Reading through all the replies on this topic is quite interesting. The one 
thing that you can be sure about in web work of any kind is (aside from 
taxes) that users will interact with an interface in ways we never dreamed 
of - using their fridge, a keyboard, a mobile, the "wrong" address bar and 
possibly even a fair degreee of shouting, among others.
Whether these are minor or major differences the end goal is:

        that the user can use an application and
        reach there intended goal with the minimum of fuss.

Take the scrollbar point - I learnt this while I was watching my 
father-in-law, who has just learnt how to use Gmail and Skype. When he wants 
to scroll a page he goes and finds the up or down button and clicks 
repeatedly on it. For some of us this might seem inefficient but the point is 
that any good user interface has multiple pathways to the same end result. In 
the scrollbar case we can use:
* the keyboard
* the scroll wheel
* the scrollbar drag
* the scrollbar buttons
* any other device that can trigger a scroll event...

In that instance, who is to say that what someone else does is wrong? The only 
time something is classically "wrong" is when the user cannot control the 
interface in the way they want (user or interface is wrong) OR when they do 
control the interface in a normal fashion for the day and the interface fails 
to handle that interaction (interface is wrong).
Note that the user should control the interface, not the other way round, and 
when something does go wrong then a user should be able to back out and try 
again easily.

Examples like typing in an address into the google bar or the multitude of 
ways that one can upload an image to Flickr fall under the same banner.

The discussion about "willful ignorance" may not be because the person is 
confronted by interacting with machine but because they have tried in the 
past and something has scared them off. I worked with someone many years back 
whose bug reporting system was "the widga-ma-doo is not working". Most 
people, given enough time, will get the basics. Some people won't - just as I 
won't probably understand heart surgery. It's all relative.

Stepping back for a moment, you can see how all these examples can fall under 
the "Web2.0" (i dislike that term) way of doing things - which to paraphrase 
Jeff Veen is, among others,  about "Openness, not control". Use-more 
interfaces are the ones general enough to be controlled in ways that we as 
the developers may not have thought about - with a user getting the end 
results they wished.
An icon is an interface that is useful - it responds to clicks, keyboard 
controls and can optionally be configured. Do icons in your web pages respond 
to that interaction? most do not.
Use-less interfaces are those which attempt to control the user interaction to 
a point where it may be impossible to continue. If I took the scroll buttons 
away from (or moved them) my father-in-law would probably get very frustrated 
with "Email".

A message saying "Do not click the back button" is another use-less interface. 
If you need to supply that message then your application is not working 
correctly. Period.

An even simpler one is "Hit Ctrl+Q to quit the application" - a simple enough 
action for English keyboards - but apply that logic to a Slovene audience who 
have neither a key spelt "Ctrl" or a "Q" character on their keyboard and you 
end up with useless interface - especially if that is the only interaction 

Finally, if people using your apps are happy then they will use them even 
more - even if they use them in ways you didn't design - then you have a 
use-more interface and isn't that a good thing ?


On Fri, 16 May 2008 08:26:45 pm Rick Lecoat wrote:
> On 16 May 2008, at 06:50, Matthew Pennell wrote:
> > In my experience, a large proportion of computer/web users struggle
> > to understand online concepts that we expert users take for granted.
> > Many regular surfers have no idea how to interact with a scroll bar
> > - and there are lots of people who don't know how the address bar of
> > their browser works!
> Matthew, my experience tallies with yours. At least half of the people
> I work with (I mean clients, not co-workers) are not very IT-savvy at
> all. It brings to mind the Blackadder line: "I am one of these people
> who are quite happy
> to wear cotton, but have no idea how it works."
> In some extreme cases this seems to extend to an almost willful
> ignorance, as if they feel that learning how to operate their computer
> would somehow diminish them. It is certainly true that the older the
> client the more likely this seems to be -- although I would certainly
> not generalise too much as I know plenty of completely computer-
> literate 'silver surfers'. I find it frustrating when they stubbornly
> refuse to learn what the most basic controls are on their browser, but
> unless it has a negative impact on the project I generally ignore it.
> In any case the evidence would suggest that it is a generational
> thing, and that should come as no surprise. As someone born at the
> back end of the 60s, I can understand it, because I personally find
> the more leading edge web technologies hard to keep up with - much
> more so than, say, people 15 years my junior who live and breathe that
> stuff.
> It's a matter of degree, I guess. People absorb information at a
> fundamental level early in their lives, and I think that beyond a
> certain age they stop absorbing it quite so easily and have to work at
> *learning* it. That includes information about current technology. If
> a new technology comes out when you're in your 40s it's probably going
> to be harder for you to pick it up than for your 16 year old nephew.
> The old chestnut about adults having to get their kids to programme
> the VCR for them are clich├ęs, sure, but based on a lot of truth.
> --
> Rick Lecoat
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