Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Learning Log 1: Keyboard

An interface we use every day is the computer keyboard. The way it is arranged does not make any sense in relationship to the order of the alphabet. The reason for it's arrangement is because it prevented typewriters from becoming stuck. The reason we still have it today is simply because of tradition, nobody wanted to change something that everyone was already happy with. But it was not designed this way with ease of use in mind. As children we find it very hard to use, hunting with our index fingers for the right keys. We have to take classes in school and take years of our lives to deeply ingrain this function into our brains so we don't have to think about it. But for something so important in our daily lives, that doesn't really make sense. To research if another model is more intuitive and allowed faster typing and ease of learning would make sense, but it would be near impossible and very impractical try to make everyone switch to a new model. Our present keyboard model will probably never change. On the other hand, a very good part of this design is the two bumps on the f and j keys. We don't have to look at the keyboard to position our hands, but can do it solely by feel.

Learning Log 1: Reading Response

I found Norman's writing exciting and it made me think about things I've always taken for granted, and never really gave a second thought. I never realized how many interfaces we interact with in our daily lives. And I never considered the designers, and the difficulty balancing function and ease of use. The best designs are those with a very natural learning curve, that are simple, intuitive, and straightforward, like a lightswitch. On the other hand, interfaces sometimes need to control complex tasks, like washing laundry, and simplifying them creates confusion. But as long as everything in a complex interface has a clear function, it can be understood. I don't have to think much about the controls in a car, because they are clearly labeled and easily within reach.

The most important aspect of an interface is feedback, so the user has direct response for their actions. Audio and visual cues are very important. Feedback should have a clear relationship to the action being performed, such as a phone beeping in increasing loudness as the volume is turned up. Something that frustrates me a lot is inverted controls, where an action produces the opposite result. An example would be in a flight simulator game, where a push of the joystick makes the plane go in the opposite direction. Games often have an option to invert the controls, and some people prefer them that way, but I can't imagine why. It requires that you form a new conceptual map and ignore what your instincts tell you.