Re: The dangerous myth of the "completely intuitive product"

Subject: Re: The dangerous myth of the "completely intuitive product"
From: Chuck Banks <chuck -at- ASL -dot- DL -dot- NEC -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 1994 08:15:28 CST

Larry Kunz' example of the user interface on a modern automobile
leaves me wondering what it has to do with intuitive products.

Modern automobile controls are not intuitive, some are
standard (e.g., accellerator/throttle, foot brake, steering
wheel), but most controls are neither standard nor intuitive.
Every time I drive a rental or other borrowed car, I have to
locate the ignition switch, determine which key to insert into
the ignition switch, locate lights, turn signals, climate
controls, etc. And locating the gas cap and hood release nearly
always involves a Sherlock Holmes style search.

I think Larry's example of the car is valuable in that it
points up a need for software interface standards. GUIs are not
intuitive any more than international road signs are. International
road signs are recognized nearly universally outside the US because
the icons used on the signs are an agreed upon standard set of

Some GUIs are consistent within themselves in their use of
a set of icons or menu labels, but this is not true of all GUIs or
even of most GUIs.

The most we can hope for from most products is consistency
within themselves and from release to release. To become acquainted
with the rules of any product's interface, we can puzzle it out from
the product with possibly disasterous results, or we can rely on
a document of some sort.

Intuition works in a particular product provided its
interface is consistent and the user has been initiated to the
definitions of the interface items. Without previous reading,
training, or experience with a product and without consistency
in the design of the interface, you're just guessing. Good luck,
you'll need it.

Best Regards!

Chuck Banks
__ ________ ______
|\\ | || // Chuck Banks
| \\ | ||_______ || Senior Technical Writer
| \\ | || || NEC America, Inc.
| \\| \\______ \\______ E-Mail: chuck -at- asl -dot- dl -dot- nec -dot- com
America, Incorporated CompuServe: 72520,411

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