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Is The Gui "Intuitive"?:

Recently I was re-watching Cringely's: "Triumph of the Nerds: Great Artists Steal" --part three of a documentary about the rise of the personal computer. Something Bob said bugged me, and it's been nagging me since. Here's the quote (referring to the difference between GUI and command line interfaces):

"Pictures rather than words, making the pc easy and intuitive."

It seems to be commonly accepted that the reason graphical user interfaces have been successful is because they are more "intuitive" (whatever that means.) The truth is, it's not that graphics are more intuitive than words, it's that the gui by it's nature has a more limited command set, thus making it easier to learn...

But don't take my word for it, here's what user interface guru Alan Cooper says in his book "About Face: The Essentials Of User Interface Design": "The first commercially successful implementation of the PARC GUI was the Apple Macintosh, with it's desktop, wastebasket, overlapping sheets of paper and file folders. The Mac didn't succeed because of these metaphors, however, but because it was the first computer that defined a tightly restricted vocabulary--a canonical vocabulary based on a very small set of mouse actions--for communicating with users. It also offered richer visual interaction. The metaphors were just nice paintings on the walls of a well-designed house."

Cooper is specifically referring to the Mac, but of course the same also applies to Microsoft's less elegant Windows GUI.

Don't get me wrong, Cringely is a cool guy, and what he said is true enough in the context of his documentary --just not completely accurate.



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