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DragonFly kernel List (threaded) for 2004-03
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Re: Daemon's Advocate article

To: "R. E. Ceiver" <lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: James Frazer <jfrazer@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 02 Mar 2004 09:06:20 -0600

Lets not confuse functional appearance with artistic appearance though. Now I shall go into another good UI rant.

Macs don't have a good UI because they look cool. They have a good UI because they do things in a more meaningful way -- like use verbs on dialog buttons. As a comparison to windows:

on the mac:
You have not saved your document, do you want to save it before closing the program?
[save] [do not save]

on windows:
You have not saved your document, do you want to save it before closing the program?
[ok] [cancel]

On windows you have to be much more careful about reading the dialog box -- because it's not apparent what might happen depending on what button you hit. It is the question that determines what the buttons mean -- which is bad -- because poorly phrased questions will cause the user to make the wrong choice. An even better example of bad windows UI is:

You have not saved your document, are you sure you want to exit?
[yes]        [no]

In this case the user might only read the first half and then guess the 2nd half is "do you want to save before exiting" -- and then click 'yes' -- which in reality will exit the program and lose their changes. This is horrible UI design. In the designer's defence, users should read things more carefully, however, most users have gotten this way because they've adapted to the poor UI -- they are so used to meaningless questions popping up that they've learned to quit reading them. I recall using winME on a friends computer once and it was a nightmare.

You just clicked on the start button, bla bla bla
You just connected to the internet, bla bla bla
You just moved an icon, bla bla bla
You just drank a pepsi, bla bla bla,

You get to a point where you just don't want to read them anymore.

These are engineering problems, not art problems. Apple's UI looks snazzy because that's a marketting thing (wow factor). There have been a number of artistic changes to apple's UI since OS X that have made the UI functionality worse.

Every choice that that a UI designer makes should be a scientific choice first, and an artistic choice second.

There is a fallacy that seems to be in people's heads: "if it looks good then it must work good". This is simply not true. The reality is that "if it works good then it usually looks good".

One might think that choosing something so simple as the colours for an installer is an artistic choice -- but it is not -- it is an engineering choice. The Engineer must choose which colours make the UI function best. He also has to take into consideration that some people might be colour blind, etc, etc. This is science, it is not art. If you want to see art look at some of the winamp skins out there. Some of them look really great, but gee, where the hell is the play button? This is Jef Raskin's worst nightmare.


R. E. Ceiver wrote:

Unfortunately, technical excellence and artistical talent go seldom hand in hand.


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