Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Silly Interaction Designs

I have been reading "About Face 3" and I am about half way through it. It has crystallized some concepts I already have and introducing a few new ones. One of the early points that they made was that software should work (or at least appear to do so to them) how people think it works and not how it actually does. IQ blog has another good example of this, although I have never seen the example he uses in the states.

Another good example is Apple's beloved trash can. This crazy little character has been around since the beginning (history lesson via kernelthread). Initially it was only used to delete files; poof, gone goodbye. Nice, that makes sense and it even works pretty well as a metaphor. Kinda simple & pretty cool.

But wait, someone decided that I should also eject media (cds, disks, mounted drives, etc) by putting it in the trash! Huh? But why would I put the disk that contains the only copy of my dissertation in the trash! I don't want to delete it, I just want to get the physical disk out of my mac take it to the lab to print it out. How on earth does putting something in the trash equal ejecting media?

Via kernelthread:
Since the original Macintosh had no hard disk, and a single floppy drive, it was expected that users will typically use several diskettes while working on the Macintosh. A convenience feature of the system was that it cached (in memory) the list of files on a diskette even after it had been ejected. This was indicated by a grayed-out icon for that diskette on the Desktop, clicking on which would prompt the user to insert the appropriate diskette in the drive. If a user wanted to free-up the memory used by a diskette's cache, he would have to drag the grayed-out icon to the trash.

Thus, even if a user intended to
permanently eject a diskette, two actions were required: the eject command, and dragging an icon to the trash. The redundancy was removed by combining these actions to a single action: dragging an "active" (non-grayed-out) icon to the trash caused the disk to be ejected, and its cache to be deleted.

They designed it to help explain the implementation model, simplified it as technology and usage patterns changed, but never bothered to explore a better way. Leaving us with the illogical and strange idea of throwing away things that we want to keep. They have tried to make it better by changing the trash icon into an eject symbol when you drag mounted media, but who is gonna look at the trash for a place to physically eject something. Which brings up another point, why would you think you needed the softwares permission to get your disk back. I can imagine sitting there thingking "okay, how do i get my disk out of this machine." Reminds me of the zoolander bit about files inside the computer.

Don't even get me started on "ctrl alt delete" as a way to lock my computer. I may be considered an expert user because I employ this shortcut, but that doesn't mean that my fingers don't make mistakes. There have been a few times when the only button my finger manages to connect with is the delete key. What usually follows in quick succession is the enter key. In photoshop, in a hurry, "shift alt delete" enter and I just deleted a layer. Talk about dumb. Why would you include delete in that sequence? Talk about "Which one of these things doesn't belong". Should call it bunnies, rainbows, and hellfire missiles.

I can imagine the developer saying; "Awe come on. It's totally safe and easy, they only have to get all three keys right!"

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