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Monday, September 11, 2017

Flat UI is retarding.

It is literally retarding. It slows the user down by nearly one-quarter on average. I've always hated it, passionately, since I noticed Apple pushing it. Now I understand why, beyond the ugly, outdated aesthetics.
The mania for "flat" user interfaces is costing publishers and ecommerce sites billions in lost revenue. A "flat" design removes the distinction between navigation controls and content. Historically, navigation controls such as buttons were shaded, or given 3D relief, to distinguish them from the application or web page's content.

The mania is credited to Microsoft with its minimalistic Zune player, an iPod clone, which was developed into the Windows Phone Series UX, which in turn became the design for Windows from Windows 8 in 2012 onwards. But Steve Jobs is also to blame. The typography-besotted Apple founder was fascinated by WP's "magazine-style" Metro design, and it was posthumously incorporated into iOS7 in 2013. Once blessed by Apple, flat designs spread to electronic programme guides on telly, games consoles and even car interfaces. And of course web sites.

Flat designs looked "cleaner" and more "modern" (Microsoft's subsequent portmanteau term for its Metro design), but there was a price to pay.

The consequence is that users find navigation harder, and so spend more time on a page. Now research by the Nielsen Norman Group has measured by how much. The company wired up 71 users, and gave them nine sites to use, tracking their eye movement and recording the time spent on content.

"On average participants spent 22 per cent more time (i.e. slower task performance) looking at the pages with weak signifiers," the firm notes. Why would that be? Users were looking for clues how to navigate. "The average number of fixations was significantly higher on the weak-signifier versions than the strong-signifier versions. On average, people had 25 per cent more fixations on the pages with weak signifiers."

The firm dispenses with the counter-argument that users were "more engaged" with the page.

"Since this experiment used targeted findability tasks, more time and effort spent looking around the page are not good. These findings don't mean that users were more 'engaged' with the pages. Instead, they suggest that participants struggled to locate the element they wanted, or weren't confident when they first saw it."
However, the failure of the WarMouse to be embraced with any widespread enthusiasm taught me that for all they like the idea of fast computers, most people are not very concerned with interface speed. If people are not particularly interested in doubling their interface speed, which we demonstrated was the norm for WarMouse Meta users, it should not be surprising that they are not overly concerned about losing 22 percent of it either.

Labels:

102 Comments:

Blogger Student in Blue September 11, 2017 8:05 AM  

People always care far more about the speed in which they're waiting on something rather than the speed in which they're doing something.

Blogger Ben Cohen September 11, 2017 8:07 AM  

Apple is very user unfriendly.

Blogger Markku September 11, 2017 8:08 AM  

It seems clear to me that FlatUI was primarily designed with the assumption that nearly all user interfaces would quickly move to touch, and mice would disappear; that it was the need that originally prompted Microsoft to start looking for a new interface style.

That of course did not materialize. So, now we're left with the style, but no reason to have it. There is one reason I love FlatUI though: It's incredibly fast to make, and you don't need to be a great artist to make one. It provides a template to work from. No creativity needed at all.

Blogger Gloriam Deo September 11, 2017 8:09 AM  

meh, flat UI isn't the biggest of concerns. It does look clean and takes a bit to get used to. But, by a few weeks in, I don't read buttons anyway, I'm not even looking at them, just pushing from memory.

Blogger James Dixon September 11, 2017 8:17 AM  

> The consequence is that users find navigation harder, and so spend more time on a page.

And thus more time viewing ads. From the webpage design view, this is a feature, not a bug.

Blogger Nate September 11, 2017 8:24 AM  

"However, the failure of the WarMouse to be embraced with any widespread enthusiasm taught me that for all they like the idea of fast computers, most people are not very concerned with interface speed."

The failure of warmouse wasn't related to the idea or the lack of a market. There are plenty of high performance mice that were clearly influenced by the warmouse. Best Buy has them all over their shelves.

The styling of the warmouse was the problem I think. It was all function... no flash.

Gamers need flash. its not enough to have a mouse that lets you pwn noobs... it also has to scream "I LET YOU PWN NOOBS!!!"

Blogger Chris Lutz September 11, 2017 8:24 AM  

However, the failure of the WarMouse to be embraced with any widespread enthusiasm taught me that for all they like the idea of fast computers, most people are not very concerned with interface speed.

I don't know about that. A mouse with 18 buttons might work for people who are serious computer users. However, it's going to confuse your average office drone who would never have a use for that many buttons ever. Plus how easy is it to hit the incorrect button?

FlatUI is a problem of interface design that has no highlights for user interaction. It works for touch devices and in situations where the user is performing repetitive tasks. It fails at showing users their options when they are not familiar with the setting.

Blogger Nate September 11, 2017 8:26 AM  

also... I have always hated flat ui. I will never not hate flat ui.

Blogger Johnny September 11, 2017 8:26 AM  

I like a clean page with little detail, the "just the facts" approach. And I like pictures if they are interesting or attractive. What I really hate is excess complexity done only for the sake of being complex. I don't know, but suspect it is the designers showing off their skill, or maybe running up the bill by making the whole thing more complex. And if I have to start hunting for a link, well, it is just that much worse.

Anonymous David of One September 11, 2017 8:28 AM  

Flat UI is very retro in the context that it reminds me of the late 70's and early 80's mainframe CRT experience. Color CRT's was a godsend for minds craving a little more "life" through color.

Technically, the UI should have been relegated to a separate processor or fully integrated with the graphics card rather than the load put upon the CPU. The proof of that load on the CPU was just moving the mouse around very fast and watching the CPU usage monitor jump up.

The "Flat UI" would seem very indicative of the rationalization of the progressive/liberal mindset that plain flat aesthetics somehow translates to a better product and end-user experience. Their dictums are very 1984ish ... very much a preview of the "state".

For myself, speed or performance has always been reduced to "If it interrupts my train of thought and/or the accomplishment of my task ... it is not fast enough."

Blogger SirGroggy September 11, 2017 8:30 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Dirtnapninja September 11, 2017 8:32 AM  

the flat designs are ugly and busy.

Blogger Ben Cohen September 11, 2017 8:39 AM  

Ugliness is what it is, just like modern architecture.

Blogger Shimshon September 11, 2017 8:39 AM  

"Gamers need flash. its not enough to have a mouse that lets you pwn noobs... it also has to scream "I LET YOU PWN NOOBS!!!""

TL;DR "It goes to 11."

Anonymous Randomatos September 11, 2017 8:40 AM  

If flat UIs are bad now, just imagine how bad it could be with star-trek style voice command layer added. A clever advertiser could hijack the command interface with audio ads...

Blogger Shimshon September 11, 2017 8:40 AM  

Speaking of "goes to 11."

Using PAV Control allows me to boost my audio output 153%. That's a gain of...11db. Linux. It really does go to 11.

Blogger Eric Slate September 11, 2017 8:42 AM  

I hate flat ui design and avoid using products made with it.

Blogger Daniel Paul Grech Pereira September 11, 2017 8:55 AM  

I still year for the terminal and the screen showing me only what I ask for.

Anonymous Athor Pel September 11, 2017 8:56 AM  

" 4. Blogger Gloriam Deo September 11, 2017 8:09 AM
meh, flat UI isn't the biggest of concerns. It does look clean and takes a bit to get used to. But, by a few weeks in, I don't read buttons anyway, I'm not even looking at them, just pushing from memory. "


to repeat

"... takes a bit to get used to. But, by a few weeks in ..."


What you just described is a crime perpetrated on you by the application designer. He is stealing your time.

Redesigning a thing that works in order to create the illusion that something is better is lying. To do it in order to generate a revenue stream is theft of your money. Planned obsolescence by forcing upgrades compounds the sin.

Tools that take longer to perform a task are defective tools. A person that sells you defective tools is not your friend. He's a thief.

Anonymous VFM #6306 September 11, 2017 8:56 AM  

I agree with Nate on WarMouse. It was dialectic. The WarMouse knockoffs use rhetoric to defend the truths it demonstrated. They come in fallout orange and stuff.

I think flat UI may be rhetoric, too. It appeals to people who have been whipsawed by speed.

Unfortunately, its rhetoric comes in the form of low performance.

Blogger roughcoat September 11, 2017 9:04 AM  

The newish Youtube look is disgusting. I mean, it wasn't exactly a work of art before--not that it needed to be--but it was far better than it is now. There's now less information displayed and it's not as distinctly defined. It's just a gray mush. Absolutely retarded.

I wouldn't care, except these UI changes never seem to incorporate an option to keep it the way it was. I mean, that would take a developer about five minutes to implement, but fuck the users and their comfort with familiar interfaces, amirite?

Most of this stuff is done, I believe, because morons who can't offer any real improvements need to justify their jobs.

And don't even get me started on the non-optional, unprompted endless scroll.

For myself, speed or performance has always been reduced to "If it interrupts my train of thought and/or the accomplishment of my task ... it is not fast enough."

Indeed. There's no good reason for the modern web to be less than apparently-instantaneous (<1 sec) for most things (obviously I'm not talking about downloads or very media heavy pages, but most page loading and whatnot), and there's really no excuse for any kind of desktop application to be less than blazing fast in most circumstances.

But here we are.

Anonymous Avalanche September 11, 2017 9:05 AM  

@5 And thus more time viewing ads.
(sorry, brief sperge for those not involved (are there any here?) in web/computer UI design, or regular design...)

Except they even have a term coined (oh, ten-plus years ago!!) for "banner blindness!" (In fact Jakob Nielsen, OF the Nielsen Norman Group, is the guy who coined it, IIRC.)

They do 'eye-tracking' studies (that's the "wired-up" in the OP) and found that people's eyes actually skipped right over the "banners" that were emblazoned across the top of the pages. Didn't even SEE them!

You may not have noticed that "web conventions" are "conventions" (also, I think, a Jakob Nielsen term) -- they are the things we "know" without knowing we know. So, you automatically look of the 'search' function ion the top right corner. And in the header of pages (now mostly NOT banner ads, because no one was 'seeing' them), you click on the logo to go to the home page. (Did you know you knew that?) Sign-in is usually top right or top center -- NOT top left or somewhere (weird) down the page.

Tippy-top right corner usually the 'close window' function on every window -- even without an icon? (I think Apple chose to break that convention... and really annoyed folks!)

Log-off is usually top right. (USAA pisses me off EVERY time I go there,because their log-off is top LEFT!)

Kinda like: in America, you EXPECT the light switch to be on the right as you enter a room. ANY / every room! So, you're feeling around of the switch -- and only pay attention when you can't find it UNconsciously with your hand! Or the blinker stalk in a car... Right?
{/sperge}

Anonymous Looking Glass September 11, 2017 9:09 AM  

I'm "new enough" that I'm having to search out this WarMouse issue.

Thoughts:

1) That's an ugly mouse
2) I think the white mice from the 90s looked better
3) My fingers look too long to comfortable use that

https://www.razerzone.com/gaming-mice/razer-naga-epic-chroma

I wondered where Razer picked up the idea of "seemingly too many buttons" on a mouse.

Using an outside site search, I can't find any mention of it beyond the occasional person asking for tech support?

Anonymous Looking Glass September 11, 2017 9:11 AM  

@21 roughcoat

Embossed or not, dedicated text box lines are always valuable from an eye control & usability perspective. The lack of them is what makes the new YouTube interface pretty terrible. You aren't finding the button, you have to find the Text then Read it.

Also, their new choice for "red" is ugly.

Anonymous Til September 11, 2017 9:18 AM  

Even moreso than Flat UI, I hate the trend towards making buttons pictures with no underlying text.

Combined with the emoji surge amongst youth, it seems we're going backwards in terms of language, like we're regressing to Egyptian heiroglyphics.

Further evidence of the retarding of society?

Anonymous Sandy September 11, 2017 9:29 AM  

Redesigning a thing that works in order to create the illusion that something is better is lying.

Tell that to whichever asshole designed Windows 8.

Anonymous Just another commenter September 11, 2017 9:36 AM  

I swear, the so-called designer who invented that must have been a blind affirmative-action hire. I've hated the "metro" and "flat" design since day one. I despise the Win10 interface. It looks like Win2 (which I actually DID use back in the day) that was "updated" for a smart-phone sized screen. Of course something that is featureless and hard to distinguish from background and content will slow you down. And, if you are surfing and task-switching a lot, there is a (relative) lot of hunting for "where exactly IS that edge?" Want to resize a window? Great, you have to find that hidden one-pixel or less line exactly to click and drag.
Grumble. Pet peeve in case you hadn't guessed. But it's good to see it's quantified, now.

Blogger Orthodox September 11, 2017 9:36 AM  

Flat UI = let's play hide and seek with the link.

Anonymous patrick kelly September 11, 2017 9:41 AM  

Marketing people shriek about our existing UI being outdated and Obsolete and how they can't sell it to anybody because of that and that this new stuff is hip and trendy and will make his billions of dollars so we have to convert everything to it and the powers-that-be side with the marketing and give us poor code monkeys our marching orders and then you Screech it us about this stupid stuff that we put out just to change it and make it mobetta according to the marketing hacks

Blogger wreckage September 11, 2017 9:51 AM  

The thing is that an advanced interface needs to be re-learned before it adds speed. That reluctance costs.

Flat UIs have nothing going for them. We spent what, 30years getting away from them, only to bring them back for no reason.

Blogger James Dixon September 11, 2017 9:52 AM  

> Marketing people shriek about our existing UI being outdated and Obsolete and how they can't sell it to anybody because of that and that this new stuff is hip and trendy and will make his billions of dollars

So separate the UI and the underlying functionality, have a clean and well designed interface between them, and allow people to choose the UI they want. Like choosing between various desktop interfaces in Linux. We've known how to do this for decades.

Blogger wreckage September 11, 2017 9:52 AM  

@26 The people who made Start8 know, they've made a very tidy profit from the stupidity of "windows modern".

Anonymous Athor Pel September 11, 2017 9:53 AM  

"15. Anonymous Randomatos September 11, 2017 8:40 AM
If flat UIs are bad now, just imagine how bad it could be with star-trek style voice command layer added. A clever advertiser could hijack the command interface with audio ads...
"


Siri and Google Voice are already being hacked using frequencies humans can't hear.

Blogger wreckage September 11, 2017 9:54 AM  

@5, that is addressed as engagement. It wasn't higher on the longer search-time pages.

Anonymous ben September 11, 2017 10:07 AM  

I prefer flat UI, but Apple sucks. MS does flat UI better.

Anonymous Philalethes September 11, 2017 10:15 AM  

@22 Avalanche

Tippy-top right corner usually the 'close window' function on every window -- even without an icon? (I think Apple chose to break that convention... and really annoyed folks!)

Uh, I don't think so. The original Macintosh UI in 1984 had the window close button at the upper left, where it still is. When Microsoft copied the Macintosh to create Windows, they put it at the upper right – I assume just to be "different", or maybe in a feeble attempt to avoid a lawsuit for their theft. I've been a Mac user since I got my first computer (a Mac Plus) in 1988, and indeed I find close buttons at the upper right in UI elements that are Windows-centric (such as Yahoo Mail's interface) a continuing annoyance, since they are contrary to my own user habit.

So should Apple bow to "majority rule" and change their interface – as in fact they have done with a lot of things, like replacing the classic Mac OS's intelligent file metadata with Windows 3.0-style file name extensions? Seems unlikely with close buttons anyway.

@21 roughcoat

Most of this stuff is done, I believe, because morons who can't offer any real improvements need to justify their jobs.

Yeah, a lot of what I see in System and other software upgrades is in this category. Meanwhile, they don't fix what needs it: for instance, the Finder in Mac OS X remains buggy and inferior in many respects to what just worked in the classic Mac OS.

And I agree with the OP. I preferred the original iOS interface, with icons that had some character. As did those in MacOS in earlier years; the flat ones are okay, but not so engaging. And I've often wondered why, when the basic text editor I'm using to write this is 4.4MB in size – nearly a quarter the size of the entire 20MB hard disk I bought for $600 in 1989 – my present Mac doesn't really seem any faster than my original Mac Plus. (And why I have to open this page in Goolag Chrome to comment, since the function doesn't appear in Safari.)

Blogger SouthRon September 11, 2017 10:24 AM  

Real men don't like flat anything.

UI, beer, women...

Anonymous A Deplorable Paradigm Is More Than Twenty Cents September 11, 2017 10:30 AM  

.If only there was some sort methodical way to study the interaction between humans and computers.
If only.

Anonymous fop September 11, 2017 10:36 AM  

@16 Shimson

153% increase is 4dB, not 11db.

Blogger Gloriam Deo September 11, 2017 10:46 AM  

Athor Pel wrote:" 4. Blogger Gloriam Deo September 11, 2017 8:09 AM

meh, flat UI isn't the biggest of concerns. It does look clean and takes a bit to get used to. But, by a few weeks in, I don't read buttons anyway, I'm not even looking at them, just pushing from memory. "


to repeat

"... takes a bit to get used to. But, by a few weeks in ..."

What you just described is a crime perpetrated on you by the application designer. He is stealing your time.

Redesigning a thing that works in order to create the illusion that something is better is lying. To do it in order to generate a revenue stream is theft of your money. Planned obsolescence by forcing upgrades compounds the sin.

Tools that take longer to perform a task are defective tools. A person that sells you defective tools is not your friend. He's a thief.



Prehaps, but most things take a little bit to get used to. If you are used to one way of doing them, the new way will need to trained into you. In my day to day life, the flat UI makes very little difference. Honestly, what causes bigger headaches is the needlessly simplistic controls. Even windows has been "apple"-ed. It takes ten times as long to do a simply task because they insist on baby stepping you through it. This is why I hate macs and barely tolerate Windows 10. If it gets any worse, I might go back to Linux, compatibility issues be damned.

Blogger NO GOOGLES September 11, 2017 10:50 AM  

I'm not surprised the WarMouse wasn't adopted. The design of it is lacking in some aspects (where are you supposed to comfortably rest your index and middle finger without hitting a button? why is the cord so short? buttons should have been better designed with more tactile differentation between them) and it requires actual setup and practice to get used to it. Those last two things mean that 95% of PC users aren't going to bother. It's just like redesigning the QWERTY keyboard: there's a TON of potential for a better alternative, but there's zero chance you're going to get everyone on board with relearning how to type.

Anonymous Looking Glass September 11, 2017 10:58 AM  

I guess the WarMouse was from the days before cross-promotion on VP? Though I did find the patent filings. (Along with Vox apparently owning a patent on in-game AI?)

Separate keypads really have always seemed more efficient for the added speed functionality approach. Though I know people that have sworn by their Razer Nagas, so to each his own.

Anonymous VFM #6306 September 11, 2017 10:59 AM  

1) That's an ugly mouse
2) I think the white mice from the 90s looked better
3) My fingers look too long to comfortable use that


You are missing a lot of context. It was the first mouse of its kind and it is superior in function to most multi-button mouses on market today, 10 years later. Your fingers would have been fine on it, even if you were Count Orlock. It was never about the look, it was always about the function.

I would argue that had it looked like AlienWare in 2008 (or whenever it came out), but been no different in design, it would have done great. One other thing, though: there was some sort of issue with the manufacturer that I can't recall anymore. I think it actually enjoyed decent sales but was abandoned because production or repair was a hassle or something.

Blogger Dwight House September 11, 2017 11:11 AM  

Studies have also shown that unless you improve performance by at least 10 to 20%, users aren't going to notice anyway.

I had always been suspicious of flat design, but it does have some other advantages: it is much more efficient to render and its specification requires less space, both important in web development. But probably not important enough to overcome this slowdown in user recognition.

Anonymous kHz September 11, 2017 11:13 AM  

Rant activated. Whilst I've enjoyed one or two games on consoles, it's never been enough to justify the travesty of game controllers. Our hands are our largest neuron investment, and reducing myself to a few buttons and a thumbstick is an insult, and not enjoyable. Perhaps it's because I grew up with keyboard/mouse so the dopamine training is geared that way for me, yet knowing what I know, game controllers are retarded. Varying distance between inputs creates enjoyable novelty.

With a gamepad/gaming keyboard/gaming mouse you have more buttons within 'instant' reach, yet the greater complexity itself is satisfying, and makes up for the lack of distance between inputs - the real benefit being speed, obviously, which is the reward which justifies it.

Flat UI though, makes almost no use of our visual ability to perceive space through gradients, which communicate hierarchies of relationships. It's not too far out there to call it visual-communism, and it just doesn't work well.

Tradition, self-evident hierarchies, depth FTW.

Blogger beerme September 11, 2017 11:19 AM  

@32 Stardock has carved out quite a niche making games and fixing stupid UI. I'm shocked that game designers would understand good UI /s

Blogger James Dixon September 11, 2017 11:27 AM  

> 153% increase is 4dB, not 11db.

You had to do that, didn't you? :)

OK, here are three pages on the subject:

https://www.sweetwater.com/forums/showthread.php?23435-dB-increase-3-or-6
http://gbhsweb.glenbrook225.org/gbs/science/phys/Class/sound/u11l2b.html
https://infogalactic.com/info/Decibel

An increase of 153% is 2.53 times as much.

A doubling of "loudness" is pretty much defined as 10db. A doubling of voltage is 6db. A doubling of power is 3db (because power is voltage times current, and if you double the voltage on a constant resistance you also double the current). So which is he talking about?

If it's power, 2.53x is about 4db. If it's voltage, it's about 8db. If it's loudness I *think* it's between 13db and 14db, but I'm not certain.

Blogger Orville September 11, 2017 11:29 AM  

Just be glad you don't have to design sites to be 508 compliant, it's a major PITA with the recently updated standards.

Blogger Shimshon September 11, 2017 11:39 AM  

@39 Fop, a correction. The scale is from 0% (-infinity db) to 100% (0db) to 153% 11db. I don't understand, myself. But...it does go to 11!

Anonymous Bob September 11, 2017 11:43 AM  

These new attempts at shifting behavior to meet a UI design remind me of OS/2. The thought was that the interface should be object-oriented, so that if you wanted to write a letter you didn't choose the tool, you just chose the icon for writing a letter and the tool would be engaged. If you wanted a spreadsheet you simply asked for a spreadsheet, not for the spreadsheet program.

MS absorbed some of this design, and it is not altotgether wrong, but it isn't how humans work at a creative level. If I am going to change the plugs in my truck I don't go for the truck and expect it to all be there. First I go get the plugs. Using the truck. Then I find the tool I need to replace the plugs. I have multiple choices, I can dig through my toolbox for the padded plug sopcket and long extension, or I can just grab a 13/16 deep socket and a paper towel. Maybe I can't find the long extension, so I grab two short extensions. Maybe I already have what I need laying out fromn another project. Maybe I decide to try a 1/4 setup with an adapter. Maybe I don'tr want to go inside and just want to use the stamped plug wrench that is in the toolbox in the truck itself. Maybe I pick up the tools when I pick up the plugs just so I'll have the latest and greatest.

The disconnect between interface designers and practical creators of actual work goes way back IMO.

Anonymous Jack Amok September 11, 2017 12:13 PM  

FlatUI originated in web browsers and early smartphones, two underpowered graphics platforms. Rendering the old 3D buttons was difficult, so flat was a necessity. Designers are faddish know-nothings (and FlatUI makes their job a whole lot easier too), so they adopted it with open arms.

Tell that to whichever asshole designed Windows 8.

Steve Sinofsky was in charge of Windows at the time. A whole bunch of people told him it was a terrible idea. He finally got so tired of hearing it, he said he would fire the next guy who told him it was a bad idea.

He got fired shortly after the general public started telling MSFT it was a bad idea.

Anonymous Here's a nickel, kid. Get yourself a better computer. September 11, 2017 12:28 PM  

Shimshon wrote:Speaking of "goes to 11."

Using PAV Control allows me to boost my audio output 153%. That's a gain of...11db. Linux. It really does go to 11.


Poetteringware? No thanks.

Blogger YIH September 11, 2017 12:46 PM  

NO GOOGLES wrote:I'm not surprised the WarMouse wasn't adopted. The design of it is lacking in some aspects (where are you supposed to comfortably rest your index and middle finger without hitting a button? why is the cord so short? buttons should have been better designed with more tactile differentation between them) and it requires actual setup and practice to get used to it. Those last two things mean that 95% of PC users aren't going to bother. It's just like redesigning the QWERTY keyboard: there's a TON of potential for a better alternative, but there's zero chance you're going to get everyone on board with relearning how to type.
Perfect example: https://infogalactic.com/info/Dvorak_Simplified_Keyboard
The QWERTY keyboard was literally designed to slow down typists to minimize hammer collisions on manual typewriters. This redesigned it to put the most used letters (in English) in the ''home row'' to make typing faster and more comfortable. Trouble is, few have any interest in relearning to type - and having to reconfigure every keyboard they use. Essentially the same problem with the WarMouse.

Blogger HalibetLector September 11, 2017 12:50 PM  

Til wrote:Combined with the emoji surge amongst youth, it seems we're going backwards in terms of language, like we're regressing to Egyptian hieroglyphics.

It's a side product of the limited screen size and lack of input options on mobile devices. Text takes up too much space compared to an emoji. Typing text in slow and difficult whereas picking emojis from a list is a fast and simple way of expressing complex ideas. Unfortunately, the regression will continue until we come up with a more efficient way of entering text into a phone.

Anonymous Engineer September 11, 2017 1:07 PM  

The 22% statistic greatly understates the effect. The differences between the "strong" user interfaces and the "weak" user interfaces were subtle. Basically, it was a comparison between "mostly flat" user interfaces and "flat" user interfaces.

In three out of the nine test cases, the differences between the "mostly flat" user interfaces and the "flat" user interfaces were either so subtle that they did not affect user performance, or the differences involved design features that do not matter. Presumably, the other six test cases had performance differences greater than 22%.

My hypothesis is that much larger differences could be measured between "normal" user interfaces and "flat" user interfaces.

Blogger Akulkis September 11, 2017 1:19 PM  

@10

"Technically, the UI should have been relegated to a separate processor or fully integrated with the graphics card rather than the load put upon the CPU. The proof of that load on the CPU was just moving the mouse around very fast and watching the CPU usage monitor jump up."

Well of course, moving the mouse makes the CPU monitor jump... because the Mouse is connected to a serial port, which is connected to the CPU bus....so that the main CPU can figure out which window it's pointing at (if any), and therefore, which of severa to dozens of programs should be sent, say, a "right click" signal when the user does a right-click with the mouse.


It's NOT connected to the graphics processor(*)


(*) and shouldn't be(!) because the purpose of the graphics processor is to DO GRAPHICS, not to be a 2nd general purpose CPU. The GPU's purpose is NOT to figure out where input is coming from, and how to interpret it,
and which process to send I/O signals to.

If you're a computer engineer, you suck at it.

If you're NOT a computer engineer, I suggest that you refrain from further discussions about such subjects.

Blogger mgh September 11, 2017 1:55 PM  

Changing a perfectly good UI is like rearranging a room. A pointless exercise that every woman has to do. I betcha a woman was in charge of the UI redesign.

Blogger Doc Rampage September 11, 2017 2:12 PM  

Dwight House wrote:I had always been suspicious of flat design, but it does have some other advantages: it is much more efficient to render and its specification requires less space, both important in web development.

What are you taking about? If the controls are bitmapped there is no difference at all. If you draw the controls, you have to draw a few extra lines to represent border and shadow. That's nothing compared to the font rendering.

Blogger Aeoli Pera September 11, 2017 2:15 PM  

Always be wary of people who are a bit too fond of the aesthetics of Apple, Disney, or spaceflight.

Anonymous patrick kelly September 11, 2017 2:31 PM  

"So separate the UI and the underlying functionality, have a clean and well designed interface between them"

This we did. Not the issue.

" and allow people to choose the UI they want."

Yeah, about that, the marketing gurus and PTB decide they would force everyone to use the new UI so they could lead them to the promised land.


" Like choosing between various desktop interfaces in Linux. We've known how to do this for decades."

I like the way you Linux guys think. I'm working on getting up to speed, contributing to an open source project, develop some new skillz, and escape my current hell.

Blogger Doc Rampage September 11, 2017 2:33 PM  

The problem with UI design is that some people are more concerned with aesthetics while others are more concerned with functionality. This is correlated with intelligence. Less intelligent people don't grasp the functionality issues, so for them the only issues that they can see--the aesthetics--dominate.

Programming UIs tends to be tedious and not very challenging to get mostly working, so that task tended to go to the less skilled programmers, who eventually turned it into its own little subprofession for people who want to be programmers but don't have the chops to write the applications. Naturally, these people, being less intelligent, focus on the aesthetics and don't even really grasp the efficiency issues.

That is a big part of the reason that UIs are getting progressively worse over time. You see it in open-source projects like Gnome and KDE as well as in corporations.

However, there is also the customer base which has greatly expanded over time to include more women, younger people, and non-technical people. These groups are all more likely to care more about aesthetics, so the dumbed-down pretty UIs sell well. Basically, modern UIs are designed for teenage girls who want to be fashion designers.

Blogger Gloriam Deo September 11, 2017 2:58 PM  

something a lot of people are missing about UI design change:
There is a lot of griping over needless changes. True, they are largely nonfunctional changes, but these changes enable the marketing guys and the sales guys to push more product. A prettier screen will almost always be seen as the next best thing by the public. As annoying as it is to someone who knows what they are doing, to the average joe, it doesnt make a difference.

Anonymous FP September 11, 2017 3:07 PM  

@56

Maybe he's thinking of Win7's Aero UI effects. They moved away from gpu aided UI for compatibility with lower end hardware, especially since they were pushing to go into touch screen devices with a hybrid OS in Win8.

Which is the main issue for MSFT since 8, the fanatical hybrid OS design. They refused to recognize that sometimes you cannot mix two things together or at the very least, give people a choice of desktop vs touchscreen mode. Then they doubled down and demonized anyone who couldn't/wouldn't learn their new efficient UI. Win8/10 is the first windows OS where I felt required to run a custom UI mod program like Start8 or Classic Shell.

At least now I have a new study to point to when teasing the Windows White Knights defending Redmond's honor.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine September 11, 2017 3:41 PM  

I think the warmouse fell victim to the 2SD gap, Vox.

Apart from it maybe not being as comfortable as some others, I'm really not seeing the downsides, and the joystick is a big bonus.

Compared to the razor I have with a dumb 12 button pad where your thumb goes (that I never use for anything and constantly gets accidentally-pressed when I pick up the mouse to move it) this could be almost nothing but an upgrade.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine September 11, 2017 3:48 PM  

Aaaand... that's exactly the mouse I have, @23. Looking Glass.

Blogger tublecane September 11, 2017 4:07 PM  

"Flat designs looked 'cleaner' and more 'modern' (Microsoft's subsequent portmanteau term for its Metro design)"

What does this mean? What term?

Blogger weka September 11, 2017 4:10 PM  

You have explained why I don't like gnome and kde, and stick to cinnamon and/or lxde. Those UIs have clues that allow me do do more work.

Concur that the warmouse failed because the reviewers have memories of goldfishes. MPAI, after all.

Blogger tublecane September 11, 2017 4:13 PM  

Speaking of "cleaner" and more "modern," I've long assumed most of the point of modernism was to annoy regular people and reward those who "get it," whether or not they actually like it.

Modern decor, much like "flat" user interfaces, is cold and inhuman, like living or working in a laboratory. Not that anyone actually lives or works in it (not counting lab technicians). I see it on tv, but everywhere I've been in real-life with modern decor, people bring in all sorts of crap to cover up every square inch. Because they don't want to live in the movie Sleeper.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine September 11, 2017 4:16 PM  

And as someone else said, yes, 153% increase isn't even close to 11dB. dB are an exponential metric. Every +3dB is twice as loud as before, so +11dB is something like +1,270% volume

Blogger tublecane September 11, 2017 4:29 PM  

@25-"Combined with the emoji surge among youth, it seems we're going backwards in terms of language"

I wish it were just youth. But yes, obviously language skills are in decline. Or at least it is in the middle. (Perhaps first-generation transplanted Somali peasants are better at English than they were in 1993, when they were still in Somaliland. And the elite have been declining forever and can't get any lower.) That comes with the "post-literate" society.

I'd be fine with it if emojis were used to express things people have trouble expressing with their words. Like sarcasm, for instance . Because I don't expect everyone to be a little H.L. Mencken. But people use them willy-nilly, to the point where they may as well not be there 90+% of the time.

Or maybe that's just me, and my eyes pass over them without registering their deep significance because I'm prejudiced. Only I try sometimes, I swear, to figure out why they're there at all. And when it's not to convey a message that could easily be conveyed by a Homer Simpson with the regular means of communication provided to every speaker of English, they usually mean nothing.

It's like those foreign countries--India, or whichever--where every driver honks their horn the whole time they're driving. They may as well not be honking at all.

Blogger Thucydides September 11, 2017 4:41 PM  

An interesting and subtle way to sell "alt tech" and infiltrate ideas into the population. If Alt tech tools, apps and software is designed with non flat interfaces (indeed with superior ergonomics for users), then it will be adopted and spread by word of mouth.

Managers will be impressed by a 22% increase in speed (which is actually astounding, given most improvements are measured in single digits), productivity equals new wealth, and few companies will turn that down.

And this creates opportunities to build network effects, since there is no reason that these products can't have Brave, links to Infogalactic and so on as the default choices. This will encourage more people to see and interact with the larger communities of information and ideas outside of the narrow bubbles being created by the Tech industry and SJW's, but quietly and without the sort of fanfare which attracts the attention of the enemy.

Well worth considering.

Anonymous John VI September 11, 2017 5:01 PM  

Viewing Ads and ads being present on a page are radically different things. If you spend all your energy trying to escape a page do you think you are going to remember any ads there positively or negatively?

Blogger Rez Zircon September 11, 2017 5:17 PM  

More on the problem, from THE usability experts:

https://www.nngroup.com/articles/flat-ui-less-attention-cause-uncertainty/

Me, I hate the flat UI with a passion. It's one of the reasons I will never use Win8/10. And now the horrid flat UI has contaged to linux; KDE's default style is the same (but fortunately can be changed to something more useful).

And aside from flat UI being gawdawful to use -- it's UGLY.

Blogger tublecane September 11, 2017 5:19 PM  

@51-Windows 8 was so mind-bogglingly bad I figured it must have been intentionally designed that way. A diabolical marketing trick to sell us the improved Windows 9, or maybe a mad science experiment, like Mystery Science Theater.

Good to know it was mere incompetence, and the result of the old "la-la-la, I can't hear you!" trick.

Anonymous Bukulu September 11, 2017 5:38 PM  

Markku @ 3,

You are correct as to the origin (or at least a significant factor in the origin.)

BUT I have never understood the reasoning behind it--surely tapping on a distinctive button is just as easy as tapping on an indistinct one?


Philalethes @ 36:

Make that DOS 1.0 file name extensions. Or probably more accurately, DEC RT-11 file name extensions.

Blogger Starboard September 11, 2017 5:40 PM  

Not being terribly technical, I had to look up Flat UI to make sure I knew what you all were discussing. Yes, I hate Flat UI in general and Windows 8 in particular. Windows 10 was an improvement, but the whole idea of brightly colored tiles needs to be trashed. It's both annoying and ugly, and it really does slow this user down.

Anonymous FP September 11, 2017 5:50 PM  

tublecane wrote:"Flat designs looked 'cleaner' and more 'modern' (Microsoft's subsequent portmanteau term for its Metro design)"

What does this mean? What term?


The Win8 interface was originally called "Metro" (and in other MS products before it). There were rumblings of lawsuits over the Metro name by German company Metro AG, so they conveniently changed it to "Modern".

Blogger Dirk Manly September 11, 2017 5:53 PM  

@Patrick Kelly

Instead of being a poor code-monkey who codes stupid stuff because your company expects you to obey thevifiotic whims of stupid people, go find a better position...and then quit the job you're at now. And at the exit interview, tell them EXACTLY What motivated you to just up and leave.

And once you have a new position lined up, encourage ad many coworkers to do the same. When half of the coders leave, maybe management will start to put adults in charge... But even if they don't... Not your problem anymore.

Blogger tublecane September 11, 2017 6:10 PM  

@77-In what way is "modern" a portmanteau? Or was the article misusing "portmanteau?"

Anonymous Wrong lesson from the WarMouse I think September 11, 2017 6:29 PM  

The failure of the WarMouse wasn't due to users, IMO. It failed for the same reason most endeavors fail, i.e. under capitalization. The WarMouse wasn't an entirely new idea. Kurta drafting tablets were used quite broadly from the early days of CAD software well into the '90s. But bringing an 18-button mouse to the public was going to take more than one hail-mary V1 device. And that V1 device was going to need to be supported for longer than 18 months, or however long it was before the shop folded up. Even knowing it was a V1 product, I happily paid the $90. I wasn't, however, planning keeping a WindowsXP machine around in order to use the required software without issues until the heat death of the universe.

The hardware itself wasn't bad. I still haul it around to use with the laptop when I'm somewhere with enough space to use a mouse. It's embarrassing only when people ask me about it and I have to admit that I can't program the buttons on the Mac laptop.

As for flat UIs, they are terrible, yes. But they would be perfectly usable if they were anything close to consistent. Instead we have plus signs, and minus signs, and double-carats and thin lines spread around the screen as if the designer laid out the UI with a shotgun.

An argument could be made that vi and emacs have a "flat UI". They are beloved by their (completely separate and mutually antagonistic) users because they remained largely consistent for decades. We have a large body of experience with UIs, and that's the one constant that is mostly ignored, even by Apple.

(For phones, the Blackberry with hardware keyboard had the best mobile UI ever, at least for handling mobile communications. And the Blackberry OS was a slow, lardy sumbitch.)

Blogger Tatooine Sharpshooters' Club September 11, 2017 6:36 PM  

I'd be fine with it if emojis were used to express things people have trouble expressing with their words.

Unfortunately, many emojis and the often inept way they're used results in more confusion (Is that a dancing women or a bloody axe? Either way, what does it mean?).

They can provide useful filtering, e.g. anyone unironically using the handclap emoji after every word is someone to be avoided at all costs.

Blogger dtungsten September 11, 2017 7:48 PM  

Microsoft's UI was called Metro, then they changed it to 'Modern' due to some trademark type issue.

The word 'Modern' not being a portmanteau as far as I know, I was also similarly confused. Clearly the sentence was the result of someone stupid trying to sound smart.

Blogger James Dixon September 11, 2017 8:40 PM  

> You have explained why I don't like gnome and kde, and stick to cinnamon and/or lxde.

Exactly. Though I prefer XFCE.

Blogger Markku September 11, 2017 8:47 PM  

BUT I have never understood the reasoning behind it--surely tapping on a distinctive button is just as easy as tapping on an indistinct one?

I think everything started from the thought "all interactable elements must be enough both in horizontal and vertical size (preferably square if at all possible) to be comfortably touched without error". That lead to all buttons having to be larger than before, and most of them square. The rest followed from there.

Blogger Markku September 11, 2017 8:49 PM  

Also, resizable areas (pseudo-windows) needed to go away, since it's very difficult to resize them using touch. So, this lead to a grid being the fundamental design philosophy.

Blogger Markku September 11, 2017 8:51 PM  

The only comfortable interactions you can do with touch are to tap something, to scroll/swipe by moving your finger, and to pinch-zoom. So, everything needed to be designed around these.

Blogger Rez Zircon September 12, 2017 12:55 AM  

For those who liked old (but not new) KDE, hate modern Gnome, and find Cinnamon, Mate, and XFCE too limiting... try Trinity. As a UI it's KDE3.5 and WinXP in a blender.

http://trinitydesktop.org/

I like the PCLinuxOS incarnation (in fact, after almost 20 years of trying distros, that's finally one I can live with.)

Blogger Akulkis September 12, 2017 1:22 AM  

@52

"Poetteringware? No thanks.

Ain't that the truth.

I bought a new laptop (my last one, which I bought just before serving a tour in Iraq, 2006-7, finally died 2 years ago... and it's precisely because of the complete and utter freaking catastrophic mess caused by p[oetteringware (i.e. systemd aka "svchost.exe on Linux") that I've puttered around with Windows on this laptop for 2 years, waiting for a decent distro (one that has reasonable amount of software builds in repositories) to fumigate itself and get rid of systemd.

Unfortunately, the only reputable distro out there without systemd is Gentoo.... and... well, while I like some things about Gentoo, I'm not convinced that it's the most reliable thing to have for your primary machine.

I used to LOVE SuSE Linux, but since they have taken to out and out insulting the userbase over this issue (just like they did when they rushed KDE 4 as the default GUI even though it was still, at best, beta-test-ware, over KDE 3)... that was the last straw.

Why does it seem like the world is being taken over by Idiots!

Blogger Akulkis September 12, 2017 1:28 AM  

@53

Re Dvorak keyboards.

Literally NO studies have ever shown Dvorak keyboards to be more productive than the standard keyboard, EXCEPT for a couple studies run by Navy Ensign Dvorak himself.

Everything you wrote is a myth. It *sounds* good... even real. The only thing close to the truth among what you wrote is that QWERTY was designed to keep typists from jamming keys (not slow them down) by putting keys that tended to be jammed together on opposite sides of the keyboard. This actually SPEEDS UP typing, because the mose frequent letter combinations, such as ch, sh, th, ie, ti, ot, or, are not merely on different fingers, but opposite hands.

Anonymous I'm a bigger nerd than you are, let me show you my references September 12, 2017 1:46 AM  

Markku wrote:Also, resizable areas (pseudo-windows) needed to go away, since it's very difficult to resize them using touch. So, this lead to a grid being the fundamental design philosophy.

This came from the retarded idea that you had to touchtype on a screen keyboard. The touch screen is calibrated for the keyboard, not your fat finger on a Web page.

You'll recognize this as common behavior because your mouse stops working well when you press a function key on your keyboard, OH WAIT NO IT DOESN'T THAT'S NOT HOW COMPUTERS WORK AT ALL.

Your touch interface sucks because it has to act primarily as a keyboard. It also sucks because UI interfaces don't work well when you're poking your aforementioned fat finger at a space calibrated to accommodate slender Asian digits.

While we're here, if you want a better Unix experience, install one of the BSDs or maybe Slackware and stop fagging out over how your window manager is better than another window manager. If you want a window manager, buy a Mac and be done with it. KDE doesn't suck, KDE sucks because autistics are trying to make Unix palatable for normals.

Blogger Akulkis September 12, 2017 2:07 AM  

KDE 3 is great

KDE 4 is the girl in a Tijuana donkey show.

Anonymous I'm sticking with Window Maker September 12, 2017 2:12 AM  

KDE is the donkey show. KDE 4 is where you decided to sign on to donkey shows.

Anonymous It's never because you're not as smart as you think you are, that's a given September 12, 2017 2:32 AM  

However, the failure of the WarMouse to be embraced with any widespread enthusiasm taught me that for all they like the idea of fast computers, most people are not very concerned with interface speed.

Let's not forget that this was the takeaway lesson for VD as to why the WarMouse failed: people didn't want to work faster with their expensive mouse.

Blogger Harambe September 12, 2017 3:09 AM  

How does taking a fraction of a second longer to click a button translate to billions in lost revenue?

Blogger Akulkis September 12, 2017 3:17 AM  

@92

You have obviously never used KDE 3.

Blogger Akulkis September 12, 2017 3:19 AM  

@94

It's not the click of the button... it's the time wasted doing deep visual processing to figure out what the hell is graphics on the page, and what the hell is a GUI control button... .because NO VISUAL CUES like a shaded border on 2 sides, and brightened border on the other 2 sides

Anonymous Oh, and go fuck yourself and your pedophile ancestors just for fun September 12, 2017 3:29 AM  

Harambe wrote:How does taking a fraction of a second longer to click a button translate to billions in lost revenue?

Ask VD, he made the goddamn thing.

Blogger roughcoat September 12, 2017 5:50 AM  

Harambe wrote:How does taking a fraction of a second longer to click a button translate to billions in lost revenue?

Because people who would otherwise have been customers did not spend money for a reason related to the bad UI, not just because it takes a fraction of a second longer to click a button. Or depending how the revenue comes in, perhaps they didn't click or view things that would've resulted in increased ad revenue.

It's obvious that Flat UI = friction. Even if it's a small amount, it matters at scale.

Blogger wreckage September 12, 2017 6:15 AM  

At scale, fractions matter. Just say that the delay and confusion irked you to within 1/100th of being pissed off enough to not bother buying.

That means that out of 100 views, 1 was irked enough to not buy, regardless.
So that means out of ten thousand views.... what about a million? And if say, a thousand devices or sites use the same interface? What about ten thousand?

Further, price is driven by utility, which in the case of economics is almost impossible to separate from enjoyment. A clunky UI is, in consumer economics, quite literally destroying money by its mere existence.

Blogger James Dixon September 12, 2017 6:35 AM  

> ...try Trinity.

I second this suggestion. I prefer a lightweight desktop myself, but Trinity is the best of the full desktop environments.

> Unfortunately, the only reputable distro out there without systemd is Gentoo

Slackware isn't reputable? There's also Devuan, which is full fork of Debian.

> At scale, fractions matter. Just say that the delay and confusion irked you to within 1/100th of being pissed off enough to not bother buying.

Or merely slowed you down enough that you never got to the 100th page that day.

Blogger wreckage September 12, 2017 9:21 AM  

@100 yep, and in the clickthrough driven online world, that really is a problem.

Blogger Harambe September 12, 2017 10:01 AM  

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