11 Jun 2011

kaigou: (5 flowers on brick)
One of my biggest issues with application development is when any driver in the development (whether programmers, designers, or the corporate decision-makers) declare that "users can just get used to this". I end up arguing the opposite, every single time. Like arguing that users do need a halfway button that says "save and continue" on a really long form, or that we can't drop the red asterisk for colorblind users who won't see the red outline on a text-box, or that a series of steps aren't obvious or intuitive. I don't believe you can force users -- or that you even should -- into changing their own perceptions and patterns just because you think it's easier to not include that second button, or because you believe asterisks will "mess up" your pretty styles.

Since an application's purpose is to help someone work more efficiently (whether at a new task or just redoing an old task in a new format, like in-browser), making the users slow down to learn a new pattern-language seems counterproductive. You have to fit the application to the users, and any changes must be slow and subtle. We're all old dogs, really, when it comes to how we interact with patterns.

I see the same argument in fiction, where users (readers) argue for things like "pronounceable names" or dislike settings or conflicts that don't mesh with their expectations. Things like female characters who are androgynous enough that an unfamiliar character might, at first, not be sure of the female character's sex/gender. Or hierarchies that don't work in the same way as those the reader knows. Or even just value systems that aren't in-culture for the reader: different priorities, like setting one's family/parents above one's personal ambitions. Those kinds of stories are the opposite of the application-design style above, because they don't bend to the user's conventions, but expect the reader to bend to mesh with the story.

[paragraph above is badly-phrased, see comments for discussion/elaboration]

Maybe such unfamiliar-named, unfamiliar-setting stories might reach a wider audience if they worked more to meet with reader non/familiarity? Like taking a non-English name and anglicizing it a little differently to make its pronunciation more obvious, more understandable to English-familiar readers? (I am suddenly thinking of Korean names, which seem to be anglicized in any of a variety of ways, and frequently have vowel-combinations that would be one way based on English rules, but are pronounced quite differently.) Another is cultural, where the protagonist notes things that would be taken for granted in the protag's own culture (ie, family over individual or vice versa), but are distinctly different from the reader's culture, and thus are tagged or lampshaded solely for the reader's benefit. (Characters who note the side of the road driven is a huge, if rare, example: who the hell ever stops to think about what side of the road they drive on, if they grew up with that understanding/assumption?)

I recall someone on my dwircle was discussing/reviewing a book set in Japan, I think it was, where the main character noted such cross-culture differences. Those familiar with Japanese culture found it off-putting, it seemed, because these seemed like things a Japanese person would never think to randomly compare. I mean, how often do you go around your native/home culture and say, "I'm getting cucumbers and okra, but you'd never see these in a Russian supermarket"? Those who not quite familiar with Japanese culture seemed to be more forgiving, maybe because they were glad of being given some handle on the differences. It can be hard to assess what's "strange" for a character when the entire setting is strange to you, as the reader.

Bend to the user/reader, or expect the reader/user to bend to the story? What do you think?
kaigou: under this playful boyish exterior beats the heart of a ruthless sadistic maniac (2 charming maniac)
This is partially leading off my post from this morning. I had the pleasure of chatting with someone, yesterday, who does the same thing I do, job-wise. If you realized how few of us are actually around (for all that our job may sound awfully necessary, most corporations don't seem to agree), then you'd realize also what a rare pleasure it was to talk to someone who totally gets it.

Think of web application creation as a balancing act between two extremes: there's the design (what it looks like, what it does on the page, all the way to colors and fonts and whether you get a thank-you note when you're done), and there's the development (the code, basically). Designers don't code, and coders don't design, for the most part, and IMO/IME this has less to do with any integral dislike between them... so much as the fact that both sides require a lot of expertise. It is not half as easy as you may think it is, to code the backend of an application, or even to do a nicely-turned out page of CSS and Javascript on the frontend. Nor is it half so easy as you might think it is to come up with the buttons and the corners and the logos and the whatever else in Photoshop or Illustrator or Fireworks or whatever is the in-thing this week. These are areas that, to do well, do require a fair bit of training and experience -- and by then, you're probably firmly into the perspective of your area of expertise.

I'm the person in the middle. )


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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