New personal computing, same old self-damaging pattern

  • ipad • interaction • computing • personal • pattern • damage • pc • user • toddler • kid
  • 594 words

Think about it. We are still paying the consequences of Windows. The User Interaction and User Experience expected by most of the normal people are widely based upon Microsoft Window’s own (ehm…) patterns. The bad design and usability choices that are at the very base of that software (from version 1 up to latest 7), shaped how contemporary users expect to interact with their personal computer. How they should do things. What are the predictable consequences of their actions.


Inability to change

Very often we come into contact with people that have a very hard time at dealing with interaction patterns and computing paradigms that shifts or sensibly variate from what they expect. How they make things happen is suddenly new, different, “weird”.

Why it happens it’s obvious: human beings learn a pattern, become proficient with it, and soon it turns into a sort of skill. And so the user builds, unconsciously, a strong reliance on it. Its when the personal computer, from weird play-ish object, or instrument for few, very knowledgeable intellects (really?), turns into something useful, something that you can actually do stuff with, and improve your workflow (and, maybe, your work-life?).

This builds a strong inability to change. Why?

Because _I just changed_: I can't change again!

Like it or not, Microsoft products created (almost) all this. Not because the company come out with their own brilliant idea, but just because their business moves, and their marketing, made the computing of today.

What about tomorrow?

Well, I’m second here. Steve Jobs said it already:

We are in the "post-PC" era!

And in front of us a small, user experience specific revolution (involution?) is happening. The tablet is happening. But you are all aware of it, and I shouldn’t be spending much time saying stuff that a lot of others already said. There would be no point. Right?

But few days ago I read this article: Toddler app user interface guidelines, by Gabriel Weinberg. In short, he discusses how to design user interfaces for toddlers, what are the good things to do, and the bad ones to avoid.

I do agree with most of what he says and everything. He does indeed have more than a point. And reading his article made me think about a friend’s kid and her ability to use iOS devices. I remember how surprised and impressed I was about that. The little girl was opening apps on her dads iPhone, closing them, going to the photo gallery, browsing pictures, playing videos, seeking specific media. A < 2 years old!!! That is just plain amazing.

Same thing again?

But all this makes me come up with a question: are we blindly doing the same mistake again? Are we involuntarily creating a new generation of humans bond to a very specific hardware/software? Human that will think if I can’t touch it, it doesn’t work.

And this time might be even worse: given the nature of those tablets, the fact that “precision” is not a strict requirement anymore (no mouse, baby!), and the general toy-ish nature of this stuff, the learning-and-bonding process will start very early in the human being’s life.

Maybe is not a bad thing. Maybe is all good. Maybe with time we will reach the “perfect human computer interaction model”. Maybe I’m over reacting. But than I wonder: in 10 years, we technologists, are we going to think of iPad as a bad thing? As something that set a wrong, stupid, limited pattern?

Or have I just gave digital ink to another rant of mine? :-P