I had to instruct an old person how to use an Android phone and it went a little like this:

"When the screen goes dark, you need to turn it back on by pressing this unmarked button on the right. Then, when the screen lights up with the clock, a background picture, and no other indication of what you should do, you need to place your finger on the screen and swipe upwards."

When did we decide that this was a good idea?? I might as well teach them how to use Vim at this point. my mom came to me last week with "i scanned some documents to "My Computer" using my new printer, can you help me find them?"

consumer tech has jumped the shark

@purple @samgai it's infuriating bc we were sold this horribly restrictive vision of task-specific kiosked computing on the idea it would improve discoverability & "ease of use", lower barrier of entry for new users etc (which was done for all the wrong reasons... "growth" not accessibility) and instead, of course, as anyone could have seen we got constant violations of spatial memory, no consistency or discoverability, and of course the granular computational tool is just an entirely dead construct
makes me sick

@samgai omg I've never even thought this through, that is actually really unintuitive if you don't already know it

@wolfie @samgai it wasn't always like this. They used to assume that you don't know. on the iPhones at least it says "Press home to unlock" but it doesn't indicate which button is the home button

@alexandra I'm thinking back to Nokia 3310 where the hardest thing to figure out was "the bottom centre text on the screen is the label for the button below it".

@alexandra Well, locking the keypad was also hard to figure out, but that was optional. And once it was locked, the phone instructed you how to unlock it.

@alexandra @samgai or “swipe up to unlock” on current models, without saying you have to grab the bar along the bottom. Swiping up just anywhere won’t help!

@samgai seems relevant here

back then: "how do we make this usable to people who have not seen a computer yet?"

e.g. the part where the Start menu & the taskbar were made visible all the time because people wouldn't find it otherwise

also, it has an actual label with the text "start"

when did we start going with "it's better to hide / iconify / clean up everything instead"?

@ssafar Apart from the fact that you had to click "Start" to turn the machine off. 😁 Luckily, this was later improved with ACPI.

@samgai sometimes when I'm very frustrated with weird user interfaces on devices, I draw diagrams that show what button press brings me to which sub menu.
Later I found out that in CS this is called a "finite state machine" and my approach was literally decoding the software.

@samgai Eh, if you've gotten this far, Vim may not be that much of a stretch. 🤷‍♂️

@samgai yeah, this really bothers me about modern software

at least vim comes with a manual!

@samgai I still can't remember which way to tap or swipe to answer a call in which phone app. And they differ! Just answering the phone is a nightmare. If I'm lucky enough that it actually rings through.

It started with Apple having a mostly usable interface, but shortcuts like "draw a G clef at a 45° angle with the index and ring finger of your right hand while your left pinky wiggles clockwise in your ear to open Safari directly from your lock screen" then, around Marshmallow, Google said, "Hold my Lauenbrau"

@yaaps @samgai

this "old person" test is a favorite of mine a it would bury 99% of digital technology. (Granting 1% for the potential accidental survivor)

While catering exclusively to people with limited training, experience or accessibility challenges (old, young etc) would probably be quite limiting for average or power users, a truly human centric design should somehow "progressively enhance" to meet the user's skill and level

@openrisk @yaaps @samgai

I work in tech for health and social care for older patients (and have set up gadgets for many) and wouldn't underestimate this generation.

We certainly should cater for those with age-related accessibility problems; but an increasing proportion of todays seniors will /have/ grown up with computers (maybe at work rather than at home).

BITD people still needed to learn how to use dial telephones, how to tune in a radio receiver etc..


yes, there is always a range. which asks for an adaptive interface: given a level of experience, cognitive ability and sensory skill there is an optimal level of complexity / user control where the user feels comfortable and on top of things

on a more pragmatic level what could improve experience is the ability to "recover" working states of apps / devices without having to constantly request help which some people don't like

more "resilient computing" if you will

@yaaps @samgai

@yaaps @samgai Apple’s pinch outward for paste has been mostly nice once I figured it out (still hard to do though), but the pinch inward I’ve never been able to figure out. Seems like half the time I accidentally do an “undo” gesture.

I remember when I first bought a smartphone I was surprised how bad the typing experience is. It actually changed my intended use for the device (I wanted to type extensive notes on it). I don’t think it has got much better since.

@samgai Hidden UI is such a scourge of modern UI design.

I've actually reported websites as broken because there was no visible indication of how to interact with them, it's terrible design.

@samgai Android … well there's the problem right there (he says without really being invested so don't give it much thought)(although … to be fair … the Apple design philosophy moves in the opposite direction and my phone … that little f$&ker is always telling me it feels like a swipe).

@samgai Me using Windows 10 for the first time at a friend's place: How the hell do you unlock this shit?

@samgai When we made scroll-bars the size of toothpicks we began wandering this dark path of removing all kinds of visual cues for users.

@craigmaloney @samgai and making borders so thin there is no place left to drag and change a window least some ui's let you use the drop shadow area too.

@samgai apparently it only says "Swipe up to unlock" after you tap the screen :-(

@samgai “vim has three modes, or ways it reacts to input. It starts in command mode, where any character is… a command. If you press “:” or “/” you enter last line mode, where you type out a command line. If, while in command mode, press a key for a command to insert text, like “i” or “A”, you go to insertion mode and whatever you type is added to the file. Whenever you press ESC in last line mode or insertion mode, you exit to command mode.” There, that's all which is mystifying about vim. 1/2

@samgai That's a lot less mystifying than what you had to explain or trying to guess what the back arrow button will do at any time in Android, for instance... 2/2

@Steinar @samgai ah yes, at happy hackers home for overage coding codgers they have the Stallman and Joy dorms. In between there is the dining hall for meals where they mix together and shout at each other "modal", "modeless" all day long...

@samgai custom ROM for old people???

it should exist if it doesn't

@threeoh6000 Or just make mainstream UIs less user-hostile. Seriously.


Next can you teach me how to adjust the touchscreen heater fan speed on my car without veering into oncoming traffic?

Prerequisites: I'm pretty sure it's android based, and I know vim already...

Maybe it would be safer to make the screen a keyboard-only terminal... and a car plugin for vim...

@float13 @samgai I'd like to know how to adjust the radio volume without turning the defrost on to MAX HOT, myself. There's a volume knob, which is nice, but it's so big that I tend to brush my knuckle on the touch screen right around the defrost M+A+X button. My kingdom for tactile orientation cues

@float13 @samgai semi related, I had to swap my dad's phone to Nova launcher instead of Moto bc he kept flicking his text app off the home screen. Same problem as me, tbh, but in a friendlier ecosystem where there are some alternatives. Makes me think too of an even older man w/ something like Parkinson's who has been super isolated during covid bc he lives in the country with poor internet and his hands shake so bad he can hardly use a cell phone even to call ppl.

@samgai Showed this to my family. Had to explain what Vim is.

@samgai I maintain getting rid of the home button on iPhones was one of the worse decisions Apple has made, UI-wise.

The home button was a *godsend* to older users.

me: "No matter where you are in this phone, just press this button, and you'll be returned home. If you ever get lost, just press this."

them: "Really?"

me: "Yes."

Now, I have no idea what to tell them. Swipe up? If they don't "swipe up" from the exact right spot, it doesn't work.

@samgai And don't even get me started on "swiping up" on iPadOS. Dear god.

"Swiping up" on iPadOS does *three* distinct things, depending on A) where you start from, B) how fast you do it, and C) how straight of a line your finger moves.

It's _horrible_ UI.

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