User Centered GUIs

My initial reaction was to question how GUI’s make people even more distant with computer technology. If GUIs are made so precisely such that the underlying technology is completely hidden from the users, then you can run into problems where users click randomly without really understanding what the tool is doing.  But after reading further down, it gets more complicated than just button mashing, hiding algorithms, and hiding all the techy things the user never signed up for  (obviously). At the core of topic was to create a successful user centered interface – a marriage of what the users knowledge and the process maps/models in their mind and how the tool can adapt to that to further add/influence the user’s model. A great concept that Lanter argues will reduce the necessary documentation, software support and unnecessary brain space traditional GUIs demand. However, for which user should the program be created for? How can the program be created for a beginner who is just learning the tools and concepts necessary to navigate through the problem, and expert users who would like the ability to create custom functions? Or what about people to visualize conceptualize information different. Like Professor Sengupta’s analogy about road directions  (western countries may be more familiar with “next left, next right, continue easterly” type of directions while Asian countries are more familiar with landmark directions), this also applies to developing GUIs that tailor to the dominant norms in a particular society. For instance, some Asian societies traditionally read from right to left thus having menu bars and text left justified in less intuitive for them and forces to adapt.

A prime example of user interface GUI within the geography realm is the upgrade from ENVI Classic and the new ENVI 5. The designers of ENVI 5 definitely made the connection that those using ENVI are very likely to be using ArcGIS, and gave the user interface a very familiar ArcGIS feel.  For the users that this applies to, I think that this does reduce the steep learning curve of the tool, while perhaps enhancing the notion of the interactiveness of these two tools.


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