Victims of User Interaction

JailbreakSitting here, waiting while data from my old hard drives are being transferred to the new. I installed a new computer, installed Windows and during the last boot it decided that my graphics card is not properly configured so I write this at 800x600 in 16 colors.

It did give me excellent food for the thoughts though.

The King is naked and somebody said it

Couple of days ago I was sitting with a very good friend of mine who is a designer by profession. We both started working with computers a long time ago, in 1984. A beer or two into the conversation, he starts explaining me his theory how the modern computer user interfaces are not modern at all, and that they are all just an extension of what was invented 20 years ago. They are incredibly hard to use, he mentioned Photoshop as a great example of a terrible, unintuitive user interface. Do you know how much time a novice in Photoshop needs to spend in order to be comfortable in it? And how when working generally on Windows you are constantly constrained by the very same constrains people designing it had.

I gave it some thought back then, but never really considered it true. I've been using XP for a long time and considered it comfortable, after I got used to it. But then again, a human being is incredibly adaptable, some can consider 2x2m cell comfortable - certainly after being punished previously with 1x1m one. Now that's interesting.

There is a possibility for a better designed operating system. Something that will integrate more naturally with the user. Something in line with how WordPress is easy to use for people that want to start a blog but never had any IT experience. I am convinced that the next generation OS will be centralized, server based solution and that there will exist only "terminals", who are just a window to your content.

Desktop of 2008

Working in 2008

When reinstalling Windows, I first need to install my most frequently used software - browser, mail client, skype, msn, icq, yahoo im, then anti-virus, file and ftp manager, office, development software. That is a whole army of software that needs to be carefully installed and setup. It is a days work that nobody but can do. And where is the tweaking of the OS, customization of themes, screen saver, wallpapers s etc. You can be almost sure you will not have what you had previously.

But with the new generation of OS, you will just have to log on again from a different computer and you will have access to everything exactly the same as you left it last time.

ASUS case

While doing this computer upgrade I dealt with hardware from Asus, one of the leading hardware manufacturers in the world. I bought an Asus motherboard and found many equally frustrating things with the product. There is nothing wrong with the motherboard itself as far as I can tell - it is a perfect example of precision electronics for an extra low price. But let me just point couple of things:

  • The multilingual manual is worthless - 2 pages per language can not explain you how to install and use a modern motherboard
  • The update software which was supposed to update my BIOS after the installation, failed at updating itself leaving the user potentially completely hopeless. After I installed a newer version it offered to update the BIOS with the same version I was already having?
  • The additional software looks like it was made for Windows 3.11. Then there is software that looks like it was meant to be a video game on your desktop.
  • Not only that but software contains spelling mistakes all around. For example Turbo is spelled Trubo and in bold, and the screenshot in the manual contains the same mistake..

The whole installation procedure is so complicated and often leaves the user clueless.

And I really don't get this.

They are making billions of dollars in profits, and a random guy like me would need a week to sort everything out for them. Just a week of a random guy's time, and they won't be embarrassing themselves anymore. I would be embarrassed beyond limits if I had to sign the release of such a product. Is a robot with a software bug making decisions in Asus instead of humans?

The whole problem seems to be in the approach. Either you care or you don't. If you care enough, you are eventually going to do it right, even if you start from scrath. If you don't care, no money in the world will clear you of the embarrasment. It's the same in life, love and business.


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