Mia Eaton wants luddites to stop being so hard on themselves.
Kids these days, they don't know what "dial" literally means, do they? There's a story I've told my grandmother, a story I tell anyone who says, "oh, I just don't get these things the way you people do." It's about a man back in the late 1990s who installed rotary phones in a children's summer camp. The children, bright young things, had no clue how to use them
. The notion of putting their fingers into the corresponding numbered hole and dragging the "dial" around in a firm clockwise motion simply never occurred to them.
Why, in this increasingly innovative and interconnected device-driven world, should anyone be hard on themselves for not instantly knowing how to use wonderful, but usually complicated devices?
The reality is that it — whatever the "it" is for individual people — will only become accessible if and when a person can get past the notion that they aren't good at something simply because they don't get it right away. No one automagically knows how to use anything through the grace of their age or aptitude. These things must be learned.
Usability, as it's referred to, is a subject explored and studied by professionals like me, and by people much smarter than me. Interface design is so in our faces that it's practically invisible to anyone not thinking about it—though we're painfully aware of its failures.
You see it in the VCR that blinks 12:00, in those remote controls dotted with mystery buttons. It's in the editing software that announces it has more than one version of a file and asks cryptically which one you want to keep (when it could very well tell you exactly which file is newer, or present them side by side with the differences highlighted in yellow, but doesn't, because it's not well designed). Boo! Hiss.
I don't know why "up" means "on" for a light switch, only that in this country we can safely agree that it does, and I am grateful for that fact upon entering a dark bathroom for the first time.
Essentially, there's really no such thing as truly intuitive design or someone who naturally understands technology.
It has infinitely more to do with culture, with usage and experience, than anything faulty or gifted in an individual's brain.
So SW luddites, your thoughts please?