Simplify computing

A brainstorm on interface detail heuristics.

Break paradigms

  • Right-click is stupid, obscures needed functions with less relevant stuff. Entries like cut, copy & paste could be solved with a small tooltip on marking text, similar to what iOS does.
  • Menu bars: Most often just duplicate functions which are readily available elsewhere in the interface. Offering more ways to do one thing does not make it easier to use the software.
  • Double-click: The most common action for files or folders is to open them and not to select. Also, double clicking takes longer, is difficult for muscle impaired people and leads to people double-clicking in web sites as well.
  • Scroll direction: Natural scrolling. Scroll direction is just purely learned. Get a person who never used a computer before, how do they move the page? (Answer: They try to touch the screen.)
  • Monospace typefaces: Just why can’t console output be displayed in an aesthetic typeface?
  • Settings: Not only advanced users go to the settings. If people actually need to change something, the option they need gets obscured by other options. If there are too many settings in your software, rethink your target group.
  • In general, software can’t and should not aim to cater to everyone. If you develop software there are most certainly always people who do similar things which also mostly cater to more technical people.

Words

Complex words should be replaced by easy, less technical alternatives

  • URL / URI → (web) address
  • cut http://, www. and trailing slashes, every unnecessary part of the address
  • IRC channel → chat room (link to webchat.freenode.net/?channels=channelname)
  • bug → issue
  • avatar → (profile) image
  • (re)boot → (re)start
  • trash → deleted (files) (autosave should be standard)
  • successfully saved → remove »successfully«
  • music file, image file → remove »file«
  • MIME type → file type
  • Cc → just remove that function altogether, why not just add as additional recipient?
  • Bcc → send hidden? Blind copy isn’t really the solution.

Icons

  • Save: Don’t use a floppy disk, many (young) people don’t know what that even is. Apart from that, autosave should be standard, and then a star or similar could make sense.
  • Settings: I don’t have a good solution yet but gearwheel or wrench is just not a good metaphor.
  • Security

One response to “Simplify computing

  1. I agree with much of what you have said here. Interfaces should no longer be designed to outsmart those who use them. I have worked helpdesk and a great deal of the calls that came in were not actually problems with the software/hardware, but instead the end user simply not understanding an interface or unable to find where to change a setting, etc.

    Well written.

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