“The Anti-Mac Interface” by Jakob Nielsen, is a phenomenal piece about the Mac and an alternative UI to the GUI. It’s an article that is more true today than what it was 20 years ago. Here’s a snippet out of the article:
…the next generation of users will make their learning investments with computers, and it is counterproductive to give them interfaces based on awkward imitations of obsolete technologies.
Instead, we need to develop new interface paradigms based on the structure of computer systems and the tasks users really have to perform, rather than paradigms that enshrine outmoded technology.
The way to advance the interface is not to develop ever-more-faithful imitations of the desktop, but instead to escape the limitations of the desktop especially as computers themselves become ubiquitous and are used away from the desk.
Yes, I know, this article was written 20 years ago in 1996…
I’ve been reading a lot about different user interface paradigms lately, especially in the context of the GUI. As I explored it’s limitations and its strengths, I came across, Christine Zmoelnig’s essay titled, The Graphical User Interface – A Time for a Paradigm Shift. It’s truly a fascinating read and I plan to quote from it quite heavily in the coming weeks as I explore this topic even more. But as introduction to this topic, I will quote this definition of a paradigm by Thomas Kuhn:
All crises begin with the blurring of one paradigm and the consequent loosening of the rules for normal research. On other occasions the problem resists even apparently radical new approaches. Then scientists may conclude that no solution will be forthcoming in the present state of their field. The problem is labeled and set-aside for a future generation with more developed tools. Or finally the case that will most concern us here, a crisis may end with the emergence of a new candidate for a paradigm and with the ensuing battle over its acceptance.
The last part, in particular, is rather interesting to me, especially if we considering the GUI and the battle against other interface paradigms such as speech and 3D, over market acceptance. It’s becoming more apparent that the GUI will go through a similar revolutionary process as what Kuhn describes here…