Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Don't panic

at first i thought i might title this "the evolution of ui" but im not a UI expert, im mostly a UI user , and sometimes a UI designer.
What i would like to say tho, is that i like the direction new UI is heading. back in the DOS days, you where happy if someone was kind enough to give you a text based screen with some text boxes you can tab through. then this new "windows" fad came up. and alot of people where quite skeptical of this concept. it's sad to say that even in these modern times , when even the most dedicated linux* , who compiles his own kernel and in the mean time (it could take days , seriously ) argues which editor is better, VI or EMACs (if they had just asked me i could have ended the discussion and tell them the simple truth - they both suck :) ) have probably seen, if not used , a mouse controlled GUI based operating system , there are still people out there who refuse to join the civilized world of modern UI.

See, when people got their hands on GUI's and some GUI dev tools, they started going crazy. its like the first days of the internet, some companies built html authoring tools and suddenly everyone had a "homepage" , and they where ugly. i would have supplied links to some , but i oppose that sort of thing and i refuse to increase it's google score. for interesting result, try searching for "virtual reality glove" (yeh, i know...whatever happened to the whole VR thing?) and click on the first link..check out the wonderful 'scrolling' back button at the bottom of the page, and follow twice for a particularly vivid reminder of how most of the web used to look.
anyhow, people did some terrible things on the old GUI's, they started putting textboxes and images and other ugly things all over the place, and it only got worse as time passed. UI's became more cluttered , more buttons more menus with more options. have you ever tried enabling all the possible toolbars in word 2003? not to mention try and reach every possible setting available on the menus, submenus, and subsubmenus (maybe there are subsubsubmenus also, i never had the patience to find out). its not the worst of it. word is a "user" application, application for programmers or other professionals are much much worse , try your average CAD software for a taste of how horribly complicated UI can be. but this new trend of minimalist UI is wonderful.
people finally realized that cluttering their users with useless options in hundreds of unreachable submenus is not such a good idea. that maybe there are more useful features and , god forbid, LESS useful features, or even features that are completely USELESS.
it's kind of like a revolution, the people have been abused for years with annoying cluttered overcomplicated UI and they finally rose up and said : no more! we will not have your irrationally placed options! we will not use your incomprehensibly selected icon toolbars! and we will never again surrender to your annoyingly popping windows asking us silly "Yes-No-Cancel-Abort" questions!
well, it would have been nice if it actually came from the users, but i suppose in a way it did. programmers, designers and on the rare occasion even software dev execs are all horrible UI users...i'd like to think they actually got fed up with all this cluttered nonsense.
its like adams wrote about in hitchiker's guide : if you just have the words "dont panic" in big friendly letters on the cover, you will sell a lot more books :)
i dont know if adams ever considered this analogy but having a nice , clean , simple UI with big friendly buttons and large friendly fonts is a lot like having "Don't Panic" printed in big friendly letters on the cover.

* - while usually refers to an operating system, i find that its more of a way of life, almost a religion, for most people who use it (the OS) , so in the same way one may be a Buddhist one may also be a linux (plural linuxs or maybe linuxi ? any linguists out there care to comment on this one?)


Dan said...

I'd say "Linuces", like the Latin third declension. But I'm no expert on Latin.

Anonymous said...

Get a mac...

Then, if you get fed up with the mad-ass GUI Apple gives you you can run emacs or use some wierd shell. Or if you can't help yourself, run Word 2003 in Parallels and enable all the toolbars.

If you want a really good GUI, check ou the iPhone or the iPod.

'nuff said!

Yossi Naar said...

1.i'll take the linguist's word on this one. personally i liked linuxi (like cacti)'s called subjectively for a reason. ;)

2. sure (mit?) i would have taken OSX, if they only let me install it on my pc... btw: i can also do the opposite - run emulated osx on windows :)