Saturday, December 20, 2008

Three Interface Notes

Those of you familiar with the NYC subway (the MTA) will recall the hideous, screeching beep that sounds when a train is approaching. This awful sound is not down on the platform, where one can see the train approach, but is up in the turnstile area. It's quite loud, so you can usually hear it as you are coming down the initial set of stairs to enter the station. However, the MTA is quite adamant about you not running. Don't run! There are posted placards to this effect. Of course if they don't want us to run, why do they have a sound that tells us, you'd better start running if you want to catch the next train? You can hear the sound right at the point where you need to run to catch the train. Amazing.

My TW cable box and remote have a bit of an issue. Ok ok, I have the issue. Let us say you want to change the channel, and you want the number to increase, or go up as it were. You push the + button, which is part of the +/- button, and the + is on the top half of the +/- button (so, on the upper part of it). You then go "up" in terms of channel. However (you saw this coming), if you are in the guide, up is not up anymore. Up is suddenly down. The problem is that in the guide the higher-numbered channels are listed below the lower-numbered channels. So, you don't click the up arrow button to increase the channel numbers in the guide (you don't use the +/- button here), you click the down arrow button to increase the channel numbers. Sometimes up is increase channel number, other times it is decrease channel number. Granted + is not totally equivalent to up in mathematical terms, but using a cable remote is not math, it is usability. +, up, and increase are all functionally equivalent and they should act similarly. They don't need to be exactly the same, but here they are complete opposites.

And lastly, online shopping. The GUI worked pretty well with the desktop paradigm (files, folders, trash). But the web doesn't have a paradigm like that, even though it is visual. For online shopping, why don't they have us drag the image of what we want to the shopping cart? Seems obvious. Maybe someone has done it already, or maybe it's patented by a patent troll. I don't know if that would make online shopping easier, but it seems more natural.