Computerworld - Sometimes innovative GUI features don’t work out. User interface design experts weigh in on a few.
Now you see them ... now you don't. Micro¿soft Office's Intellimenus — an attempt to determine which menu items should appear based on usage patterns — only increased user confusion. A move to rafted tool bars, where two tool bars might share the same space and the computer decided which would appear based on use patterns, created similar problems.
Microsoft has pulled back from this idea. “We had design tenets for Office 2007 that said, “Don’t do adaptive behaviors,’” he says.
The Location-based Metaphor
Another failed attempt at a GUI innovation, Apple’s eWorld, “was too reliant on the metaphor for moving though space,” says Jakob Nielsen, a principal of Nielsen Norman Group. “Walking around on the screen is too much effort. In the physical world, you have to move, but in the computer world, why not just click on what you want? Why simulate something that has a more awkward interaction style?”
Microsoft's “Bob” offered a similar experience. “They used the rooms metaphor, and it was not helping people perform tasks and simplifying those tasks,” Nielsen says.
Clippie and other Anthropomorphic User Agents
What’s more, the advice it offers often isn’t useful because it’s trying to infer the user’s intentions. “ [People] have enough trouble trying to infer another person’s intentions,” Normannotes. “Why would my computer be any good at it?”
“People like controllable, predictable, comprehensible and consistent user interfaces, not adaptive, anthropomorphic and agent-based [ones],” says Ben Schneiderman, founding director of the University of Maryland’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab. “It’s a distraction, and it takes control away from the user.”
But acceptance of anthropomorphic characters also hinges on cultural preferences, says Schneiderman. “In Japan, the use of avatars is pervasive. Even if you’re at a kiosk buying a subway ticket, there are little avatars bowing to you,” he says.
Intelligent agents can work, says Jerome Nadel, vice president at Human Factors International. “The way that was implemented by Microsoft was clumsy and cheesy. But in [Apple's] Knowledge Navigator, you had this humanoid that could speak back to you and be your agent. The idea of agents is arguably good.”
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