Remember the GUIs of late 90s and 2000s? They had options, submenus, checkboxes. Lots of them. Maybe they weren't as flexible and versatile as some command line tools like FFmpeg, or xorriso, but they definitely did give users a lot to choose from, and they encouraged exploration.

Today's GUIs claim to have a better UX, but they're significantly dumbed down. They assume what the user wants, and discourage any sort of learning.

Is this what the next generation of hackers will grow up with?

And don't even get me started on data density.
You could fit so much data on a 1024x768 screen back in the day. Nowadays, with 2x higher resolution, you can't fit even half of the data, because everything has a larger font and 3em of padding.

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Or maybe they will grow up learning inner systems, workarounds and so on precisely because of the restrictions of the default environment.

@jankoekepan hm... I guess the generation of hackers halfway between me and my dad used a BASIC interpreter when they were 8yo....

There's hope.

@wolf480pl And when BASIC was too weak, they reached for ASM.

The big difference was that the manuals at the time actually included opcodes and references.

@jankoekepan @wolf480pl I do not think so. The barrier of entry is being artificially held high, so that young people don't even discover computers as means of being creative

@wolf480pl So it's not just me! I remember writing in 10pt type on a 14in 1024x768 crt. Now that everybody has 20+in lcds with 1080p+ resolution, everything is in like 15pt type in a tiny column down the center of the screen!

@wolf480pl macOS Big Sur is working to be finger-friendly with large padding on windows and controls. It is such a waste on a 13” laptop, which was already cramped. (Enough to finally switch to Linux/*BSD)

@wolf480pl All users don't want to grow into hackers. They just want an efficient tool that does the work they want with few overhead as possible and without having to read hundreds of pages of manual. Surely, if you haven't noticed that, you probably haven't talked to enough users in your life.

@wolf480pl I'm sure when you use a car, you don't want to have to learn the fluid physics behind the fuel injection and read hundred of pages about what is the optimal injection quantities because you have to manually set this up every time you start the car.

@AugierLe42e that's ffmpeg CLI.

The thing with old GUIs is that you don't have to use all the options. But they are there, inviting you to try them if you have a spare moment.

@wolf480pl Yeah, these old poorly documented checkboxes you don't know what they do unless you go into the manual.

You may prefer that. But most users don't. I don't. So now, you're left with two choices: you can state they *should* learn, and continue make GUI with lots of buttons people hate.

Or you can just study how most of them use GUIs and design them to increase productivity and use pleasure. That's UX.

Your choice.

>unless you go into the manual.

um, no? they usually had very descriptive captions, and in the worst case you just need to experiment and see what they do.

>study how most of them use GUIs

Ah yes, dictatorship of the majority. Pretty sure github was designed that way - studying what average non-programmer would like, and applying it to a site for programmers.

>Your choice.

Not really.


> they usually had very descriptive captions

That highly varies…

> Ah yes, dictatorship of the majority

Ah, you want dictatorship of the few, then?

Ok. Let me clarify: options are *good*. But there's no need to always present all of them to the user. Clean accessible interfaces are the way to go because this is what makes the software easy and enjoyable to use (when UX is done correctly).

@AugierLe42e yes, but the way to show those options should be easily discoverable.

Also, depending on the target audience, sometimes you may want to optimize for ease of sustained use instead of ease of first-time use.

You wouldn't design an UI for someone who will be using it 40 hours a week for their job the same way you'd design an UI for casual users, right?

@wolf480pl I suppose multiple tools can be developed for multiple use cases. Simple tool for users with simple use cases. Advanced tools for advanced users. I mean: Photoshop is of no use for most people editing pictures. For most non-pro user, you just want to crop, resize, sometimes put some text or shapes and that's it. So no need for PS. Simple tool is fine.

@AugierLe42e yeah, but then people who optimize for casual users get to design, eg. github

@AugierLe42e I mean, what you're saying is good, it's just that it's not what happens in reality, which I find sad.

@wolf480pl I don't get why you keep coming back to Github. What's wrong with it?

@wolf480pl Well, that's a case of bad UX. Not a case of options not present or software being to simple. I agree I was disturbed by new notification UI on Github and I still don't like everything. But that's definitely a UX question.

@AugierLe42e I think there were some changes in the repo view that weren't obviously bad, but were definitely geared towards casual users at the expense of professionals. But can't remember what it was and it's kinda late.

@AugierLe42e Another question is, how do the tools affect the users.

You said that users don't want to learn, but to what extent is it their nature, and to what extent is this a result of them being shaped by their tools?

I think a smooth transition from simpler interfaces to more advanced one would encourage people to learn, without forcing them to do so.

@wolf480pl I didn't say users don't want to learn. I said not everybody is interested in learning and that should be considered legit. And I don't think this is the role of the tool to force (or encourage) the users to learn.

@AugierLe42e but it can certainly discourage users to learn

@wolf480pl Well in that case, that's bad UX. When it discourages to learn, it means the software is hard to use. A typical example of this is GIMP. It has one of the worst UX I've ever seen. Nothing is intuitive and some basic features requires going to manual or tutorial on the Internet. That software prevents me from using it longer than I need to because every feature is painful to use. And it doesn't miss displayed options (that's one of the problems: to many things on screen).

weird, for me GIMP feels totally opposite.

I don't know all the filters, but I know where to look for them.
Same with the options in the Layers, Colors, and Picture menus. I've never read a manual or searched for tutorials on the internet, it just all made sense.

One thing that could be done is creating "gui profile".
While launching your app, you have a choice of the level you want : easy/medium/expert (like in videogame).
Each level increase the density and the number of visible checkboxes and all.

And now the devs can use some sort of telemetry or optin user feedback to classify their options in the correct level.
That way the same tool could be used by everybody.

@lord @AugierLe42e @wolf480pl

I feel this is a good way :)

It seems that they are not one kind of users, but several kind of users.

Smaller apps are probably easier to get done in a fair amount of time and can benefit learning users or those who have simple needs.

But if you have to learn again a whole new tool for more advanced usages, and maybe switch between them, it's painful.

Also, as a teacher, it means you have to train on different tools for many levels instead of deeper learning.

@AugierLe42e Not all kids need to know how to solve a quadratic equation, but we teach them that at school anyway.

Kids won't know that they like doing things which they never try.

@AugierLe42e sorry, english hard, what do you mean by "makes studies"?

@wolf480pl Sorry, probably poor translation from French. I meant get a degree. You don't learn to solve quadratic aquations unless you get a degree in physics or electronics. Probably something in the third year post high school in most countries.

Not sure what it's like in France, but in Poland you learn to solve quadratic equations in secondary school ("high school" in US English, 15-18 years old), if not earlier.

@wolf480pl You're right. I've mistaken it for something else. But it doesn't change anything: I'm sure not everybody goes to high school anyway. Even in Poland.

@AugierLe42e It's mandatory...

You can go to a vocational school instead, so if it is indeed taught in high school then I guess some kids will never learn that.

But I think it might've been part of middle school / "gimnazjum" (ages 12 to 15), in which case there's no way around it. Dunno how to check that though.

@wolf480pl It is partially for this reason that I like palm pilots. It's a freaking mobile device with drop down menus! and because it has a stylus, I can PRESS them! Not to mention it doesn't have wireless, so no spyware, everything runs pretty low level, which is good for efficiency and hacking, and it doesn't run all kinds of background tasks that bog the system down.

@wolf480pl I guess, that future hackers will juggle those dumbed down apps to get things done. They will know how talk with machines to write code exactly how they want.

@wolf480pl @bagder did an excellent post a while back related to this, about the many options that #curl offers:

Excerpt from it:
«curl’s general design is to allow users to individual toggle and set every capability and feature individually. Every little knob can be on or off, independently of the other knobs. […]
As we work hard at never breaking old scripts and use cases, we don’t remove old options but we can add new ones.»

@wolf480pl There are two 'leading' destops in my little world. One keeps with the cockpit of an A380 approach and the other steadily removes knobs and levers.
I like the A380 one.

@wolf480pl There are some 'religious wars' best only alluded to... :-)

Sorry, I really want to see what the worms in the can look like.

So I've heard Boeing has this approach of incrementally adding individual automated systems on top of existing controls, so eg. they still have yokes, but then the autopilot has motors to turn the yoke when said to maintain a certain course. And turning the yoke manually will disengage the autopilot.
OTOH, Airbus will just connect everything to a computer and give you a joystick you can use as input.

Is that right?

@wolf480pl I am far more familiar with computer DE's than airliner cockpits I'm afraid! :-)
That was merely an analogy I chose.
Off the top of my head, I think one airline company has (or had) actual mechanical connections to the actual flight control surfaces and the other offered only electrical controls. Fly by wire.
Heck, Ford power steering is NOT mechanically connected and a computer controlled stepper motor decides on the rotational velocity how much to turn the wheels and how fast!

AFAIK no large plane since Douglas DC-10 had mechanical connection between the yoke and the control surfaces.

Most of them used hydraulics. Like in your power steering in most older cars.

But yes, Airbus has no hydraulics AFAIK and uses fly-by-wire instead.

@gemlog hmm looks like Airbus still uses some hydraulics, it's just that it's not connected directly to the yoke because there's no yoke.

@wolf480pl yes. hydraulics makes sense over a direct mechanical connection. I should have said that instead.
Hydraulics/fluidics is very interesting all on its own. Another road not taken...

@gemlog anyway, which DE it is that you find A380-like?

@wolf480pl Oh for goodness sake!
I deliberately couched it that way so as not to provoke a DE religious war
Like text editors, prog langs, OS's... ppl get very attached and defensive about their choice of Desktop Environment (DE). [that was for those just tuning in-not You]
Obviously, in linux/bsd every aspect of the graphical environment may be tweaked. At 'worst' it's buried in a piece of C code you may recompile. Usually it's in a text file. Said txt file may or may not have a gui in your DE

@gemlog ok, you don't wanna tell me what you use, that's fine.

I use swaywm but I'm not one who'd go out to convince others to stop using what they're using and use sway instead.

@wolf480pl I haven't tried it.
I don't know why, just a personal foible of mine, but I don't warm up to tiling window managers for some reason. Gobs of virtual desktops, 'screen', tabs and so on to extend the space, but organizing it as tiles I don't like for some reason. Many do like it though, obviously!
And then wayland. I'm still x11.
Maybe this entire thread is *only* because I'm an old guy. That could be.

@gemlog I started using tiling WM after I realized I'm putting windows next to each other to look at one and type in the other, except they still overlap because I couldn't be bothered to resize them.

But the biggest advantage of tiling WMs for me is being able to do everything with keyboard.

No pressure though. If what you use right now works for you, that's good. Also, being old is fine. Definitely better than being a hype-following kid 😉

@wolf480pl Listen, I don't mind alt-tabbing or w/e between windows. I shift+arrow between tabs all day.
I don't like taking my hands off the keyboard anymore than anyone else.

But. Sometimes I'm a 'mouse guy' aren't I? Drawing, painting, just watching a vid...

And yes, absolutely, growing old is OK! Especially if you consider the alternative! Sheesh. You people. Oy.

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