Re: Visual metaphors

Subject: Re: Visual metaphors
From: Richard Mateosian <srm -at- C2 -dot- ORG>
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 1996 01:16:11 -0800

>I'm arguing against *global* metaphors. No software 'desktop' that I've
>seen looks anything like the top of my desk. Computer calendars, clocks
>and files would be much better at their jobs if they weren't pretending
>to be the real thing.

The issue isn't whether the software desktop looks or acts like a desktop.
The issue is consistency and predictability. Once users grasp the "physics"
of your user interface, they can figure out a lot for themselves.

If you teach users the correspondence between elements in your user
interface and elements of their real-world situation, and if they can always
guess how the elements of your user interface behave, then task-based
documentation becomes extremely simple.

If users already know

* how to accomplish a task in the real world

* how the real world corresponds to elements of the user interface

* what happens when they manipulate elements of the user interface
(the "physics")

there's nothing left for you to teach them about that task. ...RM

Richard Mateosian President, Berkeley STC
Freelance Technical Writer srm -at- c2 -dot- org Review Editor, IEEE Micro

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