"This third method of user interface design solves the problems of both of the previous two. I call it idiomatic because it is based on the way we learn and use idioms, or figures of speech, like 'beat around the bush' or 'cool.' They are easily understood but not in the same way metaphors are. There is no bush and nobody is beating anything. We understand the idiom because we have learned it and because it is distinctive. Pretty simple, huh? This is where the human mind is really outstanding, mastering learning and remembering idioms very easily without having to depend on comparing them to known situations or understanding how they work. It has to, because most idioms don't have any metaphoric meaning at all. Most of the controls on a GUI interface are idioms. Splitters, winders, comboboxes and scrollbars are things we learn idiomatically rather than intuit metaphorically.
We tend to think that learning is hard because of the conditioning we have from the technology paradigm. Those old user interfaces were very hard to learn because you also had to understand how they worked. Most of what we know we learn without understanding; things like faces, social interactions, attitudes, the arrangement of rooms and furniture in our houses and offices. We don't 'understand' why someone's face is composed the way it is, but we 'know' their face. We recognize it because we have looked at it and memorized it, and it wasn't that difficult.
The familiar mouse is not metaphoric of anything but rather is learned idiomatically. That scene in Star Trek IV where Scotty returns to twentieth-century Earth and tries to speak into a mouse is one of the few parts of that movie that is not fiction. There is nothing about the mouse that indicates its purpose or use, nor is it comparable to anything else in our experience, so learning it is not intuitive. However, learning to point at things with a mouse is incredibly easy. Someone probably spent all of three seconds showing it to you your first time, and you mastered it from that instant on. We don't know or care how mice work and yet we can operate them just fine. That is idiomatic learning.
The key observation about idioms is that although they must be learned, good ones only need to be learned once. It is quite easy to learn idioms like 'cool' or 'politically correct' or 'kick the bucket' or 'the lights are on but nobody's home' or 'in a pickle' or 'inside the beltway' or 'take the red-eye' or 'grunge.' The human mind is capable of picking up an idiom like one of the above from a single hearing. It is similarly easy to learn idioms like checkboxes, radiobuttons, pushbuttons, close boxes, pulldown menus, buttcons, tabs, comboboxes, keyboards, mice and pens.
This idea of taking a simple action or symbol and imbuing it with meaning is familiar to marketing professionals. Synthesizing idioms is the essence of product branding, whereby a company takes a product or company name and imbues it with a desired meaning. Tylenol is a meaningless word, an idiom, but the McNeil company has spent millions to make you associate that word with safe, simple, trustworthy pain relief. Of course, idioms are visual, too. The golden arches of MacDonalds, the three diamonds of Mitsubishi, the five interlocking rings of the Olympics, even Microsoft's flying window are non-metaphoric idioms that are instantly recognizable and imbued with common meaning.
Ironically, much of the familiar GUI baggage often thought to be metaphoric is actually idiomatic. Such artifacts as window close boxes, resizable windows, infinitely nested file folders and clicking and dragging are non-metaphoric operations-they have no parallel in the real world. They derive their strength only from their easy idiomatic learnability."
(Alan Cooper, 1995)
Alan Cooper (1995). "The Myth of Metaphor", Visual Basic Programmer's Journal.
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We cover policy issues and intellectual developments worldwide through a specialist staff of reporters and many contributors from within the academic community. Times Higher Education provides high-quality information and analysis as well as a forum for debate for the academic community on higher education policy issues - public funding, tuition charges, quality assurance, institutional governance, student assessment, postgraduate training etc - and on intellectual developments, personalities and debates. Coverage includes a large number of book reviews of both specialised texts and books of general interest to an academic audience."
(TSL Education Ltd.)
"The Not My Type animation series was primarily produced for distribution on the internet. Set in an office, the Not My Type series explores the various relationships within. While avoiding the use of language and dialogue, Not My Type, takes various typographic faces, symbols and characters and then duplicates, distorts and moves them to create a simple, stylistic production.
The initial version was created using Macromedia Director in 1995 (while John was at University) and was then recreated in 2000 for internet distribution using Flash - which was a perfect fit for a font based, primarily black & white animation. Not My Type I was so well received that another episode soon followed, culminating in four episodes by the end of 2002."
(John and Mark Lycette)
"The history of popular music is haunted by the ghosts of scores of singers and groups who made a single hit song and were never heard from again. Periodically radio stations that specialize in classic rock will devote a weekend to these one-hit wonders"
(David W. Galenson)
Galenson, David W., One Hit Wonders: Why Some of the Most Important Works of Modern Art are Not by Important Artists (November 2004). NBER Working Paper Series, Vol. w10885, pp. -, 2004. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=618522
Fig.1 C. W. McCall (1975). "Convoy"; Fig.2 Promises (1978). "Baby it's You"; Fig.3 The Swingers (1982). "Counting The Beat"; Fig.4 Deee-Lite (1990). "Groove Is In The Heart"; Fig.5 OMC (1995). "How Bizarre"
"It was eons before I discovered that 'lauded' was a good thing.
Anyway, I'm more like that slack-assed buddy who doesn't return your phone calls, has owed you twenty bucks for the last 14 years and flirts with your wife when it comes to updating the site at times. For that I feel shame. Shame, I feel. But hey, it's 2010 now, and I'm a changed man. Besides, don't I get some slack since I've had this site up since 1995? Val Kilmer used to be Batman back then! And Mr. Showbiz left you high and dry, but your friend Drew, he sticks with you while simultaneously referring to himself in the third person!"
[Note that this site includes a large number of inelegant ads.]