Zero UI will "change design"


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UIs (particularly GUIs) get worse all the time.

I used to complain about the Apple desktop metaphor of putting your work in a wastebasket in order to eject a disk. That’s user-friendly compared to modern phone and server interfaces!

To add a range of addresses to be excluded from DHCP distribution on a Windows 2012 server, you right click in the utterly blank space below the distribution range. If you right-click on the actual object you want to modify, though, it’ll shows an unclickable (“greyed-out”) menu choice of “add exclusion range”. It’s a nearly completely pessimized UI design. Thank god for the CLI…

Today you google how to do something, or ask an urban 12-year-old. If there’s no UI, there’s zero discoverability. Since I don’t have a cell phone, I have a unique perspective on this - the rest of you are constantly asking each other how to do the simplest things as updates arrive and formerly discoverable capabilities become secret tricks (“How do I turn the flashlight off, Mabel?” “Oh, you swipe up from the bottom now!”)


Is there an accessible version of the article you suggested?


I can hardly wait for this brave, new world where my appliances talk back to me.


Eventually it will become as easy to communicate with our devices as it is to communicate with each other. At which point we will belatedly realize that we’re not very good at communicating with each other.


If you’ve ever said “This is too complicated to explain, let me show you” then you already know why graphical interfaces are better than voice recognition.


I once had a casual chat with a developer who said he’d spent a long time taking on projects and doing the background work first, leaving the UI for last. At that point he’d be eager to get the damn thing done so he’d just throw something together without giving much thought to the end user. He eventually realized this was a mistake and needed to reverse the order. Making sure something works is important, but making it usable is just as important.

I assume most programs/apps/other things are designed and built by teams rather than individuals, but it still seems like UIs are treated as a nuisance and user complaints something to be brushed off.

Or, as Kurt Vonnegut put it,

“If it weren’t for the people, the god-damn people" said Finnerty, "always getting tangled up in the machinery. If it weren’t for them, the world would be an engineer’s paradise.”


I don’t know if we will get to that point. The thinking in the article was very confused. Apparently some sort of random walk of design is going to take place, during which evolution will select certain paths. I guess.


My God, it jammed and overflowed my jargon filter.


I didn’t get that far. I had trouble with the scrolling. I got a headache from one side scrolling and the other side not scrolling. I get those headaches when there isn’t a good visual separator between the two, but I don’t usually get them when there is a good visual separator.

I really wish I knew what was going on neurologically. I searched for papers on “sensory processing” and “zooming” a couple days ago, because that also gives me trouble, but doidn’t find anything relevant.


I can’t wait for the Zero UI interface for my bicycle.

/ Seriously, some abstract/non-obvious interfaces are faster to use once you learn them than other “easier” interfaces.


THIS. Exactly.

For years and years and years technical writers have harbored this dream of “writing the manual FIRST, then code,” which is a way of saying that everything would be built to what the end user would see, touch, or hear. In this ideal world, you wouldn’t even have a manual because the UI would be so beautiful and designed by people who understood how non geeks think.

The reality is that the coders take the requirements and start hacking away because deadlines. The actual interface DESIGNERS (not the people that code the UI) are very low on the totem pole in these projects, and often their objects library is being created in tandem with the project and laid on top of what is basically standard UI stuff. At the point the designer is brought in, the software is half done and cannot be re-conceived. What’s completed has been created by people who work with computers all day long – people who cannot fathom that other people in the world don’t love to mess around with code and fussy buttons, and besides, it’s easier to just slap this thing on top of what they’ve already done.

I always have been amused by the “Steve Jobs is such a genius,” thing, because really how he worked is just common sense to most people. But then most people haven’t worked with software developers or engineers.

The only thing different about Apple was that they made a non-geek the boss (or rather, he made himself the boss), and he had enough power to get the coders to STFU and listen to the totally obvious idea that the device should be designed so normal people can use it and even love the design.

I’ve worked on teams where it was stated early on “we want this to be as beautiful as an Apple device,” and then they started putting their monster together with the off-the-shelf products from China and designing the thing themselves with no input from anyone with any artistic skill (I’m looking at you Melissa Mayer).


I like command line interfaces too! :stuck_out_tongue:

The best book I never quite finished reading was Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. I frequently look at the current fad-driven, science-averse trends in UI design (round avatars? really?) and think to myself that today’s designers have purposely set out to violate every principle in that book.


There’s a reason so many wargames are built on a hexagonal grid…


It means you don’t have to deal with diagonals.

And while the geometry of a hex grid can affect play, such as making positions along one straight row stronger than positions along one of the zig-zag rows, it doesn’t affect play as much as the geometry of a square grid.


Best possible gif to accompany this article. I can even hear his voice, with that tone of amused tolerance. “Hello…computer…”


As “Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy” liked to say:



So it’s a user interface problem? Maybe you need to be disruptively haptic with the virtual singularity. Or 802.11 the NCIS maybe.


I do that several times a day – whenever some app decides to take a nap and not respond.


It can be summed up in this quote:

“I’m really into all that singularity stuff,” Goodman laughs. “Once you get to the point that computers understand us, the next step is that computers get embedded in us, and we become the next UI.”

tl;dr: This article is really about religion, not computing.