Part II: Designing Behavior and Form in Java

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Part II: Designing Behavior and Form
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chapter, we discuss the reasons for this, as well as the alternatives to design based on metaphors.
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Interface Paradigms
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There are three dominant paradigms in the conceptual and visual design of user interfaces: implementation-centric, metaphoric, and idiomatic. The implementationcentric interfaces are based on understanding how things actually work under the hood a difficult proposition. Metaphoric interfaces are based on intuiting how things work a risky method. Idiomatic interfaces, however, are based on learning how to accomplish things a natural, human process. The field of user-interface design progressed from a heavy focus on technology (implementation) to an equally heavy focus on metaphor. There is ample evidence of all three paradigms in contemporary software design, even though the metaphoric paradigm is the only one that has been named and described. Although metaphors are great tools for humans to communicate with each other (this book is filled with them), they are weak tools for the design of software, and all too often they hamper the creation of truly superior interfaces.
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Implementation-centric interfaces
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Implementation-centric user interfaces are widespread in the computer industry. These interfaces are expressed in terms of their construction, of how they are built. In order to successfully use them, users must understand how the software works internally. Following the implementation-centric paradigm means user-interface design based exclusively on the implementation model. The overwhelming majority of software programs today are implementation centric in that they show us, without any hint of shame, precisely how they are built. There is one button per function, one dialog per module of code, and the commands and processes precisely echo the internal data structures and algorithms. We can see how an implementation model interface ticks by learning how to run its program. The problem is that the reverse is also true: We must learn how the program works in order to successfully use the interface.
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DESIGN principle
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Most people would rather be successful than knowledgeable.
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13: Metaphors, Idioms, and Affordances
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Clearly, implementation-centric interfaces are the easiest to build every time a programmer writes a function he slaps on a bit of user interface to test that function. It s easy to debug, and when something doesn t behave properly, it s easy to troubleshoot. Further, engineers like to know how things work, so the implementation-centric paradigm is very satisfying to them. Engineers prefer to see the gears and levers and valves because it helps them understand what is going on inside the machine. That those artifacts needlessly complicate things for users seems a small price to pay. Engineers may want to understand the inner workings, but most users don t have either the time or desire. They d much rather be successful than be knowledgeable, a preference that is often hard for engineers to understand. A close relative of the implementation-centric interface worth mentioning is the org-chart centric interface. This is the common situation where a product, or most typically, a Web site, is organized, not according to how users are likely to think about information, but by how the company the site represents is structured. On such as site, there is typically a tab or area for each division and a lack of cohesion between these areas. Similar to the implementation-centric product interface, an org-chart-centric Web site requires users to have an intimate understanding of how a corporation is structured to find the information they are interested in.
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Metaphoric interfaces
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Metaphoric interfaces rely on intuitive connections that users makes between the visual cues in an interface and its function. There is no need to understand the mechanics of the software, so it is a step forward from implementation-centric interfaces, but its power and usefulness has been inflated to unrealistic proportions. When we talk about metaphors in the context of user interface and interaction design, we really mean visual metaphors: a picture used to represent the purpose or attributes of a thing. Users recognize the imagery of the metaphor and, by extension, can presumably understand the purpose of the thing. Metaphors can range from the tiny images on toolbar buttons to the entire screen on some programs from a tiny pair of scissors on a button indicating Cut to a full-size checkbook in Quicken. We understand metaphors intuitively, but what does that really mean Webster s Dictionary defines intuition like this: in tu i tion \in- tu-wi-shen\ n 1 : quick and ready insight 2 a : immediate apprehension or cognition b : knowledge or conviction gained by intuition c : the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference
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