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back to article Information is the UI in Windows 8, says design guru

The interface formerly known as Metro (TIFKAM) makes the information applications present their user interface, and developers need to realise that and stop polluting software with the kind of buttons and icons elements they've grown up with. That's the opinion voiced by Shane Morris of Automatic Studio, now a user interface …

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LDS
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The flaw is in the very words "information people need to consume"

"information people need to consume". Computers are not devices to "consume" information only. Computer are devices to "produce" information. A book - a device to consume information - has a very different UI compared to the tools needed to produce that information. Unluckily the browser and the web made too many think the main task is "consume", forgetting for many is "produce". The whole "consumer" idea is bringing IT back - after all they want to morph the power PC into a TV set (the "information consumer" device by definition), just smart enough to take away more money from the "consumer" pockets. Those bad people who want to create information outside the big companies control must be kept away, and new users have to understand they are designed to be consumers, not producers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The flaw is in the very words "information people need to consume"

I think that "computer" is now a term that describes too broad a range of devices. You're right but clearly consumption is the emphasis for the makers of devices that will have this GUI. What I don't understand is why MS has fallen for the idea (promoted by the marketing droids, no doubt) that they can only have one UI. This means that devices that aren't solely concerned with hosing the user with "content" have to have look and be operated in ways that assume they are. They did the same when they insisted that everything had to be called "Windows"-something.

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Re: The flaw is in the very words "information people need to consume"

Hear hear! The general gist of that "talk" makes my toes curl. The fact, indeed, that it's all about consuming. Look at him happily calling for attention-grabbing peripheral animation! That's advertiser's talk.

Worse, he's using evolutionary arguments to justify this use of animation, but at the same time dismisses the way people make computer-things feel like objects to interact with as "designer wank".

There may be some merit to the ideas, in general, but the way it is presented totally misses the mark.

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Happy

Re: The flaw is in the very words "information people need to consume"

Good point.

But that was the problem of Microsoft from the beginning.

Word and Excel are just computer-versions of the paper-and-pen versions.

Probably that is the reason of their success: you can use a "new" technology without learning anything new.

That's on the other hand also their problem: Microsoft users stay computer illiterates.

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JDX
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Re: The flaw is in the very words "information people need to consume"

The VAST majority of computer use IS consumption. Therefore it makes sense to bias your UX to that area. People creating content can stick with Windows 7 or just use the W8 desktop.

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WTF?

Re: The flaw is in the very words "information people need to consume"

"The VAST majority of computer use IS consumption. "

You have obviously never worked in an office. Do you think all those billions of office workers are just sitting at their desks watching youtube all day long?

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Just wondering .....

"The author travelled to TechEd, ate and slept, as a guest of Microsoft."

When he woke up, were there two small puncture wounds on his neck?

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Re: Just wondering .....

Did he wake up in a bathtub full of ice with his soul missing?

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Re: Just wondering .....

No just a massive, massive brown envelope of cash.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just wondering .....

"When he woke up, were there two small puncture wounds on his neck?"

And a very sore arse.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just wondering .....

Yes. He woke up with a very sore arse on his neck. I think it was called "Steve".

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FAIL

Ah, now I understand

The new paradigm is full of things that I have difficulty with.

More and more I find public signage to be busy and obscure so that I can't easily see the important information (like the exit sign at a service station that is swamped by other info that is less important).

Moving type? Irritating as hell. I get impatient for the punch-line and my brain turns off.

And animated stuff? That screams Ad to my brain and is ignored.

I think I am one of many whose brain just doesn't work in the way that these people think is natural. Hence as UI develops I feel more and more like an idiot as the supposedly intuitively obvious interfaces leave me blank and flustered.

Fail because the designers have not realised that there are marked differences in how people's brains handle information. They are designing for themselves, not the users : always a failing in UI development.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ah, now I understand

Maybe you're just getting old?

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Re: Ah, now I understand

Ha! I knew someone would say that :)

There is a small amount of truth to that, but even if it was the whole truth, it means that significant portion of the population from, say, 50 to 80 years old is ill-served by this approach.

The main problem, though, is in how the brain works. My wife is similarly-aged and has no difficulty with this sort of approach because she thinks differently to me (or rather, she processes information differently to me). That disparity is borne out by my experience in a working environment.

It should be no surprise, then, to find that opinion is divided between 'marvellous!' and 'yuck!'. Microsoft must be banking on the 'yuck!' crowd being a minor fraction - but I think they're wrong.

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Mushroom

Re: Ah, now I understand

Maybe Microsoft are not catering for the fastest growing sector of the consumer market. After all there's going to be more "old" people in the world than ever before. Short sighted - I think so. Peddling Metro is the marketing equivalent trying to get everyone to take it up the "wrong un".

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Angel

swerving wildly off-topic

"interpreting fast-moving objects in peripheral vision as worthy of attention (if only to avoid being eaten by an approaching predator). "

We're already evolving this away. Cluttered websites full of distracting adverts and the like at their edges are training people to ignore what's in their peripheral vision.

This is another example of how tech is having a potentially bad effect on our evolution (another is Google taking away our ability to use our own memories to remember). As the boundaries between the virtual and the real become more blurred (Project Vision etc), more and more stuff is going to ignored and people are going to get run over, mugged and fall down manholes a whole lot more often.

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Re: swerving wildly off-topic

I guess it's just the next stage on from people with iPods on so loud or who are so engrossed in the display of their smartphones/tablets etc as they are walking along that they fail to notice small unimportant things around them in the real world like they're about to step off the pavement and into the road, or that they're about to walk into someone or something.

And what's most worrying for me is that of the many examples I seem to see of this every day, a large percentage are schoolkids...

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Re: swerving wildly off-topic

for a second there I misread "schoolkids" as "scaffolders" with hilarious mental images as a result.

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JDX
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Re: swerving wildly off-topic

please don't use the word 'evolve' you clearly don't know what it means. You've learned this over your lifetime, not passed on altered 'ad ignore' genes.

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Headmaster

@JDX

thanks for that

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @JDX

I think you're discounting the fact that enigmatix is Goa'uld.

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Go

Please do use the word evolve

Just in defense of the English language: The word evolve can be used out of the biological context. It actually predated Darwin by quite a bit.

Don't listen to the language police, even the language is allowed to evolve.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Please do use the word evolve

I agree about language evolution but I agree with JDX too (hey I'm agreeable today) - I was thinking about the biological meaning of the word and so was using it wrongly. OTOH, JDX could work on his people skills, methinks.

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Shange Morris - UI evangelist for MS?

Sorry, but if he was involved in "ribbon" in anyway, that does ding his credibility just a tad.

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Angel

Re: Shange Morris - UI evangelist for MS?

Bearing in mind that I feel that the ribbon was probably the most credible and productive improvement to the Office suites, I disagree.

I know I am part of a minority especially amongst these forums but there you go.

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Re: Shange Morris - UI evangelist for MS?

I guess there has to be a period of experimentation between moving from Xerox-inspired WIMP type interfaces to the next big thing, I just wish we could skip the phase where these UI equivalents of Frankenstein's monster are foisted on us all, e.g. Ribbon, Metro, and Unity.

Also, the designers pushing these things seem completely unaware that if the inputs differ then perhaps the GUI should differ too. Why are we all being forced into this straitjacket which makes the most widespread input method a pain to use?

Perhaps someone should just sit down and think about things again, like Xerox did originally.

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Anonymous Coward

Expedia CD-ROM?

I don't recall there being an installable program for booking hotels worldwide. Perhaps you meant Encarta, MS's encyclopedia program?

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Grocking TIFKAM

If everyone, not just developers, needs to grok it, perhaps the problem is not with everyone.

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Coat

Re: Grocking TIFKAM

I just read it as TIT CAM anyway...

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Information is the Ace MetaDataBase Card to Manufacture to Guarantee Intelligence Leads

The author travelled to TechEd, ate and slept, as a guest of Microsoft. ... Simon Sharwood

Nice work, Simon, and thanks for the transparent disclosure which adds heaps of credibility to the thoughts expressed rather than blighting them with toxic hype.

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Unhappy

Re: Information is the Ace MetaDataBase Card to Manufacture to Guarantee Intelligence Leads

What the shit? I understood an amanfromMars comment.

I've clearly been here too long.

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WTF?

Re: Information is the Ace MetaDataBase Card to Manufacture to Guarantee Intelligence Leads

Not only that, it actually made perfect sense.

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Ah... and there's the key design element. Hiding interactive elements over a screen letting a user randomly thumb the interface until something happens. Because it's true, most users will get frustrated and eventually find some of these functions "charms" (or whatever BS term they'll be next week) and maybe even remember where they are after a few uses. At least some of them will be found anyway anyway, most likely they'll find one that does something and consider it their lot.

<sarcasm>Sounds like intuitive user interface design perfection to me.</sarcasm>

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...

There is one valid point in here though... The irrational desire from some UI monkeys to slavishly attempt to mimic real world interface elements on a computer screen. Here I'm thinking of those on idiotic screen re-creations of TV remote controls to control video applications, those almost impossible to use twist knob controls that infest far too many audio manipulation apps and the daft LED segment style numeric, or worse - alpha-numeric, displays

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Re: ...

I think that's what the author is trying to convey but the message got lost in the way he tried to convey it.

Ironic, really, given the subject matter.

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Windows

"vol +10; set channelalias 10 -name 'my porn channel'; open 'my porn channel'"

Self-indulgent prettyfication.

I think every designer should be forced to first design a CLI interface to his gizmo so as to really THINK about what he's actually doing and to weed those out that are better off designing Magic Hollywood Machine Interfaces as seen in movies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ...those almost impossible to use twist knob controls

Hey, I like virtual audio hardware with twiddly knobs - just use it with an appropriate control surface.

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Anonymous Coward

Polluting software with buttons and icons?

Have they not heard the old adage about a picture vs. a thousand words? UI images aren't fluff - they communicate every bit as much as words, sometimes more. I've seen some examples coming from MS employing this ideology, and it's truly awful. Your eyes are pulled in every direction by competing words in different sizes and colours, with no clear path to orientate your way through the data. It's a giant leap back in communication IMHO.

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Re: Polluting software with buttons and icons?

There is current trend in UI design that considers buttons to be a hack I disagree most strongly with this but you can see some of the ideas in and around Metro. Too many icons are as bad as too few.

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Re: Polluting software with buttons and icons?

Disagree

What would the icon be for that word (singular)?

Or how do you group and sub-group icons, such as File > Open, or Edit > Paste Special > Plain Text?

The problem with your point is that an ICON does not portray a thousand words, it is a pictograms representing one word, not that dissimilar to Chinese characters. The challenge with the Ribbon or Start Menu is that they replace perfectly good words with pictures which have no standard definition, i.e. they are much harder to learn and impossible to read. Therefore one has to sit there scanning each one to try to glean their meaning.

I just feel like I'm wasting my breath arguing UI logic with these Microsoft imbeciles. They really are like arguing with the proverebial pigs; we both get dirty and the pig likes it. And the pig doesn't listen nor give a damn.

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Unhappy

Buttons a hack?

Now I understand why buttons disappear without reason in Gnome applications, leaving one clueless as to whether a modifcation was transacted or not. Yep, gotta close the window instead. It's intuitive and all that.

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Anonymous Coward

"proven design techniques and philosophies drawn from “Wayfinding” (signage in airports, train stations and other public places), typography (The Swiss School) and moving type"

.... sounds like a cue for a (unwelcome by most) return of the <BLINK> tag!

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Works fine but there are limits to the amount of signs you can take in. Too many and you can't, er, see the wood for the trees. This is why there are some experiments (in the Netherlands) to reduce the number of signs on roads as an attempt to reduce accidents caused by people not able to read all the signs at speeds. And then there are good examples and bad examples. In general, you will not notice good signage, it needs route-planning (the routes you expect people to take) but you will sure as hell notice poor signage. Only yesterday I tripped up over redundant but conflicting language switching features on a intranet: I saw the first and duly pressed it and could not understand why the results of my search did not reflect this decision - the answer was that I had to set my language in the search as well. The film "Brazil" contains numerous examples of well-intended systems getting out of control and turning the user into victim/perpetrator.

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Signs give the information needed to let viewers navigate. ALL they need to do is present that information clearly and easily, they have no active involvement in navigation. A computer UI needs to present navigation information BUT it's also the navigation tool.

Those appear to me to be different requirements. It doesn't matter how space wasting, clumsy or whatever road signage is, it's a different system to navigation and once familiar with a route I don't use it. Once familiar with my UI I still need to use it constantly. I want signs optimised for legibility, my UI optimised for navigation.

Metro de-optimises my navigation to present information I won't need after the 1st few uses. Worse it doesn't even manage to show navigation information better, with hidden controls, acres of wasted space and the 1 size window fits all idiocy. The control elements in my UI are there FOR CONTROL not to show information. The navigation elements are there to let me NAVIGATE not tell me where I'm going.

This whole UI is backwards, designed by idiots so in love with an abstract idea they forgot what the fscking system is meant to do.

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FAIL

"new interface tactic"

"Using animation to show users something is worthy of their attention is a new interface tactic he feels will be useful."

What, like MARQUEE and BLINK codes in HTML? Back to the delightful days of multiple fonts, colours, and animated gifs whizzing about all over the screen?

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Re: "new interface tactic"

Or simply notifications like Growl, bouncing icons (Mac OS), icons with changing colours (Windows 7). All great as long as there is only one of them at a time and there are not too annoying or last too long.

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Holmes

There's more to it too

There are more problems with this new era of UI mentality from MS, too, the more I think about it.

>>> ...philosophies drawn from “Wayfinding” (signage in airports, train stations and other public places)...

But a computer monitor is not an airport, train station, or any other public place. It is not a 3D environment that needs to be negotiated by a traveler. It is a flat 2D environment with limited space and needing clear distinctions between controls (interactive) and displays (content).

>>> ...and moving type (The opening titles to Hitchcock's North by Northwest are apparently seminal so we've popped them in below)...

Come again? This, and the reference to animation, is surely cause for concern. Are we going to have ticker-tape style title bars? Vertically moving text, a la movie credits, on windows instead of a scroll bar? Eh?

As to animation...

>>> ...Mainstream developers will therefore need to come to terms with content-centric interfaces and the elements they offer, one of which is animation. Moving images, he said, even offer the chance to tap into users' primal instincts as we are attuned to interpreting fast-moving objects in peripheral vision as worthy of attention (if only to avoid being eaten by an approaching predator)...

Sorry, now I am not in a train station, but needing to watch out for the hungry lions?

Moving images in the periphery on a computer screen says one thing to most people: annoying advertising to be ignored. Static content should be static. If you have to resort to animation to "get attention", maybe something is fundamentally wrong with your 2D monitor GUI design!

Beyond that, animation has been used for legitimate purposes in Windows for a long time, from the simple file copying movie to the window minimize/maximize action. So what new is he on about?

>>> ...Developers must therefore strive to “present the information well enough it can form the user interface.”

Confusion of controls and content again.

>>> ...good design for Windows 8 apps, or any other, starts with decisions about what an application is intended to achieve, rather than just how it will look and behave.

Well that's a nice idea but it rather contradicts everything said prior.

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Re: There's more to it too

>>Beyond that, animation has been used for legitimate purposes in Windows for a long time, from the simple file copying movie to the window minimize/maximize action. So what new is he on about?

If I ever see that little drum being beaten with sticks again, I shall go insane! (Searching for drivers AFAICR)

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Re: There's more to it too

Oh and don't forget clippy!

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I read the article

I now feel like I know even less than I knew before.

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