CHI-WEB Archives

ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)


Options: Use Forum View

Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Condense Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
Quinn Norton <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 14 Nov 1999 15:01:04 -0800
Quinn Norton <[log in to unmask]>
TEXT/PLAIN (72 lines)
> Empathy in design.
> And the notion that HCI design is all about automation and "ease of use."
> balderdash.

this seems as good a point at any to ask about another facet of interface,
about which i have fuzzy impressions. a lot of emphasis is given (in the
literature i've read) to making everything as easy as possible, often to
get the user to their task while making them learn as little as possible.
this seems defeating to me. almost depressing.

my own background is probably an unusual one- i used to be a stand up
comic. (i didn't make it that far in that career, chances are no one here
has ever seen me, circuit comedy is kind of an awful life.) when i first
came in a lot of people told me to pander to the least common denominator
when i performed- & talk a lot about my crotch, that is was the only way
to get work. i found that idea very depressing but i could see it working
for a lot of my fellow comics. the audience was happy to go down with
them, they got consistent laughs, they got consistent work. but then i saw
a few performers who shot high- and often the audience would go with them,
too. i decided to shoot high myself and found that when i was in my groove
the audience would follow me through a maze of issues bookers has assured
me would never play in peoria. i came to the conclusion that bookers were
idiots and made a rule to respect my audience and expect great things from
them... in the end i think it made me work harder on my material anyway.

later i went on to become a jr high teacher. i found my lessons from
comedy born out; that when i expected great things from my students and
tried to give them the tools they often rose to the challenge, when i got
impatient and delivered a lower grade of information they responded with a
nearly antagonistic anti-understanding of the material. it was almost as
if the easier i made the class the less they liked it, cared, or learned.

in both cases, we were only as smart as each other.

these days when i'm thinking about putting together an interface my goals
are to have it be intuitive, of course, but also educating and self
documenting. eg even in something as simple as someone is going though an
order or registration process i think of ways to let them know what
they're doing at each step- educating them in using my site, and in some
small way using the web itself, if for no other reason than to understand
what happened when something went wrong. i also think about how to not
place my design above the user, what i mean by that is i really want
anyone who comes into a site to feel like that they can comment if they
want to-- nothing handed down from above. (i really hate black boxes.) i
try to keep in mind a conversation, like my time in comedy or the class

i suppose i'm beginning to wonder if i'm headed in the wrong direction. i
read someone say here that if you have to explain an interface tool it's
badly designed. i feel like a whole lot is taken away from me if i can't
make something really wiz-bang that does something sophisticated unless
someone can use it with no training at all. to me, the idea is that using
it *is* the training (which often involves a bit of reading as well), but
that it takes enough work on the part of the user to make it interesting
and spark them to figure out how to make it do wiz-bang things for them.

obviously, i don't want this to be true for a simple site navigation set.
i can see a lot of value in being very bland in something like that, and
sticking with conventions. but i don't mind taking a little time to use a
new tool, and like that experience the most when it also shows me how
something is working on the back end. for me part of empathy is shared
enthusiasm as much as shared frustration. i can be a bit exuberant though,
am i asking too much from a userbase?


    New Media: where the obfuscation and snobbery of art
           meets and obfuscation and snobbery of computers.