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 http://www.c2.org/~srm/ President, Berkeley STC
Freelance Technical Writer srm -at- c2 -dot- org Review Editor, IEEE Micro


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