Microsoft's IUI guidelines. IUI is "Inductive User Interface". Essentially, it covers how normal users, those that don't code, and don't understand the programmer's "mental model of the product".
My favorite is here:
Users don't seem to construct an adequate mental model of the product. The interface design for most current software products assumes that users will understand a conceptual model that the designers carefully crafted. Unfortunately, most users don't seem to ever acquire a mental model that is thorough and accurate enough to guide their navigation. These users aren't dumb — they are just very busy and overloaded with information. They do not have the time, energy, or desire to wonder about a conceptual model for their software.
And it's true. Most of what they've said in the first... maybe, page or so, that I've read. In CITES OnSites, I watch the older generation stumble over the Mac GUI as well as the Windows GUI. They just don't have the time/energy/whatnot to absorb the information and quickly filter out what they want.
It doesn't only affect the older generation. Today, (or rather, yesterday, since it's saturday now) during physics lab, I watched one of my group mates stumble over instructions for operating the lab software. Granted, the software was rather confusing. But the instructions were clear enough, at least to me. He, on the other hand, often spent at least a minute looking for whatever button the instructions called for.
I don't know, I'm not done reading the entire IUI guidelines, but I find them very interesting.
I learned quickly that business executives didn't care about usability testing or information design. Explaining the importance of these areas didn't get us any more work. Instead, when we're in front of executives, we quickly learned to talk about only five things:
How do we increase revenue?
How do we reduce expenses?
How do we bring in more customers?
How do we get more business out of each existing customer?
How do we increase shareholder value?
Notice that the words 'design', 'usability', or 'navigation' never appear in these questions. We found, early on, that the less we talked about usability or design, the bigger our projects got. Today, I'm writing a proposal for a $470,000 project where the word 'usability' isn't mentioned once in the proposal.
...it's sad. Again, I guess, partially, it's connected to the whole.. stupid-but-not-really-stupid users. That the management and execs. fall under. 'cause they don't use, or realize the need for usage... I dunno. Those 5 are important, but really, wouldn't it be easier to get more customers by making things more, well, usable?
I think that's what Apple has accomplished, in a way. Things are.. much more userfriendly... all of their i* apps (iTunes, iPhoto, iDVD... omfg, have you seen iDVD? So... userfriendly. "Drag stuff here." "Click here to burn.")
That would explain why I dislike the iLife and iWork applications. It doesn't follow the programmer's model, and most "pro" options that one usually finds has been stripped out or left out. Hrm...
Finally, unrelated to IUI, but still to Apple (as well as Sony)
French Bill Threatens To Slice Into Apple's Pie
By Laurence Frost
Saturday, March 18, 2006; Page D01
PARIS -- Apple Computer Inc. faces a serious challenge in France, where lawmakers have moved to sever the umbilical cord between its iPod player and iTunes online music store -- threatening its lucrative hold on both markets.
Amendments to an online copyright bill, adopted early Friday, would give rivals access to the hitherto-exclusive file formats at the heart of Apple's music business model as well as Sony Corp.'s Walkman players and Connect store.
Thanks to the success of the iPod models -- in the United States, the players accounted for 72 percent of the portable media player market in 2005, according to NPD Group -- iTunes has become the global leader in online music sales. The iPod is currently designed not to play music from rival services.
According to the latest amendments, however, copy-protection technologies like Apple's exclusive FairPlay format and Sony's ATRAC3 "must not result in the prevention of the effective application of interoperability."
Companies would have to share all "information essential to the interoperability" of their copy-protection formats with any rival that requests it. If they refuse, a judge can order its delivery, on pain of fines.The draft law could force Apple to let French iPod users buy their music from download sites other than iTunes. Owners of other music players would also be allowed to buy songs from iTunes France.
"Without guaranteed interoperability, we run a major risk of captive client bases and an anticompetitive situation, with the consumer held hostage as a result," read the explanatory note accompanying one of the key amendments, introduced by five lawmakers from the governing conservative Union for a Popular Movement.
Lawmakers voted to approve the amended text early Friday and will hold a further formal vote on Tuesday, before the bill is sent to the Senate for its final reading.
Apple spokesman Steve Dowling declined to respond to the draft law. Sony also refused to comment.
Critics of the draft law say legislators have no business forcing Apple to share its proprietary format, which most customers are aware of when they choose to buy an iPod. But consumer groups argue that the only way to give customers real choice is to break open the restrictions.
"It's an essential condition for consumers and for the market itself," said Julien Dourgnon, a spokesman for UFC-Que Choisir, France's main consumer organization.
"It's only by resisting interoperability that Apple is able to keep this dominant position," Dourgnon said. "Once there's interoperability, it's over."
If the draft law goes through in its current form, experts say, Apple could be forced to withdraw from Europe's third-largest music download market -- or threaten to do so while seeking a change in the law.
"They may have to bluff initially by pulling product off the market and making everybody uncomfortable," said Roger Kay of U.S.-based research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates.
But the French move could also be the start of something bigger, he added.
"Apple is now becoming an important player in the digital entertainment domain," Kay said. "And it may be there that ultimately they get challenged on antitrust issues by various governments, including the U.S."
I don't know whether to cheer or worry over this. In a way, it'd be nice.. very nice, actually. But on the other hand... I dunno, something's bugging me, and I don't think it's because I think Apple's stocks will go down as a result...