Brian's Waste of Time

Mon, 26 Jul 2004

Re: Dumb User (was Re: Linux's Curse)

An anonymous comment (well, unless the guy's parents really hated him) left the comment:

I think none of you guys understood Galas points. You are all acting like geeks and kids 'mine is bigger than yours' when comparing your OS and CLI vs GUI. This is not what it is about.

to the UI discussion that's been going on. I think we got Gala's points, but then talked about something else. Yes, there are a lot of unsophisticated users in the world. Dumb User implies I have no clue that people are not all proficient with bash -- I wish that were the case. I work for a twelve person startup -- that means the tech guys are also the tech support. I fully and completely understand the value of newbie-proofing a user interface. Every UI confusion in our applications winds up coming back to me directly.

The point is, though, that not everyone is new to an application, or is a casual user of the application. Explorer and bash are applications in this context. What I am argueing is that by pretending everyone is unsophisticated you hurt the sophisticated users. Yeah, dropping your relative who has trouble with non MacOS interfaces into ION will be painful at first. Most people are smart though. If said relation had to get work done, every day, using that interface he or she would quickly learn it, and be more productive.

Presume people are smart but ignorant. Ignorant is lack of knowledge, not lack of capability to learn. If it is an application the person will spend a lot of time using, build it for that. If it is an application which will be fired up once every two or three months, build it for that. The more heavily used an application is the more benefit there is to be gained by optimizing the UI for sophisticated users. The less it is used, the more for unsophisticated users. I use the web interface for my bank once a month or so. It has big buttons and everything is point and click. I use vim all the time all day almost every day, everything is based off the keyboard with a seemingly infinite array of options (actually, with ruby mode...). Both are very well designed for their usage patterns.

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