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Old 11-03-2009, 02:02 PM
Jo-Erlend Schinstad
 
Default Proposal: Ubuntu is not intuitive

I've always felt that calling a computer system "intuitive" is, at best,
misleading. My understanding of the word "intuition", is that it's some
vague and abstract understanding of something. The use of a computer
system should be based on a clear and precise understanding of what's
going on.

>From http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=intuitive:
(adj) intuitive, nonrational, visceral (obtained through intuition
rather than from reasoning or observation)

This does not at all resemble any computer system in the world of fact,
such as I know it. I propose that we stop saying that Ubuntu is
intuitive and leave that kind of sillyness to others. Instead, we should
say that Ubuntu is a _didactive_ system. The user isn't expected to rely
on intuition to be able to use the software -- that's not user friendly.
Instead, the system _teaches_ the user to use itself. If you want to
launch an application, for instance, we have a menu that's always
available that holds launchers for all the applications. The menu is
properly named "Applications" to _teach_ the user where to click in
order to find the available applications. The applications are
categorised into sections, teaching the user where to look for a certain
program. Furthermore, the applications are properly labeled using a
didactive name; we don't simply call it "Transmission", for instance. We
call it "Transmission BitTorrent Client". This _teaches_ the user to
launch that program if they wish to use a bit torrent client.

The list of examples could be made endless, but I think this should
suffice. Now, there might be arguments against using the phrase
"didactive" and an argument for using "instructive" instead. I think
both are better than "intuitive", but I think "didactive" is better
because it's more unique, giving us a buzzword to combat the usage of
"intuitive".

The way to a lucid computing experience, is a didactive environment.

Just a thought, thanks for reading,

Jo-Erlend Schinstad


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Old 11-03-2009, 06:27 PM
petr bug
 
Default Proposal: Ubuntu is not intuitive

2009/11/3 Jo-Erlend Schinstad <joerlend.schinstad@gmail.com>:
> I've always felt that calling a computer system "intuitive" is, at best,
> misleading. My understanding of the word "intuition", is that it's some
> vague and abstract understanding of something. The use of a computer
> system should be based on a clear and precise understanding of what's
> going on.

Computers are used by non-IT people. While I like the idea of people
understanding computer stuff and it is possible to teach them some
basics they will never master the fine details of what is going on.

1) First, it is unnecessary: Interaction designers can invent smooth
user interfaces quite easily. An extra polish is difficult but current
state of affairs will much benefit from usability basics. In my
experience programmers do not know how to remove the obstacle their
users are experiencing (or even what the obstacle is) and fall-back to
position of educating the users. Even when the particular case is easy
for a UI hobbyist like me.

2) Second, it hampers development. If people know how things work they
resist changing the internal workings - in order to avoid having to
learn the new stuff. Programmers try to not change program's interface
even if makes their work harder and the result is suboptimal
(code-wise and ergonomically) - because otherwise their users would
have to be re-taught, will make mistakes in meantime and will whine.

Imagine if people are required to set their IP address (manually):
their computer will not work in when they roam to other network; their
computer will also make ugly stuff on the foreign network and make
some other computer nonoperational (we still lack Duplicate IPv4
Address Detection AFAIK). If the user just knew about IP addresses: it
will be more difficult to move to IPv6. Programmer just opening TCP
connection using Berkeley sockets has to adjust his code to work with
IPv6 although the difference is not important to the code.

3) Third, it limits scaling. If employee does not have to know how to
use a program then many employees can use the program. Similarly if
program component/class does not expose its internals it can fulfill
its contract on other machine or with different algorithm or using
different data structure if programmer seems it fit.

4) Fourth: it is not practical to try fix people while we can fix the
code. Many people's issues on #ubuntu IRC channel, forums etc can be
avoided by clearer error messages, by built-in diagnostics, sanity
checking user input, distinguishing between input from user and
machine etc. Millions of people constantly forgetting and
misinterpreting versus code at hand.

5) Fifth: it is selfish / not ethical for us to consider our field of
expertise more important or enough that others should even bother
about the field. People already know much about botanics, physics,
chemistry or their work/hobby. I want other people's life to be
happier and they seem pretty happy without knowing the internals.
Though, if person expresses an interest I will be happy to teach.

> say that Ubuntu is a _didactive_ system. The user isn't expected to rely
> on intuition to be able to use the software -- that's not user friendly.
> Instead, the system _teaches_ the user to use itself. If you want to
> launch an application, for instance, we have a menu that's always
> available that holds launchers for all the applications. The menu is
> properly named "Applications" to _teach_ the user where to click in
> order to find the available applications. The applications are
> categorised into sections, teaching the user where to look for a certain
> program. Furthermore, the applications are properly labeled using a
> didactive name; we don't simply call it "Transmission", for instance. We
> call it "Transmission BitTorrent Client". This _teaches_ the user to
> launch that program if they wish to use a bit torrent client.

These sound like arguments _for_ "intuitive". (A person begins by
somehow knowing he needs a bittorent-thing. The thing evokes feelings
of application or program with a sense of internet or document related
group.)

One can be taught an alphabet but the alphabet (the ordering) is not
intuitive. In our case we can remove the need to know the "alphabet".

Summary:
I would be great if people knew more/everything about computers,
certainly it would solve many of our problems but it is not practical.
I am afraid we will never get anything better than intuition.

It might be useful for marketing, though. I have heard that sales
people pick product's property at random, make it great or look great
and (lay) people buy it. It might work for us, too.

Quotes at the end:
* Users do not care about what is inside the box, as long as the box
does what they need done. -- Jef Raskin: The Humane Interface
* Engineers like to be in control, but that may not be true of your
target users. Ask a airplane full of people if any of them would be
interested in flying the plane. – Niall Murphy

I am sorry if am over-reacting but...

Petr

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Old 11-04-2009, 11:56 AM
Matthew Paul Thomas
 
Default Proposal: Ubuntu is not intuitive

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

Jo-Erlend Schinstad wrote on 03/11/09 15:02:
>...
> This does not at all resemble any computer system in the world of fact,
> such as I know it. I propose that we stop saying that Ubuntu is
> intuitive and leave that kind of sillyness to others. Instead, we should
> say that Ubuntu is a _didactive_ system. The user isn't expected to rely
> on intuition to be able to use the software -- that's not user friendly.
> Instead, the system _teaches_ the user to use itself.
>...

The usual term for this is "learnability".
<http://www.usabilityfirst.com/glossary/term_945.txl>
<http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030825.html>

There are various techniques for improving learnability. These include
simplicity, consistency, and instruction.

- --
Matthew Paul Thomas
http://mpt.net.nz/
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:16 PM
Harald
 
Default Proposal: Ubuntu is not intuitive

On 3. Nov 2009, at 16:02, Jo-Erlend Schinstad wrote:

> I've always felt that calling a computer system "intuitive" is, at
> best, misleading. My understanding of the word "intuition", is that
> it's some vague and abstract understanding of something. The use of
> a computer system should be based on a clear and precise
> understanding of what's going on.
>> From http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=intuitive: (adj)
>> intuitive, nonrational, visceral (obtained through intuition rather
>> than from reasoning or observation)

I agree that "intuitive" is misleading, because it implies a promise
of not having to learn something. However, a complex user interface
like Gnome Desktop requires _a lot_ of learning. But then, a well-
designed user interface makes learning so easy that it happens almost
unconsciously and almost effortlessly, with little to no explicit
observations or abstract reasoning. There's nothing "intuitive" about
an "X" as a symbol to close a window. But this symbol is so easy to
learn, that users almost instantly forget that they had to learn it in
the first place.

I disagree that this kind of learning requires an "understanding of
what's going on". Users tend to think in terms of tasks and/or goals
("I need to write a resume", "I want to listen to my favorite radio
station", "I want to invite my friends to a party"). Only few care
about computers. Many users also think in terms of spatial metaphors
instead of computer science terms. There are far more users who say "I
want to get out of here" instead of "I want to close this application
window". I'm frequently surprised how users work successfully with
their computers without knowing the least bit about even most basic
concepts. But then, how many car owners understand how a motor or
brakes work? They know that they have two pedals, one to drive faster,
one to slow down. That's all most people need and want to know.

> The way to a lucid computing experience, is a didactive environment.

The way to a pleasant user experience, is not having to learn. ;-)

My favorite example is "mounting" disk drives. As a casual user, I
don't want to know about "mounting". When I plug-in an USB stick and
the icon appears on my desktop, I want to simply click on the icon and
browse the drive. Earlier versions of Ubuntu required that the user
explicitly mount the drive first. I never understood why drives should
not mount automatically when you plug them in. So what's the more user-
friendly solution: teach users the concept of mounting a drive or
redesign the user interface so that users don't have to think about
mounting at all?

I think that Ubuntu should not be "intuitive", but rather "easy to
use" or "user-friendly". Ubuntu is not Linux for geeks, but --as the
old claim called it apropriately-- "Linux for human beings". ;-)

Just 2c,
Harald
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