ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context : UsabilityStuff

Phil's first law of users states that : whenever you make your software simple enough for users to understand it properly, users will adapt to be even stupider in order to be confused again.

A more generous way of understanding this : every time you try to "make it easier" by wrapping a new virtual machine or metaphor over the existing machine you create three problems :

  • all abstractions are leaky so sometimes the metaphor will break down
  • as the idea of the metaphor is to obscure the underlying reality, users become more detached and ignorant of the underlying reality and so less able to cope when the metaphor breaks down
  • those who do try to understand have to assimilate more and more information, both about the underlying machine, the metaphor, and the mapping

As a bonus issue, as you get further away from the areas where the metaphor is obvious and well worked out, the more your attempts at metaphors are arbitrary and simply replace one layer of complexity with another, which doesn't even have the consistency of being constrained by physical stuff. Consider the dog's breakfast of metaphors MicroSoft has tried to wrap around local networking to make it easy enough.

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