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🔗 The decline of the user interface

When we first got the personal computer, we didn't worry much about how things worked. We were, frankly, stunned that we even had such a thing. You had to learn some arcane lingo to type into a DOS prompt. That the computer might be difficult or awkward to use didn't occur to us. But things gradually got more sophisticated, and when the original Macintosh came out with its powerful graphical user interface, we started realizing that the process of interacting with a computer could matter to us.

Software developers started having to think not only about how the program was going to get the job done, but also about how the user was going to interact with the program to get the job done. It became clear that a good user interface was something that would sell more software. If it were easy and intuitive to interact with an application, then users could get more done and would love the application.

Standardization was the first step. One of the things that the Macintosh, and later Windows, did was to make a lot of the computer interactions we take for granted today "normal." The File menu, with options like New, Open, Save, and Exit, became commonplace. Dialog boxes had Ok and Cancel buttons, and all of these things did what they were expected to do.

This idea culminated in a seminal book by Alan Cooper, et. al., called About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, which codified and explained many of the design patterns that computer users have come to expect, as well as blazing a trail for new ideas that made human interaction with computers work better.

Sadly, everywhere you go on the web these days you can see that these very useful, helpful notions are being lost.

continue reading on infoworld.com

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