Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Clarifying My User Interface Woes

I think I've figured out what's bothering me about computer user interfaces. We've been doing it oh so wrong for years.

Think about your average secretary. Those indispensable people who somehow are able to keep track of a million and one things. Think about how their work space looks.

Post it notes everywhere. Even worse, a desktop that looks just plain disgusting.

And what have we offered to try and alleviate this situation?

In just about every operating system there's a post it replacement. There's even one on my android phone (though I would argue a phone interface isn't made in anyway whatsoever to be productive).

In Unity, desktop icons are disabled by default. You can get nautilus to manage the desktop, but then, why do something badly that we've always done badly? So if we were to redesign it, with these users in mind, what would the desktop look like?

I've stated my unease with geeks dictating how we work. Why aren't they working with the user to come up with something that solves a bunch of their problems?

So, if I were to redesign the desktop - I'd do away with the idea of one desktop. I would instead look for a tabbed interface (much like the netbook interface). You'd then be able to create a new tab (folder?) which you could arrange icons (visual representations + captions) into logical workflows. i.e. you could create a tab called "Invoicing", which would contain a link to timesheets (in order to generate invoices if you didn't have an automated system for doing so) and a link to an invoice template and a link to a folder with old invoices in it.

What about the good old post it notes around the computer? Why try to put it on the computer? And if you really do need it there, wouldn't it be more useful to have it in the cloud to be accessible on other machines? A really quick search brings up listhings - the sign up needs just an email address and password. No other details asked for.

Of course, there'd have to be a few major changes to make this happen in Linux. For starters, Gnome doesn't seem to be all that concerned about documents. Sure, you can create symbolic links and move those links to your desktop. But that's just not simple.

What if you didn't allow anything but links (desktop files)? The user's encouraged to file their documents properly in their home folder (or network share as the case may be) but they're also given all of the convenience that they've probably been seeking.

The question though - am I the only one who thinks this would be brilliant?

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