Re: [Usability]widget style vs window decoration, (was "cheat to window-manager integration")

Christian Rose <menthos menthos com> writes:
> > Oh, please, not the "you're a troll and you don't share my exact views
> > word-for-word so you don't even know what usability is so I'm not
> > going to listen to what you say" flamefest.
> I never mentioned my views in this.

We discussed this on IRC once.

> Computer usability is about improving user interfaces so that they
> better fit with how our users think and work, sort of making the
> interface more "intelligent", which is the *exact* opposite of dumbing
> down.

Yes! That's exactly what usability is, and dumbing down is one of it's
opposites. I'm opposed to dumbing down, and I think usability is very

> So people (or more correctly trolls)

Trolls are people making incincere posts just to provoke. Either to
provoke a new way of thinking, or just to provoke flames. None of my
posts to usability have been trolls.

> calling usability work in improving interfaces "dumbing down" will
> usually be laughed upon, sighed upon, or often just plain ignored.

I thought that some of the suggested ways of avoiding the word
"widget" was bordering on "dumbing down" and as such, had no place in
usability work.

> > As you very well know (as we've discussed this before, and as my other
> > posts should hopefully make apparent), I like simplicity.
> > 
> > Simplifying things is in itself a good thing, but sometimes the
> > "simplifications" have detrimental effects that actually make it
> > harder to use the UI. In those cases, I use the expression "dumbing
> > things down".
> Well we aren't and shouldn't be doing that, so there's no reason for
> using that terminology.

But we must be ever watchful so we don't do that by mistake.

> > > It *is* jargony and complex terminology, because:
> > > 
> > > * Widgets are hard to describe. Widgets aren't like each other. They
> > > don't resemble each other much. There's not much that makes a button, a
> > > check box and a selection list look like each other. Terminology that is
> > > used as a collective name for lots of different things are by nature
> > > harder to learn.
> > 
> > Yes, it's hard to describe without a word for it. That's why we need a
> > word for it!
> You've missed the point. The point is that in most cases, we don't
> *need* to describe this complex concept of widgets, and how they really
> implementation-wise are the same thing, to the end user, and introduce a
> completely new word for it.

If we're talking about a way to change between toolkit themes, then
we're talking about something that does change the appearance of all
widgets, and in that case we may or may not need a word for it.

> In all cases, calling it "buttons" and "text boxes" (or whatever the
> specific controls are in that case) or plain "controls" is
> sufficient and preferrable.

In this case we can't call them by their individual names.

> > > * "Widget" is an invented word that doesn't use any real-world metaphor
> > > (not any that I know about at least), so you have not a big chance of
> > > guessing what it is if you don't know it already. "Controls" is better
> > > in this case since you can make the connection to real-world controls
> > > (real buttons, levers etc.).
> > 
> > >From WordNet (r) 1.7 [wn]:
> > 
> >   widget
> >        n : a device that very useful for a particular job [syn: {appliance},
> >             {contraption}, {contrivance}, {convenience}, {gadget}, {gizmo},
> >             {gismo}]
> > 
> > There's your real-world connection for you, right there. It *is* used
> > for physical objects too, you know.
> Congratulations, you've just described how "widget" can be used for
> virtually anything and hence is worthless as a metaphor.

I disagree. "Widget" has a very specific meaning which is hard to
explain using other words. I think that "gizmo" and "gadget" are about
the only synonyms I can think of. ("Widgets" were called "gadgets" on
the old Amiga, or if it was the Atari, I don't remember.)

> > "Controls" is very ambiguous and is used for many things in the both
> > the real and the computer world. It's a noun, it's a verb, it can mean
> > anything from the physical monitor controls, to the volume control, to
> > the control center.
> Granted, there is some ambigiousity here, but that problem is much more
> pleasant than forcing the user to learn new special-case terminology.

I disagree. I'd rather have a clear, non-ambiguous word for it than an
ambiguous word, all else being equal.

> > (Calum pointed out that it was in the standard, though, which is a
> > good case for it.)
> Yes.

As we've discussed before, from a usability point-of-view, it's better
to change things "upstream" so to speak, so that it's consistent

> > > * The widget concept is not just hard to describe, in most cases you can
> > > successfully describe these things by using the terminology of what they
> > > are (buttons, check boxes, etc.) which in most cases don't have the
> > > above problems.
> > 
> > "In most cases"? I'm talking about a particular case here.
> Yes, and that's why it doesn't make sense to introduce a completely new
> word for this only case.

Wouldn't the usability of Glade (it was a while since I played with
that) also benefit from being able to use the word "widget" so it
could have menu items like "place widget" and so on?

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