May 25, 2006
People keep rediscovering the article Don Norman posted a few months ago criticizing what he thinks of as Google's faux simplicity:
"Oh," people rush to object, "the Google search page is so spare, clean, elegant, not crowded with other stuff." True, but that's because you can only do one thing from their home page: search.
Of course, I don't agree. Philipp Lenssen notes that Don completely ignored the search results page UI:
The second point I disagree with in Donald Norman's article is that Google only does one thing. Apparently, Donald doesn't understand Google oneboxes Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the query-specific boxes on top of organic search results, interfacing services Google News, Google Maps and so on Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or he purposely omits them. While a Google onebox is not a solution to all needs (for one thing, it doesn't allow me to explore, because I need to know what I want in order to form a search query), there's also the "more" link leading to a Google sitemap with an overview of additional services.
But Bill de hra expands the argument in an intriguing direction:
Perhaps the hunt and peck approach of searching (along with gaming) is becoming the dominant computing metaphor, replacing nearly 3 decades of user interfaces based on the metaphor of an office desktop (ironically the metaphor itself being pushed into irrelevancy by desktop computing). If so, usability experts will need to reconsider what they deem to be best and appropriate.
The Google search box could be viewed as the ultimate command prompt; you type what you want, and it provides the answer. Eventually. Once you realize that the Google search box is really a type of command prompt, the criticism that Google "only does one thing" is.. well, downright hilarious. Search is the beginning of every command. You can go anywhere and do anything from there.
I've never been a huge fan of the desktop metaphor. It's easier to see the problems if you take it to an extreme, as General Magic's defunct Magic Cap operating system did:
As much as I dislike the limitations of the desktop metaphor, I'm a little uneasy about the idea that the ultimate user interface we end up with in the next ten years will bear more resemblance to a command prompt ..
.. than to the point and click GUI interfaces pioneered at PARC.
Still, there's a lot to be said for typing stuff to quickly get to what you want. For example, I often bail out when attempting to visually point and click my way around crowded web pages; instead, I search for a relevant word on the page using incremental search. It's nearly always faster than visually scanning the entire page for the right content or link.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
It must be said... I still love the 3270/5250 interface that IBM put out in the 1970s. Users who get started on IMS or CICS applications do experience a learning curve (getting used to the business app lingo), but after that, they FLY through the screens!
For professions that require loads of data-entry, such as bookkeepping, income tax, retail... console-based applications still provide more user performance than any visual design.
Visual and web apps really shine when it comes time to analyze and manipulate such data, but when it comes to keying data en-mass into a computer, 99% of most GUIs I come across just plain suck at it.
It's funny, because I just realized that I navigate through source code using the search functions, and I have for years..
I simply remember a keyword (eg, function name), then do an incremental (or CTRL+SHIFT+F find in all files) search, and zap, I'm there.
I almost never use class browsers, the drop-down entity lists, or any other navigational scheme.
I think this is why I'm such a big fan of SlickRun.
However, I agree, the desktop metaphor isn't totally useless. It's made better when we can maniplate it using the keyboard.
commandline fans might enjoy a program like "Find and Run Robot":
"Find and Run Robot is a program for keyboard maniacs - it helps you rapidly find programs or documents from within the depths of the start menu (or other directories). One keypress launches the utility - then just start typing the first letters of the application you want to launch. As you type the best matches are shown - just hit the number to launch the associated program."
The command prompt is the desktop, anything else is just a gui version of the command prompt.
Anyone who's disdainful of a simplified UI like that shown here -- or of BoB, for that matter -- should have the job of teaching an 80-year-old how to send and receive email. UIs are always debated by people who know their way around several, yet new ideas are always precisely for people who do not or cannot use the UI we're all used to. Anything that involves typing in words that you have to remember -- whether a old-skool command prompt or a search string in Google -- just ain't gonna work for some percentage of people.
One more feature "borrowed" from OS X.
I love this -- as if Apple alone could somehow have thought up the idea of integrated search and all MS ever does is scrutinize Mac stuff for ideas. It isn't as if we haven't been able to add search as a desktop app since, what, forever? Windows is the history of integrating more and more add-on functionality into the OS ...
"I've never been a huge fan of the desktop metaphor. It's easier to see the problems if you take it to an extreme, as General Magic's defunct Magic Cap operating system did"
So that's where MS Bob came from! :)
Check out the future (for windows) of shells and desktops at www.undeadshell.com
"In all seriousness, Microsoft seems to have taken this
idea to heart. Notice the search box present (upper
right corner) in every explorer window of Vista."
One more feature "borrowed" from OS X.
I agree with the comment that google's search page is a one trick pony (inspite of its currency and unit conversion and simple math tricks, it is still pretty much just a search)
The fact that you can link to other pages to do do something doesn't make the search page more functional any more than linking to the google search page makes your page a search engine.
There are times when I still drop to the command prompt to get things done faster like unpacking 10 or 12 archives in a row, it is just faster to batch it by typinng unrar e *.rar than pointing, clicking, selecting, waiting, pointing, clicking, selecting etc. Batch oriented tasks with little to no interaction are perfect for command line tasks.
Rather than suggest that the future is one or the other, it is more likely that most people will stay point and click and those with a higher understanding will continue to take advantage of the batching capabilites offered by command lines that just isn't possible with point and click interfaces WHEN they have batching requirements that are not satisfied by a point and click gui.
I've recently been experimenting with yubnub, which customises the command line interface of your browser's search box.
one of those screenshots reminds me of "Magic Desk" on the C64. Ahh, those were the days...
Have you read the book 'The Humane Interface' by Jef Raskin? He proposes a general way for searching (he calls it 'LEAPing' to a location) that is incremental, based on content and bookmarks. The interface he proposes is a graphical, zooming 'information canvas' on which you can mount all your data.
Your post reminded me why I love SlickRun.
florisla brings up the only real alternative to both the command line and the point and click GUI. Archy, the alternative, "humane", UI, is practically perfect...except that it is so radically different from anything anyone has ever seen that it is almost impossible to comprehend and will never gain mainstream acceptance. Give it a whirl; it will blow your mind. http://rchi.raskincenter.org/index.php?title=Home
The trend back towards command-line interfaces makes sense if you consider the upcoming rise of voice interfaces. When instructing a computer (or other interactive device), you want to be able to use as broad a syntax as possible and not have to set the context too much. This is also true of command lines search boxes in many ways...
Google and not being simple is just absurd. I've read the Article at http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/the_truth_about.html
My first impression was that the author was addressing people who are very new to the world of computers. I agree, Google hides its features. But why? Does everyone want to search for eBooks, applications etc.? I don't think so.
He states: "Yahoo! even has an excellent personalization page, so you can choose what you wish to see on that first page."
And the Google page being simple? I wonder if the author has ever used the Customization features of Google. You can even grab your mail to the front page. If you're interested, well, get it...
"All of these things require you to click on "more" which gets you to the options page where there are 32 alternatives, plus links to "About Google," "Help Center" (if Google is really so simple, why does one need help?),"
Why does one need help huh? Oh, so Yahoo has no help link all over its website?
"Look, I like Google. It's a great search engine." Articles like those, I think, just end up nowhere. Because, people who love Google, always keep loving it at any cost. The sentence at the beginning of the article is just a misleading phrase, that the author likes google...
I often tell people "Why not use the keyboard? It's 101 commands that are 1 button click away".
I've always been partial to the command line as an interface. It has always made more sense for me to tell a computer to do something by typing.
please unstall this words
i read you testimony ther in codinghorror.com... the same proble i am facing
my computer showing windows genuine adventage notification...please help me
how can i fix please help me
that was kinda mixed with a sprinkle of glitter and a shimmy of sparkle!!!
This critique of Donald Norman looks a lot like you, and nobody you quoted, actually read Donald Norman's Article. His critique of google is that it's a multifaceted service with many features- but none of those features are VISIBLE or DISCOVERABLE. Which is true, and a fair critique.
Of course, I don't think it matters. Google is still simple, and Donald Norman is still wrong, because google's one feature (search) is SO POWERFUL, that if you want any of those other features, you can just do a search for them. Want to do a search on google scholar? do a search for google scholar. It in essence, is good enough to replace the traditional links and navigations that Donald Norman expects a website should have.
It does mean that you don't necessarily know about all of google's services, but it won't matter until you actually need one of them, and do a search for something you need.
In essence, it's a little bit more democratic that way, because if you do a search for scholarly search engines you don't just get google's offering, you get all the alternatives as well.
@jeff: Seems orange just might not cut it anymore (see above posts unless you deleted them already)
jeff: phunny that the terminal screenshot appear to point to a blog post of jan 13th 2006. Not really the old times, is it!?
May I suggest 'passion fruit' as a worthy successor?
PS. detail: That (mentioned) blog post is from 'l-dopa' which runs a subtitle of
'fruit ain't airthigh'
How very very fitting.
orange are rumoured to be te first to be genetically engineered to be waterproof, however
I guess I'm of a similar habit when it comes to finding things on the desktop, who wants to click everywhere? When I'm working in Windows for development projects I find it much easier to throw open a command prompt to call up some Oracle apps, or maybe using the run dialog to open services or register dlls.
What interests me about how interfaces can develop is how they could possibly mould themselves to a user's interaction with it. A UI capable of adpating to how the user finds it easiest to work? Yes please.
Web interfaces becoming the new desktop? I hope not, my desk is a mess!
> I'm a little uneasy about the idea that the ultimate user interface we > end up with in the next ten years will bear more resemblance to a >command prompt ..
What's so bad about a CLI? What's to miss? Bad UI design, loads of clicking and mouse moving?
The only thing I can grant you is that the mainstream shell for Windows (cmd.exe) is a load of crap. But even Powershell can fix this, or emulating a *NIX shell (ZSH being my favorite) though a port/Cygwin.
Or is it just a personal phobia of yours?