Appreciate Your User Interface Today

I recently sent a picture of some code I was working on to a few friends.

All of them responded with some variant of “What is that?”

Maybe it’s because I grew up with DOS and have seen user design grow and change, or maybe it’s because I’ve created a few scripts and programs that have been used by people other than myself, including in a professional setting…because once you’re working with people other than just yourself, you’ve got two sets of expectations to work with.

First, there’s the expectations from those who have been trained by graphical user interfaces (GUI) in the past. For example, you probably know what to do with the “hamburger” icon (three parallel horizontal lines), or if you see a menu item on the top left of the window saying “File”, you’re probably going to guess that “Save” and “Exit” are entries on that menu. These expectations are now essentially traditions, and breaking them can cause confusion, just like moving the window buttons to the other side on Macs and some KDE interfaces means I keep clicking things that do nothing.

Second, there’s the expectations of the people using the program. These are far more individual, and you’ve got to try to either predict and meet those expectations or provide guidance so that they can figure out what to do. I ran into this with a script that didn’t announce “I’m done processing”; it just removed the “processing” message… and left my beta tester sitting there staring at the screen waiting for something to happen.

And you can’t always meet that second set of expectations.

Some people seem to think of computers (and phones) as some kind of all knowing magic device that not only can do anything, but can also know exactly what you want it to do… even when you tell it the wrong thing to do.

And that’s like getting in a car and shouting at it to fly you to Pasedena and claiming it’s the car’s fault you never got out of your front yard.

Which is horribly insulting to the people who spent a lot of time trying to make it easier to use than a pure command line interface.

So take a minute today to put aside any frustrations you have with your computer or phone interface, and think about how easy it is to use.

It’s appreciate your GUI Day.

Featured Photo by Arif Riyanto on Unsplash

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