarter to the right
You aren't holding any quarters. You have:
* A small laptop computer displaying a photograph
* No tea

Crop by half
Crop what? Your hair? Okay. Done.

E-mail it to Stevie Wonder.
You seal your hair in an electronic envelope, and whoosh! Just like that! At the speed of the Internet, it is e-mailed to Stevie Wonder. Stevie, who is blind, can't quite identify the substance, but he finds it suspicious, and calls in the FBI to investigate. They knock on your door. Meanwhile, your preference bunny's been talking to the former Soviet Union, who send a KGB agent that just happens to show up at the same time. A cold, but nonetheless very real, firefight ensues, and your house goes up in flames.

YOU HAVE DIED.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interface design tips from a guy who uses mathematical symbols to emphasise his text instead of the universally-accepted bold or italic font styles?

Honestly.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Shawn Rutledge said...

I agree with all your points. Especially the screen corners thing.

In KDE I managed to get an external taskbar to act a bit nicer than the multi-finder did on MacOS 7-9 - I slam the mouse into the upper-right corner and see a list of all my windows. It's wide enough that long window titles fit fine, too. And there are the application icons in this menu for sometimes quicker visual identification. IMO this ought to be the default config in KDE rather than the retarded buttons-across-the-bottom like Windows 95. It scales better when you have a lot of windows, and doesn't take up any screen real estate when you're not using it.

The drawback with spatial organization is that you only have so much space, so eventually you have to resort to hierarchical organization, or using search to find things. OSX and Longhorn seem to be taking the latter strategy. Of course then your search has to be fast enough. And I would like to see a search field that returns results while you are typing, instead of having to carefully compose the whole query and then hit "go" and have to wait several minutes. If it was done this well, searching for things which are beyond your ability to organize yourself is a good strategy.

But I agree, drawers that stay in one place are cool. You can do this in KDE too, a bit like you could in OS/2 Warp. I wish it was a little easier though.

I used to use WindowMaker, somebody was raving about it but I think its use of corners was not very optimal. You can collapse the dock or switch desktops, big deal. I like things that fly out when you go into the corner, and don't take up space the rest of the time. Because sometimes you just need to have as many parallel windows as possible all at the same time, so you can read a couple different pieces of reference documentation while working on your project of whatever kind (coding, circuit design, or any kind of physical design for that matter). So things that waste space continuously are bad, except for a few essentials like menus and a clock. But this is a property of the mouse. For touchscreens things need to be more static.

As for image processing, ever notice how in movies they always have these quick keyboard-driven interfaces that don't exist in the real world? Anytime an agent is investigating some security camera footage or anything like that, they are zooming and panning and enhancing the image way beyond the information that's actually there, like nobody's business. The enhancement is a bit extreme but I would sure like to see good keyboard interaction in programs like gimp.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How long was it between the invention of the valve and the invention of the single-knob temperature controlled faucet? The current gas/brake/gear-selector-lever arrangement in a modern automobile took how long to develop? Perhaps you're expecting HCI design to happen at the speed of Moore's law - but there's no reason for that to happen.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spatialness? You haven't read this:

http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/freeman/dissertation/etf.pdf

There are SOME issues with spatialness.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"one way and one way only of accomplishing an atomic task."

That's bullshit. It's like saying that, since you can walk, which gives you one way of transporting yourself, you don't need cars, bicicles, airplanes, etc...

Having several ways of doing the same thing is a good thing. Maybe not for the complete newbie (just as you don't want a 1-year old baby driving a car), but definitely for people who need to get things done. Hence the usefulness context menu.

9/06/2005  
Blogger Zwack said...

Screen Corners
I don't want to use Screen Corners... I use the Right edge of my screen as a link to my other screen (I'm running VNC on one machine and X2VNC on another).. Using that side means that the four corners are not available for applications...

Rotating an image
This took me about a minute... I don't normally use GIMP, I had to find an image to start with, and then hunt through the menus... But, one minute to do an arbitrary task that I wouldn't normally use is perfectly acceptable to me.

Z.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Prentiss Riddle said...

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

Sounds like a good old command-line interface to me! All hail the mighty shell.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MS defenders, the corners are not used:

Even fullscreen, 'x' on MS apps is several pixels away from the top right corner - particularly if you have the Officebar open. If I throw my mouse up there, I get nothing.

If your taskbar is more than one line high, Start moves away from the bottom corner. Ditto.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seriously reads like it was written by a ranting 15-year-old.

9/06/2005  
Blogger True Paige said...

Nice stuff...if you get a chance visit

Cloud Nine Web Design

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You leave my screen corners alone! At a push you can have one in the very top left to give me a menu of some kind, but I don't want to chuck my pointer out of the way and have it hit some invisible hot area that starts doing things. ARGH! Fucking HCI people drive me mad!
Have you even stopped to think about the basic inconsistency you introduce if you talk about *screen* corners? My desktop spans multiple heads of multiple resolutions, so where are the corners really? the corners of the monitors are not points where the mouse necessarily stops anymore and some of the corners of the desktop are actually not visible on the monitors. If what you mean is desktop/viewport corners then it might take me several full strokes of the mouse to get there. That's hardly useful and is a problem that will only get worse as displays get bigger, denser and multiplied.

Touch screens. It's all about the touch screens - rotating that image and emailing it, or scrolling around any application without having to focus on a tiny widget, will involve some simple finger flicks if mouse gesture like systems are developed. We can fanny about changing the paradigms everyone has learned already, but if we don't actually get rid of stupid things like mice then we will never truly be able to make interfaces truly usable and are just wasting our users's time and money making them relearn ever more abstract ways of organising their bloody files.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous taptap said...

When I read a book, I turn the pages with my hands.

When I make a shelf, I use my hands to hold the saw and the wood. Sometimes, I use another tool (like a clamp) to hold the wood.

I can listen to music with my eyes closed, but I need to manipulate something to turn up the volume.

Speech-controlled tools are not the norm. Why should computers be any different?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erm -
WTF is an OS GUI?
Since when has an OS had a GUI? An OS lets you interface with your printer, write to your memory and stop IRQ crashes.

When has there *ever* been a GUI for that? M y desktop of preference is currently XFCE4, which is **OS INDEPENDENT**. for all you know, I could be running freebsd, openBSD, Slowaris(sorry, Solaris), Linux...

I've never seen the two tied together before - OS & GUI. Major weirdness! Please adjust my friend. Apart from that, great article!

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part of the complexity of the modern operating system is modularity, we've reached the bandwidth our interface can provide, and while four corners may be great, everything is standardized, so that we can pack as much information into the interface as we can and have it work the same way for everything, the close window button is Always there, Always.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should have a look at Archy by Jef Raskin, a modern multimedia environment which solves absolutely all the concerns stated in this article. (It's a shame that it's in alpha and few FOSS developers seem to care about it).

9/06/2005  
Blogger Christopher Davis said...

The Mac OS X screen saver has a short delay (measured in seconds) between when it dims the screen and when it locks it. If I bump the mouse hard enough to hit the corner, I can quickly move it back without major interruption.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, did you know that one-knob faucets were originally designed for disabled persons?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all those who offer GNOME (and other xNIX desktops) as an alternative to the OS problems mentioned, I say, "bleagh!! are you MAD?!!". It has numerous other usability issues, particularly for novices, that far outweigh any advantage brought by simply utilizing the four-corners more effectively than OSX or XP. Get real! xNIX systems will ALWAYS be the purview of the advanced user, whereas OSX and XP offer a great deal of functionality to the average user, with a relatively low learning curve.

PS: I love open-source.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The guy who wrote this must have been a troll, but for his sake, I will make some suggestions on how to improve this article so it can be accepted by the online community as being useful.

See troll

His emotive arguments without suggesting any real solutions are either written to deliberately annoy people, or he just wrote it without any research.
The lack of research is obvious due to the lack of empirical statistics, and references to other articles to prove his ideas.
A very fundamental part of HCI is to test the ideas, as everything looks good on paper, but proves impractical in operation.

For example, the much loved/hated screen corners idea.
Well how does HE think they should be used? Note he does not specify any real solutions at all. He bitches about them not being used, but provides no solutions, or examples where they could be used.
I challenge him to provide the results of some experiments, and a comparison of the operating systems use the screen corners, utilizing users who are beginners and users with experience using the specific operating systems, based upon observation.
How long does it take a beginner to discover the corner pixel’s functionality?
How long does it take for a beginner to shut down the PC? (Pressed the power button on the case.)
How long does it take for an expert to shut down the PC? (EG with win XP less than 3 seconds. Ctrl + Alt + Del, three taps on the right arrow, return.)

The argument that learning curve is less than a few hours also displays a total lack of comprehension of a beginning user. Picture someone who has never used a mouse before.
An example from real life of a beginner user; my Hungarian house mate is learning to use Win XP for the first time. She is learning to use an OS in her second language. She is learning to use a mouse and keyboard for the first time (lack of co-ordination for around a week).
She did not understand what a file system was (at least a few days to truly understand, and she still overwrites files by accident when saving word documents weeks later).
What is a file, and what is a document, what is a folder?
I’ve experienced teaching students using the DOS operating system for years before the introduction of Win95 and Mac OS. The learning curve was even longer then, when they had limited options, no GUI to prompt potential other actions.
We have plenty of examples from the above posts of people doing things in modern OS’ very quickly.
We are not talking about your smarter than average computer developer who takes to a computer like a duck to water. A beginner user is someone who struggles with the concepts as they are totally alien.

Consider talking a different stance on the name of the article. OS’s are not in the dark ages! This indicates that HCI is a very strong part of OS design and becoming a very important part of system design.
The vast improvements in the learning curve, and productivity that I have experienced by using modern OS’s compared to the legacy OS’s proves this. Although I don’t have any empirical proof on tests that I have carried out specifically to test these facts, I do have teaching experience and years of observation.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gnome isn't an OS it's a window manager,


Nope, guess again.

and a piss poor, ugly, slow, clunky abortion of a window manager at that.


When was the last time you tried to use it?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Logan Kriete said...

Nice article!!! But the first comment is a piece of SPAM.....can't it be deleted?

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Brian Fahrlander said...

First, take your Ritalin; you're thinking faster than you're typing. I can say this, 'cause I've had ADD since a child, and know that it allows me to multitask by a factor of six...and your text looks like mine.

Using corners isn't completely unknown- there's Linux code for a Window manager (screen-flipper, actually) that makes use of this.

The problem is that there are only four corners- and the functions we do requires more than that. Sooner or later something like menu comes into play.

I don't deny that we're in the early days of HCI; but there's a problem. We are where we are, 'cause it's what the SciFi people dreamed up in the 60's. And the SciFi people jumped from where we are to English-interpreting computers in a flash, where actually DOING this is a technical challenge.

But don't stop doing this: the only way we can improve is to complain, dream up newer interfaces, and feeding it to the Linux guys, where it can be done.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Screen Corners

Problem--not discoverable and not obviously undoable. Suddenly your mouse winds up in the corner and the computer *just did something* and you don't know how to undo it. Expose, for example, completely confounds people who have never seen it before.

2. OS GUI's are Designed for Beginners.

So where's your concrete counterproposal? Basically, power users seem to prefer the command line. Pathetic, but it works.

3. Visual Attention - Sine Qua Non

Maybe I'm missing something. Scroll wheels have become the default "panning" method. Most of the other things have key combos to execute. Okay, maybe I'll concede the resizing the window problem, but how often do I change window size vs. scroll (it has to be at least an order of magnitude).

4. Multiple representation of the file system.

Okay, this one is dead on.

5. Our love of choice

Maybe. But people like to play with things; it makes them happy. The most efficient user interface is garbage if people don't like to use it.

6. Our Disrespect for Spatialness.

Exists. They are called pie menus (for an example, look at how you interact in "The Sims"). The bigger question is why haven't they caught on.

7. Terminology

Meh.

8. Speech control

No. Wrong. Bad. Speech is a tremendously noisy, error prone, and inefficient information transfer method. And that's just between two humans. We control almost *nothing* with speech. Buttons, switches, knobs, handles, and levers are what humans are adapted for. The only time we resort to speech is when the other alternative is very poor.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous _argonaut said...

procedural vs. objectual?
not, but i think one thing that could give depth to this whole conversation is thinking procedural or even objectual when it comes to interaction, not just dissecting one action alone to its utter consequences.

as an example, exposé corners activated on Mac OS X:

i'm working on photoshop, and want to add an image that i just downloaded to my desktop, so i throw my mouse to the down-left corner, and i get all windows outta my way, grab the file, and throw my mouse back (with the file clicked) to the downleft corner, and then i got my file over the image i was editing, to be gently dropped and added.

i'm not saying this is a clever way of use of available input methods (or even corners) but my point goes towards the thinking of procedures as a whole in the interaction model, not just steps.

so, just to throw more wood into the fire, what about corners that answer differently to differnet actions? e.g. if i have a document selected, if i have a window selected, et cetera.

it is drag'n'drop to the next level, and something a computer can actually understand and act about.

after all, the mouse is a very one-action kind of method, what about multiplying its abilities without multiplying the buttons, for instance?

9/06/2005  
Blogger SignpostMarv said...

Screw screen corners, they take too long to get to for regular tasks.

My personal setup is having the windows taskbar on the left edge of the screen, set to auto-hide, always on top. This is because I only need to see what's on it when I use it, and it takes up valuable screen space from Firefox (running under win98 with a MacOS theme :-P ).

Left Edge: Windows taskbar
Right Edge: Firefox/Thunderbird scrollbar
Top Edge: Move window/double click to resize window to prefered size.
Bottm Edge: The 4 pieces of HCI hardware I've used to operate a computer- graphics tablet, mouse, touch screen, mouse keys (in order of preference)- all suck at quick access to the bottom edge of the screen (with the possible exception of the last two).

With regards to corners, reserved only for little used tasks:

Top Left: Start menu
Top Right: Minimize window (when not using [Win]+[M]), change to prefered window size (when i'm in the general area of the buttons and don't want to double click), close window (when not using [Win]+[W]).
Bottom Left: System tray application icons- foobar, firefox, thunderbird, progressquest, <del><acronym title="A Toilet">AWC</acronym> <ins><acronym title="Automatic Wallpaper Changer">AWC</acronym></ins>, disconnect from internet (when not using multimedia keyboard).
Bottom Right: Firefox Extension access- Adblock, StatusBar Clock

Having the windows taskbar on the left is the best position to have it in, as the other three are used up by other application tasks (dragging windows, scrolling windows, Firefox status bar extension access).

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not to drive home a dead point, but on my linux desktop, my four corners do quite a bit:

top left: Applications (Start, if you will)
top right: Window Select (Think MacOS 9)
bottom left: Show Desktop
bottom right: Show Calender

i don't know exactly what you had in mind for the four corners to be doing, but to me, those are pretty useful functions. OS X has similar capabilities and XP can be augmented to support them.

i hardly claim to be a UI expert but i've done a lot of work in desktop customization and UI design - essentially making the most usefulness come out of the least amount of user action. i do it for new computer owners and power users alike who want the best way to work on their goals. the amount of functionality you can create by simply moving things around and adding new software is stunning. (the admitted problem with this is that users feel a little lost when using a friend's, colleague's, or public computer, but lost in terms of habits, not ability to perform tasks)


if you don't think that we've come a long way since

user@host /#

and

C:\>

then you should really go boot a box without windows on it and look around. even windows, honestly, does a fair job of letting the user get around with a fair amount of ease, though it's system for organizing prefrences could really use an overhaul. linux and os x go a few steps further, but not much, really.

the key is really in tailoring the machine to fit the experience you want to have. if you find yourself launching apps constantly, then you need a dock or super-extensive quicklaunch toolbar. if you need access to lots of information all the time, you should try a sidebar. if locating files and folders is a big deal, a desktop search solution might be worth investigating.

running xp in it's out of the box state and bitching about it's shortcomings is kind of like baking a cake witout adding icing and complaining that it's too bland. as well as not realizing that maybe the cake you baked sucks and that you should try someone else's.

my personal gripe about the UI isn't a software issue at all. i think screens are too small, and bigger screens are too expensive. you can't have enough things onscreen at the same time (example: dreamweaver, photoshop) without sacrificing viewable area of the thing that you are trying to manipulate with said tools. multiple monitors help (a little) but the simple fact that monitors have frames makes it less of a solution to this (particular) problem than a novelty. i have gotten great results with multiple monitors but not in the ways that i'm talking about. i want an app maximized to the size of my tv (or better - my parents tv! ;) but with the same dpi as my lcd monitor and no big-ass lines of plastic framing going through the middle. kind of like CNN's new setup but um...way smaller.

and kudos to the people sticking up for the command line, btw

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Woody said...

Quote Original "Qu Say »Tip a quarter to the right, crop by half and e-mail to Stevie Wonder«.

I Hope your image manipulation software has been trained to recognise your somewhat ambiguous use of terminology and command words.

The HCI will evolve and adapt to us more and more as the years roll by, but we will always have plenty to learn and customise!

Woody of e-Kit

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, the screen corners are real easy to quickly move your mouse to, UNLESS YOU HAVE MULTIPLE MONITORS. Your observations lack original thought and your writing style is offensive and unprofessonial. Apple-cart in summary.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Trejkaz said...

Moving windows isn't as hard as you think. Title bar? I just hold down alt and click anywhere in the window, then drag. Purely from memory (I don't resize windows much) resizing is done by holding alt and right-clicking and dragging.

So whereas I will grant that e.g. Windows lacks some niceties with things like this, it's simply not the case to say that the same is true for everyone else. On X Windows, for instance, the vast majority of window managers support actions similar to what I just described.

As for the other common actions...

Scrolling: you do have a scrollwheel on your mouse, don't you? They've only been around for over a decade now, but I can see how it might be possible to have come across a mouse without one if you've been tortured by Apple enough. Some keyboards these days even have scrollwheels on them, including the Logitech one I have at home.

Closing: Alt-F4. Actually, the command is different on every OS (or every window manager?) but it's there. Again, I've had keyboards in the past with a "close window" key, although I've never used it because Alt-F4 is definitely stuck in my head now.

Zooming: quite frequently, you will find the mouse scrollwheel working here too.

9/06/2005  
Blogger mar1nka said...

I was pretty interested in this article because one of my biggest frustrations with the computer industry is that the GUIs just don't seem to be evolving

I am especially frustrated that we're still using a mouse to navigate around the screen, and that a true spacial navigation system is yet to be developed.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Alfredo Octavio said...

Of course, once you claim you don't want preferences everything goes bust (hard to satisfy the system that grows on your experience (not for newbies), but stays the same). But configured correctly, with few extras you can utilise at least three of the four corners in Mac OS X. I have my trash (in the Dock) pinned on the bottom left corner, the Apple menu in the top left, Spotlight in the top right. I use the bottom right for Dashboard.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not a good idea to change basic tools to do other tasks.

Hammers should do what hammers do.

The difference between me and Norm Abram is that he *knows* how to use his hammer. It's the same hammer.

He also has access to a small (by UI standards) range of power tools. Not every home handy person needs or wants these power tools.

Don't change the base metaphor - give us better power tools. And I did - Automator in MacOS X, and well, MacOS X in general is a huge leap in UI productivity over Windows. Try it.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last point about rotating an image and sending it, right click the image, choose to send it to an email user, double click the image in the email client (or right click and edit depending on your customisations) do your editing, save it send it.

There's a lot of integration and user friendliness there that you're ingoring/ignorant of. The sub tasks you're talking about are only done if you want to do them (ie, you need a copy in your file system even though it'll be in with the rest of the sent files.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent summary. I could not agree more.
The worst thing on Mac OS is the tiny window resize button that is never at the right place. Sometimes even obscured by other windows.
Most UNIX/X11 desktops let you grab any edge, which is re waaay better and more intuitive.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Corners are "infinitely large," but especially on a laptop w/ touchpad (poor hci but saves space...) it's often a long way to go."

As that was the only comment regarding touch-pads, I'm interested in knowing why Mr. HCI hasn't noticed that a fair number of his issues with navigation are addressed cleverly by touchpad creators who know that we hate not having a mouse. I've got very easy to find, spatially sensible pseudo-scroll-wheels on the right and bottom of my touchpad. I've got an easy to find context menu (or any of seven or eight other things) in the upper-left corner of the pad.

I'd also like to add a hearty agreement to the optionality of screen-corners, given the possiblity of custom layouts. And let it be said that the ability of the user to customize the computer makes for a possible disaster if you disallow customizing the software interface.

As to the photo/email thing:
1) Did you just get done watching Bladerunner or something?
2) The voice commands would require confirmation, otherwise (as others have pointed out) you've just cropped your photo instead of resizing and you've also not indicated in which direction you wanted it cropped by 50% and starting at what point you wanted it cropped. See all the reasons it would be better for you to physically designate where that should occur?
3) How much did you want to be able to do with your photos in the base OS, because if you want to start shoehorning Photoshop or the GIMP into the basic OS, along with a few other built-in functions you'd like, "I suppose", you're going to end up with a lot of stuff that isn't quite optional any more? (Note that systems like Linux offer various levels of installation, I can pick the GIMP, or not, etc.)

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

quote:

"And BTW the best OS that fits the article requests is GNOME. Go see it for yourself."

GNOME is not an operating system you chucklefucker

9/06/2005  
Blogger Meaningful One said...

Human Computer Interaction, for many, seems to have been pegged down to the windows 95 explorer.exe interface. The best project(s) that I've seen to demonstate possible Ideas is the OpenCroquet project:

[definition]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croquet_project
[project]
http://www.opencroquet.org/
Although it's only a dev release- it's very promising. PhD. Alan Kay, the head of the project, has some 40 years experience and has been in the lead of many tech projects, such as Xerox Parc team. To be amazed, check out this site for Alan Kay's Etech 2003 Presentation: http://www.lisarein.com/alankay/tour.html

9/06/2005  
Anonymous garote said...

I'm glad you guys are all ripping on TFA. See, this is why I spent six months writing my update to "In The Beginning Was The Command Line", BEFORE submitting it to Slashdot. (And I still got ripped a new one by many of you for the effort.) It's called making multiple drafts, and refining the piece. Along comes captain Juicability with his blog: He spews a list of half-baked complaints leavened with cutesy pop-geek-culture references in a snide, bitchy voice, and submits it as an "editorial". Bombs away, gentlemen.

Sometimes I think we should be allowed to vote for a particular user comment that will appear at the TOP of an article submission, INSTEAD of the actual article itself - because what we have here is another case of slashdot commenting (and the moderation system) turning out higher quality content than the original article contains.

My own retorts (I'll be using OS X as the example):

1. Screen Corners

TFA claims that screen corners are both under-used and not specific enough. But the alternatives offered suffer the fate of being:

A. Context Sensitive ("get info" would be different depending on what app you're in)
or
B. Inconsistent (Say you launch Mail with a flick to the screen corner. Now, how do you QUIT Mail?)

Screen corners are ALWAYS THERE, so they need to invoke actions that are always useful. That's why we have corner-activated searching, preferences, and file management. What's more, they are part of THE SCREEN, and a user will tend to consider them in that context. That's why we get screen-corner activated window managers, screen savers, screen locking, and task-switching. If I wanted to I could probably assign some bizarre Automator-based sequence to a screen corner ... but frankly, even the corner is too far to travel. I have Expose assigned to a fourth mouse button, and I don't even use screen corners for anything automatic: All the actions that occur there require a click to invoke, which is the way I like it.

Verdict: TFA is complaining about nothing.

2. OS GUI's are Designed for Beginners.
The OS GUI is only about as "designed for beginners" as the automatic transmission in a modern car is. It's easier for a "beginner" to learn how to drive a car with an automatic transmission, because he or she doesn't have to worry about grinding the gears or destroying the car by accident. But the automatic transmission was not invented to make driving easy for beginners. It was invented to make driving easy, PERIOD.

This conceptual difference applies just as well to the computer interface. Customization and automation features have become quite advanced - and we have also culled the worthless customizations from the useful ones. That's why the OS X UI is not "skinnable" out of the box, but you can change the layout in the scrollbars the instant you first log in.

Verdict: TFA is whining for no reason.

3. Visual Attention - Sine Qua Non

Kazoo the Clown put this better, nine months ago. As for the resizing window example, sorry - I don't resize my windows very much at all. Even if there were keyboard shortcuts for it, I probably wouldn't know them. (Note: There are, for general actions like "hide" and "minimize".) OS X has managed to find away to avoid stealing context from the user in almost all cases, excluding messages that are extreme emergencies like the sudden failure of a device, or an imminent battery death. (And even that just appears on top, it still doesn't steal context!)

Also, the spacebar is indeed the largest key on the keyboard - but it is indeed used for many many things. For example, by default, I can hit command-space with the bridge of ONE thumb and bring up "spotlight", and begin typing in the search box without even looking at it. And I'll probably use the spacebar in my query. In Preview, the spacebar pans a document around just like in Photoshop (but irritatingly, box-select has now become the default mouse operation - which I never use.) And the spacebar has page-downed a document ever since the early command-line days, and continues to do so in any read-only document situation - like when viewing a PDF or using any web browser.

Verdict: TFA author is a loser chained to Windows, and has obviously done NO research, and is once again complaining about nothing.

4. Multiple representation of the file system.

6. Our Disrespect for Spatialness.

TFA sounds a bit confused here. Is it saying that multiple representations of a file system are bad, because they're confusing? Or because some of the ones we have are awkward? It's a bit muddled.

As for exploiting muscle memory, the writer hasn't bothered to point out (or maybe just doesn't understand) a crucial aspect of spatial/muscle memory: It's compartmentalized, and often sequential.

For example: If you want a knife to butter your toast, it's obvious that you need to retrieve it from a kitchen drawer. What this example tacitly ignores is that you first need to be IN THE KITCHEN, WHERE THE BUTTER AND THE TOAST ARE. This, my friends, is why we put things in folders, why we have default folders for different apps, and why we all either:

- Save and remember the window positions for those folders (and icons in them), or

- Remember the relative spatial positions of items during sequential clicks in the Windows "Explorer tree", or in the OS X "Column view".

Both are fine examples of spatial memory, which also segue into muscle memory to varying degrees depending on what exactly you're working with and how often. A journey deep into the subfolders of the "pictures" folder - whether in column view in the Finder, OR in the Save box, quickly becomes "click the icon of the picture, flick the mouse to the right a bit, drag the mouse down a bit, click again, drag down just a bit more than last time, click again, drag up a bit, click again." You honestly don't even have to look at the screen, after the first click. And of course you can do the same with the keyboard.

You can also try a bunch of fancier, "more intuitive" alternatives that involve spidery 3D representations of your filesystem, and utilities that display your documents arranged strictly by date, and you can even assign search keywords to things so that you can find collections of stuff just by rattling out a special word: Muscle memory of the keyboard, like the users of the command line enjoy.

If you want to get even more spatial and muscley than that, you'll have to wait for the 3D, fully holographic interface, operated via waving your fingertips. Of course, then, the computer world will become the equivalent of a cluttered study. Sound good? Hrmmm.

Verdict: TFA could have had a decent point, but fumbled it on the first down.

5. Our love of choice

This whole section is just stupid.

Verdict: Stupid.

7. Terminology

From TFA:

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?!

How about THE DOCUMENT, THE WORKFLOW, THE USER ENVIRONMENT, MY FIST, and YOUR FACE?

Verdict: TFA is arguing semantics. TFA is really starting to get on my nerves.

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

Try this on for size. Go to System Preferences and select "Speech". Then turn on Speech Recognition, and select "Listen continuously with keyword". Now, get your document up on the screen, in Preview or iPhoto or whatever. Click the button to rotate the image (there's one in Preview, and one in iPhoto). Now say: "COMPUTER, SEND THIS TO BEETHOVEN"

Your Macintosh will launch Mail, create a new message addressed to Beethoven, and attach the picture to it. Then it will speak, telling you what it's just done.

In conclusion, Mr. Juicability, fuck you. But I actually leave this feature off as well. I prefer to work while listening to music. So instead I would just drag the picture out of iPhoto and directly onto the Mail icon, which would create a new message with the picture in it, and type "bee" in the address field, which would autocomplete to beethoven.

Verdict: PWN3D.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always believed the keyboard to be a faster input/contol device than the mouse. People are just lazy and dont want to know how to use their system/interface to the best of their potiential and that is why people are crying to this day that thier gui/os is too slow and complex.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to Mac OS X being able to use the corners of the screen, the F9, F10, and F11 keys work wonders too.
F9 - jump between applications visually.
F10 - jump between windows in the same application visually.
F11 - move everything out of the way to work on the desktop.

Its only a pity they aren't big special buttons on the desktop or even on the mouse or something, its also a pity the Mac mouse hasn't got a scrollwheel.

F12 is neat to, but more of a flashy utility than an absolutely necessary button.

But I agree with the GUI being limited after a certain amount of knowledge, its not effecient to use it to do anything beyond relatively simple things.

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG.........this is a hillarious article.....i couldn't stop laughing....we are in the stone age is right, and whether all of your points are 100% right or wrong, doesn't matter, i at least got a laugh out of it...

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a) stop using windows so much... :P
b) corners are nice and cuddly provided you USE A MOUSE.
c) mouse? isn't that another stoneage device??
d) if we are to move beyond the "stone age" then it will most likely not be a single screen providing you with information anyway. so what corners?

just my .20

9/06/2005  
Anonymous Uli Kusterer said...

Manual trackback:
http://www.zathras.de/angelweb/blog-hci-in-the-stone-age.htm

And BTW -- to everyone who wrote that OS X used the corners well ... even though I'm a seasoned Mac user, I don't agree. Spotlight? Yes, that works well. But the "Apple" menu is actually one that contains some of the least-used items, and thus is a rather bad choice for a corner.

And while SymphonyOS is a nice idea, it still has pretty few features right now. If OS X had so few different tasks to perform with it, it'd be that easy to use, too. So, while I think it has great potential, I wouldn't laud it so highly yet.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Torsten Liebig said...

Speaking of Spatialness...

I like your comparison of the kitchen drawer, which finally got me to the point where I understand what spatialness is all about. And I immediately recognized why spatialness does not work with computers (at least compared to the kitchen example):

What you do mostly with computers is creating something (word document, email, graphics, whatever) instead of using something (stored file, graphics, whatever). That is, the contents of your folders continuously keep on changing, rendering spatialness useless since spatialness is about predictibility of where exactly to do your next click. Compare computer work to your very kitchen fork example and imagine that every day, you're having new forks and knives, and unfortunately what you need for your work is that very special one fork you used yesterday.

So, store the tools somewhere where they're not likely to change locations (start menu, desktop positions, sidebar, quick start menu), and find some other way to navigate your documents. For me, I navigate my documents by simply typing the first two or three letters of whatever folder or file I'd like to find. Helps alot. Apple has done a great job introducing the instant search. Image you only need to type one word to have the system present you a choice of 10 search results of a folder of 1000 files. Is that fast enough for you to do whatever you need (waiting for Windows to adopt that find dialogue in the titlebar of every explorer folder).

Let the computer do the work.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Tom Davie said...

I used to agree with you about screen corners, but having used them, I actually disagree now. The reason that using the screen corners for various functions is bad is that they are the easiest thing on the screen to hit... i.e. I hit them all the time when I don't mean to! Screen corner actions just get to be a pain in the ass because you're always doing something you don't want to be doing.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keyboards are where it's at. I appreciate the mouse but the keyboard is faster for most things bar graphic design etc..

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you want is a command line interface. All Unix like systems have a good command line already and Windows will soon catch up with a decent command line in Longhorn/Vista. I'll explain why a command line does what you want and give some other comments point for point.

1.
Many GUI environments allow you to use the corner pixels.

To take my screen as an example, there is a panel on top and another panel at the bottom. The things that are leftmost and rightmost on those panels can be activated by clicking the corner pixels...
* "Browse the internet by hitting the screen corner?"
->The firefox icon is in the top left corner.
* "Check mail in the screen corner?"
->The thunderbird icon is in the top right corner.
* "Switching applications in the screen corner?"
->A menu to switch between running applications regardless of which workspace/desktop they are on is in the bottom left corner.
* What about the bottom right corner?
->The main/'start' menu is in that corner.

But the advantage here is that the corners are the only places you can hit without looking at them. After some training you can hit any specific key without looking at the keyboard. So a command line interface has this advantage everywhere, not just in the corners of the keyboard.

2.
The Unix style command line interface is designed to be fast to use after you learn it instead of fast to learn. It's a very powerful tool. The longer learning curve is quickly repaid by the time saved.

3.
Yes, a graphical user interface is graphical, it is made to be looked at, as you said yourself you can't point n' click any place other then a corner without looking.

With a command line interface you can type the command with your hands without paying much attention with your eyes.

5.
To throw one preference at your bunny. Left handed mouse. Do you really want to force all left handed people and all right handed people with mousearm on their right arm to use a right handed mouse??

People are different and have different needs, the interface setup that allows me to get my job done fast would be very akward to you. If one 'size' could fit everyone, then everyone would perfer the same beer brand, and all other beer brands would dissapear cause nobody would buy them.

But yeah it is confusing when I use a friend's computer and he has it configured differently then how I got my computer configured. Thats when I turn to the command line, the usual commands will work on my friend's machine too. Well, unless he uses Windows in which case I have to wait until he upgrades to Longhorn/Vista.

6.
Keyboard shortcuts rely on muscle memory. After you get used to them you don't have to look or reflect over what keyboard shortcut you should use, your fingers just move in the required pattern.

A command line interface also relies on muscle memory, after you are used to a command you don't have to reflect over how the command is spelled or what it's called, your fingers will just move in the required sequence.

8.
To use a command line interface is like chatting to the computer. The only differences are that you type it instead of say it and that the commands leave less room for missunderstandings then the english language does.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Todd Warfel said...

Being a design and usability consultant, and former HCI student, I find this article to be pretty spot on, if a bit satirical.

The fact is that HCI is in the stone age. It's far too theory driven and not enough practicum.

A couple of notes. One reader commented on Fitz's Law - corners are easiest to target. They forgot that the first part of Fitz's Law states that items that are closest to the mouse (choose whatever selector device you want) pointer is easiest to target - targeting is proportional to size and distance from the pointing device.

So, an ideal operating environment would have actions close to you, not necessarily in the corners. Corners are easy to target, but take considerably more effort to hit on my 23" screen than the pallette directly next to my mouse pointer. Corners are helpful, but not the only answer.

Other than that, I love the article and hope it spurs some HCI folks to get off their buts and do something about it.

That being said, I'm also very greatful for how far we've come to date, which we wouldn't have done without HCI, Redmond, and Cupertino, among others.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Customizeability is extremely important. However it is just as important to have good defaults, so the average user doesn't need to change it.

Not only user customization, but the computer should recognize that the user does certain things all the time and should learn to figure that out; for instance every time I click on a text box I immeadiatly move my mouse to the center left just outside the box. This way I know where the mouse is, and it never gets in the way of what I am typing. It would be nice if the computer learned that whenever I click on a textbox and start typing, it would move the mouse to the side of the text box.

The user interface on my computer is highly adapted to my needs (I am using LiteStep as a shell instead of explorer, and I have created my own theme that works in almost exactly the same way as I think). Anyone who sits down to use my computer instantly recognizes that it is different to use than the computers they have used before. However, instead of getting lost in a new interface, within seconds the person can use my computer almost as proficiantly as I do.

This isn't because there is only one way to do things. Rather it is because there are multiple ways to do things; You can sit at my computer and do anything you wish without a keyboard or without a mouse(yes I can even write html without using a keyboard). From my experience the best way to do things is about 95% keyboard and 5% mouse (I am a coder though). My roomate and my girlfriend enjoy using my computer exactly the oppisite, almost exclusively with a mouse. A blind friend of mine likes to come in and listen to music uses the keyboard only with the knowledge of the winamp keys to navigate around that he can do by pressing ctrl+alt+key at any time (x to play, z to go to previous, c to pause, v to stop, b to go next, j to jump to a song that you type in, etc.). The point is, that while we all use a single method to do things, we all use a different method, primarily based on how we work with things in the world.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Mac OSX Tiger, the top left screen corner can be clicked, where it will then reveal the system preferences (or apple) menu. I agree that it is stupid that none of these popular OSes make use of advanced UI knowledge. Perhaps Linux can step in and show the world the right way to do it?

9/07/2005  
Blogger Osser said...

Spatial data organization is not a new idea. See, for example, SDMS, the Spatial Data Management System developed by the Architecture Machine Group, a precursor of the Media Lab, at MIT. That work was done around 1980, perhaps earlier. Roughly, it involved a large space which the user could navigate through, and see increasing detail (piles of documents, documents, text) as he "approached".

Also, there are utilities for Windows (XSetUp is one, I believe) which allow using the screen corners to indicate actions.

I think a major problem with modern interfaces is that they're oriented around letting the user invoke what primitives the system is capable of, rather than what the user might naturally want the system to do.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous jazzle said...

some funnies, some good points, some apparently unresearched ideas, and a whole load of comments.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Tanner said...

I love this concept, that our primitive user interfaces are just that, primitive... I also feel that when 'Hollywood' portrays computers in movies they are missing something... Of all the high tech, futuristic interfaces I have seen, the only one that impressed me was the pyramid, desktop on the 'The Island' remake that was just in theaters. Maybe because they glanced over it and didn't jump up and down and scream this is "COOL" ... food for thought. Please continue the good writing.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allow me to introduce you to my long time friend KDE. He allows you to move, resize, and reorder windows without having to find a "resize widget" or even grab the border of the window.

The use of screen corners might seem like decent idea in a single screen environment, but it's going to pretty much collapse the instant you move into multiple monitors.

And anyone thinking spatial file system representation is good idea obviously only uses a single computer and doesn't have very many files.

Voice recognition is also ridiculous until the computer can understand what you are saying and not just look for phrases that it already knows. You're a lot better off adding simple commands (like rotate, scale, email) to a context menu for files (for instance, like the KDE action menu) than you are hoping for voice activation. And to be honest, who even wants to talk to their computer? It's not a fucking person, I don't feel like talking to it.

Propers for being possibly the first person to ever get linked on /. by saying that OS GUIs were designed for beginners and that this is a bad thing. So I guess 1 out of 8 ain't bad. Congrats!

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

regarding the spatial nature of the desktop, there's actually been a bunch of research on using 'locality of reference' in a gui -- allowing users to act on windows and piece of information as if they were papers on their desk. users can group like things together, and draw on their spatial memory to remember where they put them.

i haven't seen much recently, but card, robertson & york had some ideas at parc back in 1996. (WebBook and Web Forager) And robertson is now at ms research and (i think) still doing research on using spatial memory in ui design. (most obviously Data Mountain from 1998.)

personally, i'm not big on these implementations, finding them kind of cheesy and over done. but like everything in research, more simplified versions can come out of them that can be quite nice.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't really matter if you use Linux, Windows, or MacOS you still are pointing and gesturing like a 3 year old. Still the same crap so you Open Source geex shut the hell up... Gnome sucks in exactly the same ways WINXP does. Still have to use a mouse and still have to manage the same file icons. No Net advantage.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't read a lot. I likes the post about all the idiots. Sadly it seems to be true.

P.S. Blogger, I just noticed that in order to post in *your* fucking blog I have to a "word" of random characters for verification. Do you not find that stone-aged? I find it annoying.

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, I have a round LCD panel...so no use of 4 corners for me.

Gosh friend, Infinite corners for you!!! That's the *final* solution... ;-)

Claudio

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About the terminology point: "User-oriented" as opposed to "engineer-oriented" or "geek-oriented"? After all this time normal people still do very little with all those gigaherz, gigabytes, eye-candy filled OSs, because they simply don't understand all this geek-oriented technology...

9/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh, I know! Computers must *read our thoughts*. Anything less must be a product of babbling monkeys.

9/08/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you don't have to move your mouse to get a window to be moved, resized, etc if you use a proper window manager (NO, Windows is NOT an userfriendly environment!).
You can do so by pressing ALT+left click, +right click and so on. On a good WM, you can also define it as you like...

Everytime I have to use Windows I go into brain-sleep mode, as every task to accomplish takes THAT long time... only moving a window makes me sick!

9/08/2005  
Anonymous deathshadow said...

Let's analyze these one at ta time.

1> Screen corner controls tend to piss me off, because much like 'sticky-keys' they always trip when I DON'T WANT THEM. First damned thing I turn off in any OS that supports it.

2> This one has lots of words but doesn't actually SAY anything.

3> 4> 5> wow, was anyone able to make any sense at all of what is said in these? Gibberish ranting about so much nothing.

6> Well, I hate spatial navigation too (I'm a tree type of guy... It's laid out like a tree, show me a damned TREE!)

7> Piss poor mix of George Carlin and Bill Engvall... again meaningless

8> Poor baby... Not sure what he's arguing for but certainly seems worked up over nothing.

But again, no two people ever see eye to eye on anything...

9/08/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hah. You think they can do better in Russia? MenuetOS. Not bashing the operating system, but as of late, the community has been infested with Russian teenage `l33t h4x0rz' who must obviously be colour blind and have never heard of a continuous UI design.

9/08/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

schmuck, you have no idea what you are talking about.
what os do you use?
while i believe these "reasons" are all answered in most OSs, i know personally that Mac OS X has your answers.

1.
Active Screen Corners.
(Expose, Dashboard, Screen Saver)
The Apple menu and Spotlight, while they have real-estate they function from a click in the corner as well

and hey why stop at corners when we can use sides? they're even easier to navigate to seeing as only one direction is required...
oh wait... all current operating systems already do

2.
Have you ever worked as techincal support?
if so, you would understand why the gui is designed to be as simple as possible.
Open Source and scriptable gui's make it possible for anyone with a bit of practice to change the interface and interaction as they see fit.

oh wait... what was that? yes we have a reson for supporting Open Source

3.
Keyboard Equivalents.

have a problem with the ergonomics of the space bar? ever consider re-mapping it?

4.
hehe you make me giggle
Buttons... we had them in the classic systems...

so you think there's a better way to organizing entities than the Tree? Well you may want to let someone know, since that would revolutionize Mathematics, and THE WORLD.

5.
i'm not wasting my time on this

6.
".DS_Store", look it up

If you cared so much about the UI, maybe you would learn how to customize it as you see fit.

oh i'm sorry, that's right, you don't want choices.

7
what would you suppose we call it?
it's an interface. no one ever mandated that you call it a human centered interface. People added that so it would sound more appealing and easy to use.
this is MARKETING not conceptual interface deisgn.
I fail to see how this has anything to do with maturity of the interface.

8.
you never have used a mac before have you?

well regardless, your "new found" problem with interface was addressed a little while ago...
what you want is generally called...
SCRIPTING
to tuff little baby?
stop crying and try learning
also, check out Automator, if you can't use that then you shouldn't be allowed near a computer.



actually, i think most of us would prefer if you stopped using a computer anyway, or at least stopped commenting on the interface since you obviously have no idea what you are talking about

9/08/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Four corners of the screen are really being utilised. The question of being utilised rightfully or wrongfully is upto the users, but ever since Mac OS 0.0 and Windows 3.1, the four corners were being used as: maximised window's close button, time, window menu, and start menu. I think the fact that you've mentioned it is that you find it largely obscure - and so do I, except for the close button. (Nothing is is better than closing a porn windon without looking at the screen. But damn those confirmation dialogs!).

Another thing is that, your spatial navigation explanation, it did explain what a spatial navigation was but I thought it lacked some what technical evidences that support your criticism. Yeah, nobody really gets around "organising" so cleanly, alas very poor spatial navigation. Is this really a problem with operating systems? I mean, Kitchen, no matter what we think, has a drawer that contains cutleries in one place and one place only. So as long as we place it there since the beginning we know where cutleries are. I know where all my files are - the only problem may be the arbitrary files created by arbitrary programs. Otherwise, I appreciate the comments on modern User Interface, why? Because ever since Windows 3.1 there hasn't been a single improvement on the UI!!! Mac OS X however, seems to be trying very hard.

9/08/2005  
Blogger Grant Hutchins said...

Metadata is becoming a lot more important when working with data like images where a computer cannot reasonably organize files for you. By forcing you to name the file you are sending, the OS provides a handle for you to return to the picture later (through Google Desktop, Spotlight, whatever search) and also provides the receiver the same metadata so that the two of you can easily refer back to it.

I'm not trying to say that a spoken interface wouldn't be great, it's just that it ought to take a little more commands to do a higher quality job. Now if this metadata is already present, it could just leave it as is and get out of your way.

9/08/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I have read this article, the poster is not a programmer, nor do they know anything about software creation.

I agree with the majority that the user is more then likely 'stuck' using Windows as an OS and needs to realize that it is not the only OS available.

It does upset me that people can write blogs with what they feel is the an educated opinion, when it is closer to a close minded hoot going on about nothing at all.

It was an interesting blog to read, I will give you that, but I fear terribly inaccurate, Even if it is a collection of opinions

9/09/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, i'm sorry but don't complain about it when you could do what the entire gnu community does and just program something yourself.

9/09/2005  
Anonymous Elena said...

Drives me crazy when people give inaccurate Mac OS X info. Sure, you can click on or near the Apple and Spotlight menus, but they are NOT true screen corners. That said, the real corners can be easily set for Exposé (Show All Windows, Show App Windows, Show Desktop), Show Dashboard, Start Screen Saver, or Disable Screen Saver. Also, if you choose one accidentally, you just take a split second to leave it and go back to it again to toggle it back. And if you have a non-savvy kid who will use your Mac, make another user (and perhaps use Fast User Switching).

9/09/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ninth is: it takes years and generations for a tool to evolve. At start it's technology driven (first cars tend to explode), then functionality driven (who has the fastest car?) and only then Design driven. In the field of software, we don’t' get to stage two before the technology change and we're back at square one.

The tenth: it's much easier to complain then to actually design the damn thing.

9/09/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not that anyone will read this, but the author needs an editor,english teacher, a proof reader and finally to understand the concept of a complete sentence.

i.e. "atomic" automatic maybe?

"...the thing I lack the most in modern operating system GUI's." You can only lack it if you are a GUI. You can miss or wish for it, but you can't lack it.

9/11/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What anonymous said.

9/14/2005  
Anonymous Aegir said...

Good article. One thing, the English language has some rules that are worth following.

Singular: A disabled person.

Plural: Disabled people.

'Disabled persons' is incorrect. One knob taps rule and I'm not even disabled!

9/14/2005  
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9/16/2005  
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9/30/2005  
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10/01/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leave my corners alone.
My pointer accelerates across all three tri-headed 21" monitors within 1/3 mousepad of movement. The ends of the display stop the pointer. Besides providing a fixed reference point for finding and continuing pointer movement, it becomes, unconciously, the way you set or calibrate your mouse position to pointer position. You will find yourself working all day without ever lifting the mouse off the pad (and my pad has already been cut in half vertically).

And by putting all your icons, menus, etc., in the upper lefthand corner, and on the root menu, you can load your display with projects and windows that hang over the bottom, over the right, and over each other. Focus following mouse, without "lower window focus splats it on top of your current work," allows you to copy-paste freely between windows, and allows you to interact with and monitor programs running in the lower half-covered windows. And a manual window placement preference assumes you have lots of work in progress, and assumes that you will always need to place and resize new windows.

The projects mentioned here are net-admin, programming, and surfing, but this should be applicable to anybody that wants to multitask on a multitasking OS.

If your are comfortable with a one-button keyboard or mouse (ignore the troll), or if you only bring up a new window occasionally with at most one window already on the display--and that that one project is writing a blog entry on HCI--then please don't sit on any committees trying to specify which immutable preferences should become standard. (Or at least qualify the desktop as one for single task users.)

Besides, if I have a thousand drawers and thousands of utensils, I'll always remember that fork starts with an "f" and I'll always find it on an alphabetized menu. Furthermore, by using a commandline completion shell, I might only have to type "fork" to use it--and "fork" and hit tab to use anything else that starts with "fork".

10/21/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leave my corners alone - cont.

Oh, and thanks for posting the article and for stimulating the diversity of responses, and for urking me into thinking and blurting an opinion on a topic that, by definition (of blog reading as an HCI process), everybody here as a vested interest in.

10/21/2005  
Blogger Technology Benefits Life said...

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11/24/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interfaces are like assholes. Everyone has one and they all stink... much like opinions or even *gasp* blogs.

I dig the first comment spam reply. Classy.

1/03/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interfaces are like assholes. Everyone has one and they all stink... much like opinions or even *gasp* blogs.

I dig the first comment spam reply. Classy.

OK enough of the put downs. What I'm really trying to say is this:

Stop bashing the current state of user interfaces. You and half the other so called interface design experts in the universe claim to have this in depth knowledge on what is better.

Stop talking about what is bad about them, in fact just stop fucking talking in general please... all of you. Code. Write a better interface. We all know corners are good and that an application or document oriented interface is better. Do it. Do it or contribute to someone doing or shut the hell up. None of this is news. It's played out whining.

1/03/2006  
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1/20/2006  
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6/04/2006  
Anonymous tin225 said...

You have a very informative blog! Thanks for those tips. It would defintely big a great help to us knowing what HCI really is.

8/22/2006  
Anonymous TheBobs said...

I can see that a lot of people don't read all the comments before posting... I can also see why you remain anonymous. I would too. ;-) Sure you're not a troll at a keyboard?

8/22/2006  
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10/06/2006  

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