Easy on the icons! (was Re: Native GUI Squeak?)
Richard A. O'Keefe
ok at atlas.otago.ac.nz
Tue Feb 20 23:45:45 UTC 2001
Karl Goiser <squeak at wattle.net> wrote:
4) Icons are a very significant part of our interaction with the 'real
world'. We have traffic lights and on/off switches and umpires' gestures in
a game. We learn their meanings and the next time we see one, we can say
that we know what it means and how we can interact with it (booing seems to
be a fairly universal to umpiring decisions).
Note that there is an EXTREMELY important point about traffic lights and
You are explicitly taught them, and are not allowed to drive until
you have demonstrated that you know them.
This is vastly different from computers, where people can meet new and
baffling "icons" on a daily basis. One of the great things about the
Mac is being able to select an icon and do Get Info on it, so you have
_some_ idea of what sort of thing it is. If only this had been linked
with a "Describe Yourself" message to applications so that you could
Frobboz Snakum is a Whoosis document.
Whoosis is an application for designing
Some years ago I saw one of Wirth's Lilith machines. They had a really
great idea, which I've always wanted ever since (and never had). At
all times (or so I was told) there was a little picture of the mouse on
the screen, with the buttons labelled according to what they did. The
Xerox Lisp machines had a message window; if you held the mouse down over
a graphic element for a couple of seconds, a message popped up in the
message window telling you what you were pointing to. This was of course
an early version of tooltips, but it was better, because there was room
for a useful amount of explanatory text.
Some years ago this country changed its road signs to be less like the
"English" signs and more like the "international" signs. People went
around for _years_ with crib sheets, and we're only talking about 50 or
so different signs. Some of the signs are common, so you quickly learn
what they mean. Some of them are rare, so you don't.
But in any case, without the crib sheets, you wouldn't have a hope of
figuring them out in time.
As for on-off switches, you'd be surprised how long it takes for people
to get used to a different convention (like Americans' upside-down
switches, or switches that turn instead of flipping, or dimmers, or
even switches in the wrong rooms, like we had in our house).
Let's play a game of icons. One of these two icons means "off"
and one of them means "on". Which is it? (Hint: I am not an American.)
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