In Search Of The Perfect UI

Do you remember your first experience of using a computer? It doesn’t matter whether it was DOS with Norton Commander or Windows. Anyway you had to learn how to find the necessary applications, how to execute them, once again it doesn’t matter whether you clicked on the folders and files on the blue background or used the Start menu. It’s important that you learnt the definitions or metaphors; you learnt that icon is an application or something else; you learnt that you have to click twice on it to open it and so on.

Having got used to those metaphors, we easily use a computer unless we face an application with a non-standard interface that confuses us because we have to learn again.

The same thing applies to web sites as well, if a website has a non-standard navigaton it confuses us, even though its navigation is convenient, but not standard.

As a result the developers have to create user interfaces within the standard paradigm, it is right though, because we don’t have to learn everytime we run a new application. So we can divide all the UI’s into two types:

  • Standard
  • Bad

That is a problem in fact - we cannot go beyond the limits of the paradigm, because user interfaces are created by the people who are used to the standard paradigm. But the fact that we are used to something doesn’t mean that it’s the best thing ever, we just haven’t seen a better thing probably.

These things stroke my mind when I heard a dialogue in a computer store between two girls who were looking for a portable music player and a salesman. They got frustrated when the salesman told them that they needed a program to upload music to the player. Even though the program is shipped with the player they were still confused. They just didn’t understand that, but that was clear for me, it was clear for the salesman because we were used to the fact that we needed an application to upload music to the player. But those girls didn’t think within that paradigm.

That is why it’s worth goin beyond the standards of the created paradigm. I think it’s worth doing that, simply because it will help us to learn new ways of creating UI. Probably it’s worth consulting with complete newbies who can offer something new – a better way of interaction between people and computers.

Mike Borozdin (Twitter)
28 June 2008

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way. My personal thoughts tend to change, hence the articles in this blog might not provide an accurate reflection of my present standpoint.

© Mike Borozdin