January 23, 2012
"Nick Sabalausky" <a@a.a> wrote in message news:jfira8$2ti9$1@digitalmars.com...
>
> But you know, the really bizarre thing is, *all* MS has to do to win over all the XP people (or at least the majority of them) is two simple things:
>
> 1. *Allow* people to use the XP UI (and no, I don't mean Luna). It's that simple: Just *quit* making UI changes mandatory (a lesson Mozilla could stand to learn, too, especially since they allegedly care so much about configurability).
>

Hah! I just found the *perfect* article about this and other similar matters:

The highlights:

"I have a kneejerk reaction to most modern computer user interfaces (also,
all microwave user interfaces). I've used plenty of excuses over the years:
my "eye for design," my love of minimalism, a sense of utility. Today, I
finally put my finger on it, and it's not just a desire for
the-computer-as-pure-machine, or a spartan aesthetic. It's quite simple,
really: I don't like the condescending tone."
...
"My problem with many modern UIs is that they never get past the telling
phase. They're always dressing up their various functions with glows and
bevels and curves, and in the process they somehow become overbearing to my
senses. "Did you know you can click this? Don't forget there's a save button
over here! Let me walk you to your control panel." Imagine a car that
verbally explains all of its various knobs and levers the first time you get
into the car. Wonderful, right? Now imagine that car explaining all of these
various functions every single time you get in the car for the next five
years, until you finally snap and drive it off a cliff."
...
"An example of this is the dramatic, quasi-utilitarian animated transition.
The first few times, it's conveying important information: click that
button? That launches this action! Swoosh. The next 10,000 times, it's
mainly just slowing me down."
...
"Perhaps without the limitations of a finite number of colors and pixels to
force simplicity, UI designers just don't know what to do with themselves.
I'd argue they do too much."
...
"...the appeal of "retro" indie games, which deal in our native, shared
gaming language and metaphors, not something borrowed from action movies or
an overblown sense of virtual reality."

The full thing:

http://www.theverge.com/2011/12/9/2616204/the-condescending-ui

That's why I hated Metroid Fusion and loved Metroid Zero Mission: Are you going to treat me like an adult or like a toddler with "special needs"?

It's also why I hated the iPad's photo viewer *after* trying it: The swipe is nice for complete novices like my mom (which is why she loved it), but for me it's nothing more than carpal tunnel waiting to happen: Ever try to quickly browse through a normal-sized photo album on that damn thing? I have. It just doesn't work out. If it had added swiping *in addition* to real buttons, *that* would have been "brilliant design". But as it is, it's nothing more than impractical, patronizing, self-absorbed design.

One thing I do disagree with that author on: I see the Office "ribbon" as nothing more than a toolbar that supports more types of controls than just buttons and has better organization and layout. (It shouldn't be a *replacement* for a full menu, though). But I'm probably in the minority on that.

There was a really good comment, too:

"...These aren't communal products...If the company's response is that "we only cater to non-techies now", then they've just lost a customer. What their response should be is "we thought you would like this but since you don't, here's your old UI.""


January 23, 2012
On 1/22/2012 10:30 PM, Nick Sabalausky wrote:
> Hah! I just found the *perfect* article about this and other similar
> matters:

Hilarious!

It reminds me of back in 1984 or 85 or so, a Mac evangelist came by the company I worked for then (Data I/O) to evangelize the Mac. None of us in the group had ever used or seen a Mac before, so we were GUI virgins.

One of the first things he did was hand out a sheet of paper with a bunch of icons on it. He proudly asked us what each of those icons signified. We got about 10% of them right. He was crestfallen. One I remember looked like a box of kleenex. We all had rather creative explanations for what that kleenex box did.

Turns out that was the icon for "Print".

So we naively asked him, wazza matter with the word "Print" to mean "Print"? And, you know, if we don't know what the word "Print" means, we can look it up in a dictionary (or these days, google it). How do you google a box of kleenex?

A phonetic language is a fantastic invention. Icons are a step backwards to ideographic written languages, which require memorization of vast amounts of trivia (made even worse by companies that copyright their icons, preventing standardization).

But what, he says, about foreigners who may not know English? Well, again, you can look up "Print" in a dictionary. How do you look up kleenex box?

He finally mumbled something about us just not "getting it" and left.

To this day, the only thing that makes icons usable is hovering the mouse over it so you see the tooltip in, ahem, ENGLISH, saying "Print". Heck, as I write this in Thunderbird email, the icons on the top row all have English words next to them - Send, Spell, Attach, Security, Save. And the print icons still look like a box of kleenex to me.
January 23, 2012
"Walter Bright" <newshound2@digitalmars.com> wrote in message news:jfj38h$8n8$1@digitalmars.com...
> On 1/22/2012 10:30 PM, Nick Sabalausky wrote:
>> Hah! I just found the *perfect* article about this and other similar matters:
>
> Hilarious!
>
> It reminds me of back in 1984 or 85 or so, a Mac evangelist came by the company I worked for then (Data I/O) to evangelize the Mac. None of us in the group had ever used or seen a Mac before, so we were GUI virgins.
>
> One of the first things he did was hand out a sheet of paper with a bunch of icons on it. He proudly asked us what each of those icons signified. We got about 10% of them right. He was crestfallen. One I remember looked like a box of kleenex. We all had rather creative explanations for what that kleenex box did.
>
> Turns out that was the icon for "Print".
>
> So we naively asked him, wazza matter with the word "Print" to mean "Print"? And, you know, if we don't know what the word "Print" means, we can look it up in a dictionary (or these days, google it). How do you google a box of kleenex?
>
> A phonetic language is a fantastic invention. Icons are a step backwards to ideographic written languages, which require memorization of vast amounts of trivia (made even worse by companies that copyright their icons, preventing standardization).
>
> But what, he says, about foreigners who may not know English? Well, again, you can look up "Print" in a dictionary. How do you look up kleenex box?
>
> He finally mumbled something about us just not "getting it" and left.
>
> To this day, the only thing that makes icons usable is hovering the mouse over it so you see the tooltip in, ahem, ENGLISH, saying "Print". Heck, as I write this in Thunderbird email, the icons on the top row all have English words next to them - Send, Spell, Attach, Security, Save. And the print icons still look like a box of kleenex to me.

Heh, I like that story a lot.

Although I disagree with phonetic being *necessarily* better than ideographic. I do agree with the benefits of phonetic you describe - essentially "easier to learn". But the benefit of ideographic is that they can be quicker and easier to use *after* you've learned them.

This is something I've picked up on from learning Japanese (or at least trying to, I never gained fluency...or even came remotely close). Japanese is a very interesting language in this context because it's one of the few languages (actually the only one to my knowledge) that uses both phonetic and ideographic characters.

Children and non-native speakers are taught the phonetic alphabets first (hiragana and katakana), because they're easier to learn and can handle any word with a small number of simple symbols. Then learners move on to the ideographic ones (the Chinese kanji). I only ever learned a few kanji, but you notice pretty quickly that once you've learned a kanji you can read it much more quickly than the phonetic equivalent. (It also helps your brain divide a sentence into words, since Japanese doesn't use spaces, but that's not really relevent here).

I think a big part of the reason kanji is easier to read (once you've learned it) is that your eyes don't have to move nearly as much, and there's much more visual distinction between words (since there's so many more basic patterns). The fact that they originate from images is irrelevant since they don't really retain much of the resemblance they once did (a few of them do, like "mountain" or "gate", but only if you already know how to "see" it - like being told the "box of kleenex" is a printer). It really is exactly the same as reading "42" instead of "fourty-two". Or the standard VCR-control icons instead of "fast-forward", "next chapter", etc. Totally obscure if you don't already know them, but much quicker and easier to read then the english words if you do.

As far as ability to look things up: Other ideographic languages may be different than this (and this certainly doesn't apply to computer icons either), but most of the Japanese kanji (ie, Chinese characters) are constructed from a smaller number of common building blocks, the "radicals" (around 100ish-or-so, IIRC?). As such, there actually is such thing as kanji dictionaries where you can look up an unknown symbol. (I almost bought one once...)

Getting back to software, I like the words when I'm learning a program (whether they're tooltips or labels) since the icons are initially meaningless. But once I learn what the icon means, I often prefer to not have the words because, compared to the icons, they're just indistinct visual clutter (and they take up that much more screen real estate). The color in icons also adds yet another dimension for your eyes to lock onto which text labels just don't offer, at least not as naturally.

Another thing to note: While the connection between an icon and it's meaning may not (ever) be close enough to initially teach you what it does, the metaphor (even for non-physical things) is usually close enough, or logical enough in its own way, to help you *remember* what it does after you've initially learned it.


January 23, 2012
On 1/23/2012 2:22 AM, Nick Sabalausky wrote:
> Although I disagree with phonetic being *necessarily* better than
> ideographic. I do agree with the benefits of phonetic you describe -
> essentially "easier to learn". But the benefit of ideographic is that they
> can be quicker and easier to use *after* you've learned them.

I find that very difficult to believe. But I don't know Kanji.


> Children and non-native speakers are taught the phonetic alphabets first
> (hiragana and katakana), because they're easier to learn and can handle any
> word with a small number of simple symbols. Then learners move on to the
> ideographic ones (the Chinese kanji). I only ever learned a few kanji, but
> you notice pretty quickly that once you've learned a kanji you can read it
> much more quickly than the phonetic equivalent. (It also helps your brain
> divide a sentence into words, since Japanese doesn't use spaces, but that's
> not really relevent here).

I've seen the same books written in both Kanji and English. The English ones were smaller, significantly so. I suspect the problem was the Kanji font had to be considerably larger in order to be legible, which negated any compression advantage it might have.


> I think a big part of the reason kanji is easier to read (once you've
> learned it) is that your eyes don't have to move nearly as much, and there's
> much more visual distinction between words (since there's so many more basic
> patterns). The fact that they originate from images is irrelevant since they
> don't really retain much of the resemblance they once did (a few of them do,
> like "mountain" or "gate", but only if you already know how to "see" it -
> like being told the "box of kleenex" is a printer). It really is exactly the
> same as reading "42" instead of "fourty-two". Or the standard VCR-control
> icons instead of "fast-forward", "next chapter", etc. Totally obscure if you
> don't already know them, but much quicker and easier to read then the
> english words if you do.
>
> As far as ability to look things up: Other ideographic languages may be
> different than this (and this certainly doesn't apply to computer icons
> either), but most of the Japanese kanji (ie, Chinese characters) are
> constructed from a smaller number of common building blocks, the "radicals"
> (around 100ish-or-so, IIRC?). As such, there actually is such thing as kanji
> dictionaries where you can look up an unknown symbol. (I almost bought one
> once...)
>
> Getting back to software, I like the words when I'm learning a program
> (whether they're tooltips or labels) since the icons are initially
> meaningless. But once I learn what the icon means, I often prefer to not
> have the words because, compared to the icons, they're just indistinct
> visual clutter (and they take up that much more screen real estate). The
> color in icons also adds yet another dimension for your eyes to lock onto
> which text labels just don't offer, at least not as naturally.

I agree that color can help, but it helps just as well with text. That's why we have color syntax highlighting editors.


> Another thing to note: While the connection between an icon and it's meaning
> may not (ever) be close enough to initially teach you what it does, the
> metaphor (even for non-physical things) is usually close enough, or logical
> enough in its own way, to help you *remember* what it does after you've
> initially learned it.

I still can't remember which of | and O means "on" and "off". Ever since the industry helpfully stopped labeling switches with "on" and "off" my usual technique is to flip it back and forth until it goes on. Is it really progress to change from a system where 99% of the world knows what it means to one where 2% know? I suspect it is driven by some people who feel guilty about knowing english, or something like that.

I remember in the 1970's when the europeans decided to standardize on a traffic "stop" sign. They bikeshedded so much over this, the compromise selected was the american octagonal STOP sign. Nationalistic egos prevented selecting one from a european country.

Bring up Adobe's pdf viewer. It has a whole row of icons across the top. I defy you to tell me what they do without hovering over each. Nobody has ever figured out a picture that intuitively means "save", "send" or "print". Some icons do have meaningful pictures, like scroll arrows. But the rest is an awful stretch that is driven by some ideology <shatner>must --- make --- icon</shatner> rather than practicality.

Back to Thunderbird email. The icon for "Spell" is ABC over a check mark. That is not smaller or more intuitive than "Spell".
January 23, 2012
On Monday, 23 January 2012 at 10:54:15 UTC, Walter Bright wrote:
> On 1/23/2012 2:22 AM, Nick Sabalausky wrote:
>> Although I disagree with phonetic being *necessarily* better than
>> ideographic. I do agree with the benefits of phonetic you describe -
>> essentially "easier to learn". But the benefit of ideographic is that they
>> can be quicker and easier to use *after* you've learned them.
>
> I find that very difficult to believe. But I don't know Kanji.
>
>
>> Children and non-native speakers are taught the phonetic alphabets first
>> (hiragana and katakana), because they're easier to learn and can handle any
>> word with a small number of simple symbols. Then learners move on to the
>> ideographic ones (the Chinese kanji). I only ever learned a few kanji, but
>> you notice pretty quickly that once you've learned a kanji you can read it
>> much more quickly than the phonetic equivalent. (It also helps your brain
>> divide a sentence into words, since Japanese doesn't use spaces, but that's
>> not really relevent here).
>
> I've seen the same books written in both Kanji and English. The English ones were smaller, significantly so. I suspect the problem was the Kanji font had to be considerably larger in order to be legible, which negated any compression advantage it might have.
>
>
>> I think a big part of the reason kanji is easier to read (once you've
>> learned it) is that your eyes don't have to move nearly as much, and there's
>> much more visual distinction between words (since there's so many more basic
>> patterns). The fact that they originate from images is irrelevant since they
>> don't really retain much of the resemblance they once did (a few of them do,
>> like "mountain" or "gate", but only if you already know how to "see" it -
>> like being told the "box of kleenex" is a printer). It really is exactly the
>> same as reading "42" instead of "fourty-two". Or the standard VCR-control
>> icons instead of "fast-forward", "next chapter", etc. Totally obscure if you
>> don't already know them, but much quicker and easier to read then the
>> english words if you do.
>>
>> As far as ability to look things up: Other ideographic languages may be
>> different than this (and this certainly doesn't apply to computer icons
>> either), but most of the Japanese kanji (ie, Chinese characters) are
>> constructed from a smaller number of common building blocks, the "radicals"
>> (around 100ish-or-so, IIRC?). As such, there actually is such thing as kanji
>> dictionaries where you can look up an unknown symbol. (I almost bought one
>> once...)
>>
>> Getting back to software, I like the words when I'm learning a program
>> (whether they're tooltips or labels) since the icons are initially
>> meaningless. But once I learn what the icon means, I often prefer to not
>> have the words because, compared to the icons, they're just indistinct
>> visual clutter (and they take up that much more screen real estate). The
>> color in icons also adds yet another dimension for your eyes to lock onto
>> which text labels just don't offer, at least not as naturally.
>
> I agree that color can help, but it helps just as well with text. That's why we have color syntax highlighting editors.
>
>
>> Another thing to note: While the connection between an icon and it's meaning
>> may not (ever) be close enough to initially teach you what it does, the
>> metaphor (even for non-physical things) is usually close enough, or logical
>> enough in its own way, to help you *remember* what it does after you've
>> initially learned it.
>
> I still can't remember which of | and O means "on" and "off". Ever since the industry helpfully stopped labeling switches with "on" and "off" my usual technique is to flip it back and forth until it goes on. Is it really progress to change from a system where 99% of the world knows what it means to one where 2% know? I suspect it is driven by some people who feel guilty about knowing english, or something like that.
>
> I remember in the 1970's when the europeans decided to standardize on a traffic "stop" sign. They bikeshedded so much over this, the compromise selected was the american octagonal STOP sign. Nationalistic egos prevented selecting one from a european country.
>
> Bring up Adobe's pdf viewer. It has a whole row of icons across the top. I defy you to tell me what they do without hovering over each. Nobody has ever figured out a picture that intuitively means "save", "send" or "print". Some icons do have meaningful pictures, like scroll arrows. But the rest is an awful stretch that is driven by some ideology <shatner>must --- make --- icon</shatner> rather than practicality.
>
> Back to Thunderbird email. The icon for "Spell" is ABC over a check mark. That is not smaller or more intuitive than "Spell".

A few additional points:
# Microsoft allegedly does a lot of usability research and they came up with the upcoming Metro design which relies on text instead of icons. # Regarding the English language - Icons are supposed to be universal so it saves money for companies to localize their software. Localized UIs do present a trade off in usability: It depends which terminology is more common, the local or the foreign (English). E.g. "print" is easy to translate and would be intuitive for non techies but "bittorent" probably isn't.
January 23, 2012
"Walter Bright" <newshound2@digitalmars.com> wrote in message news:jfje8n$vka$1@digitalmars.com...
> On 1/23/2012 2:22 AM, Nick Sabalausky wrote:
>> Although I disagree with phonetic being *necessarily* better than
>> ideographic. I do agree with the benefits of phonetic you describe -
>> essentially "easier to learn". But the benefit of ideographic is that
>> they
>> can be quicker and easier to use *after* you've learned them.
>
> I find that very difficult to believe. But I don't know Kanji.
>

It's pretty much accepted as standard fact among those who know or have learned Japanese (well, at least from what I can tell. Like I said, I'm not fluent, and hell I've haven't even been over there.)

>
>> Children and non-native speakers are taught the phonetic alphabets first
>> (hiragana and katakana), because they're easier to learn and can handle
>> any
>> word with a small number of simple symbols. Then learners move on to the
>> ideographic ones (the Chinese kanji). I only ever learned a few kanji,
>> but
>> you notice pretty quickly that once you've learned a kanji you can read
>> it
>> much more quickly than the phonetic equivalent. (It also helps your brain
>> divide a sentence into words, since Japanese doesn't use spaces, but
>> that's
>> not really relevent here).
>
> I've seen the same books written in both Kanji and English. The English ones were smaller, significantly so. I suspect the problem was the Kanji font had to be considerably larger in order to be legible, which negated any compression advantage it might have.
>

Yea, I think there's a lot different factors that could be involved in the different respective lengths. Anything from font size to translation and who knows what else.

Although, if the book was 100% kanji, than it wouldn't have been japanese at all, it would have been chinese. Some things in japanese are always written phonetically, like basic parts of grammar, most (all?) suffixes (for conjugated words).

>
> I agree that color can help, but it helps just as well with text. That's why we have color syntax highlighting editors.
>

That's working on a *completely* different level. It's not relevent. What we're talking about here, unlike syntax highlighting, is colors *within* what is more or less individual words. A blotch of red in an upper-right corner, a thin bit of blue near the middle, whatever, etc., all part of a cohesive image. You *could* colorize separate parts of an english word, but it's not a natural fit and wouldn't work as well (unless it was already part of the language - but it isn't).

>
>> Another thing to note: While the connection between an icon and it's
>> meaning
>> may not (ever) be close enough to initially teach you what it does, the
>> metaphor (even for non-physical things) is usually close enough, or
>> logical
>> enough in its own way, to help you *remember* what it does after you've
>> initially learned it.
>
> I still can't remember which of | and O means "on" and "off".

I think you're fairly alone in that ;) *Especially* among programmers.

> Ever since the industry helpfully stopped labeling switches with "on" and "off" my usual technique is to flip it back and forth until it goes on. Is it really progress to change from a system where 99% of the world knows what it means to one where 2% know?

I'd say more like "from 99% to 90%". And those who do know can read it more easily, at a further distance, with worse eyesight, in worse lighting conditions, at a breifer glance, etc.

> Bring up Adobe's pdf viewer. It has a whole row of icons across the top. I defy you to tell me what they do without hovering over each. Nobody has ever figured out a picture that intuitively means "save", "send" or "print". Some icons do have meaningful pictures, like scroll arrows. But the rest is an awful stretch that is driven by some ideology <shatner>must --- make --- icon</shatner> rather than practicality.
>

Yes, I already agreed that phonetic words are easier to *learn*. But then once you *do* learn the pictures, your eye doesn't have to catch as much detail or be as accurate in order to recognize what is what.

When was the last time you looked at a button with a picture of a floppy on it and *didn't* instantly know it was "save"? Sure, you might not have known the first time, but it's not hard to learn, and once you do it's instantly recognizable.

'Course I haven't let Adobe's pdf viewer anywhere near my computer in what much be close to ten years. Get FoxIt reader: it's not bloatware.

> Back to Thunderbird email. The icon for "Spell" is ABC over a check mark. That is not smaller or more intuitive than "Spell".

No, not initially, but once you do know it, it's much easier to identify at a glance.

It's like keyboard shortcuts: Totally unintuitive to learn, but they damn sure aid usability and productivity if you do bother to learn them.

Or option screens vs wizards: Wizards are *far* better for beginners. But if you already understand the options, having them all on a single page ends up being far more effective.


January 23, 2012
On 23/01/12 11:54, Walter Bright wrote:
> Bring up Adobe's pdf viewer. It has a whole row of icons across the top.
> I defy you to tell me what they do without hovering over each. Nobody
> has ever figured out a picture that intuitively means "save", "send" or
> "print". Some icons do have meaningful pictures, like scroll arrows. But
> the rest is an awful stretch that is driven by some ideology
> <shatner>must --- make --- icon</shatner> rather than practicality.

And all those apps made with some Borland toolkit, where 'exit' is an icon of a door, with an arrow in it.

Makes me feel like I'm playing Pictionary.

At a previous job, we got new desk telephones. They had 8 function keys, each with an icon which was completely incomprehensible. We gave the icons names: "two heads are better than one", "fall asleep on book", "hand holding an arrow", etc. We never worked out what any of them were for.

The brand of phone was called "Easy". We wondered if they had a more advanced model with more difficult icons: "Mastered Alcatel Easy? Try Alcaltel Fiendishly Difficult!"
January 23, 2012
On 1/23/2012 3:51 AM, foobar wrote:
> A few additional points:
> # Microsoft allegedly does a lot of usability research and they came up with the
> upcoming Metro design which relies on text instead of icons. # Regarding the
> English language - Icons are supposed to be universal so it saves money for
> companies to localize their software. Localized UIs do present a trade off in
> usability: It depends which terminology is more common, the local or the foreign
> (English). E.g. "print" is easy to translate and would be intuitive for non
> techies but "bittorent" probably isn't.

One huge issue with "universal" icons is that each company copyrights theirs. So every user interface uses deliberately different icons.
January 23, 2012
On 1/23/2012 3:59 AM, Nick Sabalausky wrote:
>> Back to Thunderbird email. The icon for "Spell" is ABC over a check mark.
>> That is not smaller or more intuitive than "Spell".
>
> No, not initially, but once you do know it, it's much easier to identify at
> a glance.

I picked that deliberately because the "icon" is 3 *letters*!
January 23, 2012
On 1/23/2012 6:42 AM, Don Clugston wrote:
> And all those apps made with some Borland toolkit, where 'exit' is an icon of a
> door, with an arrow in it.
>
> Makes me feel like I'm playing Pictionary.
>
> At a previous job, we got new desk telephones. They had 8 function keys, each
> with an icon which was completely incomprehensible. We gave the icons names:
> "two heads are better than one", "fall asleep on book", "hand holding an arrow",
> etc. We never worked out what any of them were for.
>
> The brand of phone was called "Easy". We wondered if they had a more advanced
> model with more difficult icons: "Mastered Alcatel Easy? Try Alcaltel Fiendishly
> Difficult!"

I've succumbed on occasion to iconitis, too. Take a look at the D web site! I even bought a CD of 50,000 icons. I still could not find an icon that clearly means "download". I suspect that one does not exist.

I made my own "icon" of a beetle, and clicking on that takes you to the bugzilla page.
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