The first rule of interface design is that nothing is ever to blame on the end user. If you walk up to a coffee machine you should be able to get a cup of coffee. We shall assume you are an intelligent person so if you need help with the device it suggests the interface was designed poorly. I have a key on my logitec keyboard that reads "Prt Scr SysRq" it was designed by a nerd who can not grasp interface design. Sticking a [HELP] button on there would be entirely obvious for anyone. Highjacking the [F1] key for this makes absolutely no sense. Any sane person using the coffee machine should be able to use the coffee machine. The [Coffee with sugar] button should never read [Xrag tm Nurswt]
When asking why the button doesn't read [Coffee] a response pointing out the obvious like: "all Xrag machines work like this" is not uncommon. Explaining something suggests the person is not aware of the thing you are explaining, pointing out the obvious to justify not pointing out the obvious. Or something like "Those are the rules". I'm most interested in "That is just the way we do things" kind of responses. It's not that I don't understand this, I'm just wondering what it means?
This logic "Oh that is just the way things work" begs to question how the way things work happened in the first place. Only inexperienced users don't know how to "make" coffee. All you have to do is press [Xrag tm Nurswt hp] and read the [hp Xrag ph] documentation.txt5 hypertext747? no?
It is like with machine code, every CPU has a set of instructions you can give it. In stead of giving it instructions in it's native language we have people learn C+ C++ C++++++++ Jaffa, Ruby on Rallly etc etc For some magical reason it is assumed this is actually easier. (ehm haha?) Then we compile, interpret work around the bugs and write additional layers of programing language on top. Something as simple as storing a value in memory now takes a small library in text files. It is pretty obvious the whole method is a mad house. This is just the way things work and it is "easier". No one is ever going to do anything about it. This we know for sure. CPU's will be instructed in gibberish US English till the end of time. The only reason machine code is hard to write is that the vendors accepted the "easier" without objectively comparing it now is "That is just the way we do things".
It doesn't seem like a big deal but it really is.
They keyboard basically is a typewriter. Look at the way the numbers are placed on the numpad and compare it with your telephone. I can dial phone numbers fast as lightning, I can type supa fast to but using the numpad is entirely non obvious. For a calculator the numpad is really quite ill equipped. It misses all the vital keys and it doesn't have a display.
I know I know this sounds like a general rant but I assure you there is more to the topic than meets the eye. This "Just the way we do things" ends up being "Just do whatever" !?
The first practical typewriter was patented in the United States in 1868 by Christopher Latham Sholes. His machine was known as the type-writer. It had a movable carriage, a lever for turning paper from line to line, and a keyboard on which the letters were arranged in alphabetical order.
But Sholes had a problem. On his first model, his "ABC" key arrangement caused the keys to jam when the typist worked quickly. Sholes didn't know how to keep the keys from sticking, so [B]his solution was to keep the typist from typing too fast.[/B]
He did this using a study of letter-pair frequency prepared by educator Amos Densmore, brother of James Densmore, who was Sholes' chief financial backer. The QWERTY keyboard itself was determined by the existing mechanical linkages of the typebars inside the machine to the keys on the outside. Sholes' solution did not eliminate the problem completely, but it was greatly reduced.
The keyboard arrangement was considered important enough to be included on Sholes' patent granted in 1878, some years after the machine was into production. QWERTY's effect, by reducing those annoying clashes, was to speed up typing rather than slow it down.
The new arrangement was the "QWERTY" arrangement that typists use today. Of course, Sholes claimed that the new arrangement was scientific and would add speed and efficiency. The only efficiency it added was to slow the typist down, since almost any word in the English language required the typist's fingers to cover more distance on the keyboard.
The advantages of the typewriter outweighed the disadvantages of the keyboard. Typists memorized the crazy letter arrangement, and the typewriter became a huge success.
It seems our computers (computation devices) are full of fixes for things that weren't broken. If that is just the way we do things that that really says a lot about our ways of doing things. Trying to change things after the "Just the way we do things" kicks in is virtually impossible.
NASA one time wanted to change the "Just the way we do things":
In September 1999, Mars Climate Orbiter probe was destroyed because its attitude-control system used imperial units but its navigation software used metric units. It was 100 kilometres too close to Mars when it tried to enter orbit around the planet. Converting the relevant drawings, software and documentation to the "International System" of units (SI) would cost a total of $370 million � almost half the cost of a 2009 shuttle launch, which costs a total of $759 million. The Climate probe only cost $125 million in 1999 pricing using 1999 money.
The change-over was deemed to expensive.
A letter of invitation in 1790 from the French National Assembly to the British Parliament suggesting a decimal standard was ignored. Unquestionably a combination of various layers of "just the way we do things".
The web evolves, today we have web applications but Browsers took away the FUNCTION keys the Function keys belong to the application. Consuming keys that belong to the text input device for browser functionality makes things even worse.
Web designers already have a text editor without tab? SRLY? Backspace takes you to another application so using anything other than the standard text input boxes is impossible.
Likewise the arrow keys have also been consumed by the application platform.
Long long ago when the internets didn't exist jet one of the mosaic browser developers needed to put a button on the interface to cycle from one page to another. This then became the industrial standard. Every browser now has those buttons. They don't really work, thats why we have tabs. Tabs don't really work either so we will soon have totally different means of doing the exact same thing on a renewed level.
I think it is safe to say people worked really hard to create standards in all sectors but some of the significant decisions just happen by accident because "that is just the way we do things"
A browser should be all about usability but in stead it is changing into a computer game with right and wrong moves. I use to have nightmares about that happening. Like developers so stupid we would have websites and applications that destroy your effort if you make the wrong move. Having a backspace button on the mouse offers such feature. You have to be careful not to touch it while typing. Like playing a game of donkeykong. It is everything I imagined it to be and more.
I one time pressed ALT+F4 trying to reload a page from serer. My mistake but hey it sits next to F5 doesn't it? I'm not to stupid to learn but why should I have to remember the numbers in the first place? Why would we put text on them if it doesn't matter?
To get a quotation mark I have to press shift and ' then I have to press the space bar or the character doesn't appear. Details here. There you can read how the left and right alt key are also not the same key. haha?
I cant help but laugh trying to create a user friendly homepage design using they keyboard without creating a huge learning curve. This seems to be impossible already. The way we use to do things apparently doesn't work anymore.
I think I'm going back to text files with Apache ftp directories or gopher. :-)
But more importantly, the way we do things? Who is we exactly?