[Thunar-dev] hello, user interface design, and spatial thoughts

Brian J. Tarricone bjt23 at cornell.edu
Thu May 5 23:17:25 CEST 2005

Hash: SHA1

David Feldman wrote:
> First to introduce myself: My name is Dave. I'm a user interface  
> designer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. I'm  
> writing for a few reasons.


> If you're curious about my  
> qualifications check out my web site at http://InterfaceThis.com.

I haven't gotten a chance to really look at the site, but I love the
domain name ^_~.

> Lastly, I wanted to say something about the spatial/navigational  
> question. Ever since I encountered the spatial metaphor and  
> subsequent debate I've been worried because it seems like everyone is  
> taking a whole lot of things for granted that I don't think are  
> proven. As you point out on your page, many people think the spatial  
> way is easier to use - yet I haven't really seen conclusive evidence  
> of that, and I think there are some real usability drawbacks to it as  
> well. I've been thinking about this for a few months now and have  
> compiled my thoughts in an article on my Web site:
> http://interfacethis.com/pub/index.php?itemid=56
> I'd be curious what others think.

Excellent.  I agree fully:

1) I don't think the spatial metaphor is the One True Way.

2) I think the ideal is probably something in between, and having a
navigational file manager with some spatial features (or vice versa)
doesn't "break the metaphor", and can - and probably does - result in a
superior design.  (As an aside, who cares if it breaks the metaphor?  As
long as the result is easy-to-use and intuitive, metaphors can be damned.)

3) A lot of people (myself included) shoot their mouth off about their
favorite metaphor, without much (or any) real research or case studies
to back up their assertions.

4) As a corrolary to #3, there doesn't even seem to be any clear (or
even murky!) evidence to suggest that one way is *really* better than
the other, or that you have to pick one or the other.

I especially found noteworthy your point that, while some people find
the Windows filesystem hierarchy confusing, or the use of Windows
Explorer confusing, that alone really says nothing about how users deal
with hierarchies, and it's possible (and likely, IMHO), that the Windows
file hierarchy is just designed poorly.

But, then again, I'm just a software dev, and the buzz-phrase of the
year is that devs can't design UI to save their lives ^_~.  I have a
layman's knowledge of usability and UI design - I've read a lot of
random stuff, but have no formal training.  That probably just makes me
more dangerous...

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