Intuituituitivitivity

January 15

I will not complain about devices. Complaining about devices always means that you are wrong. Can’t find the right remote among the 175 of them in the box under the coffee table? You are stupid.

I don’t want to be stupid. So I won’t complain. I will stop watching TV altogether if that’s what it takes, and that’s what it took.

I have my iPhone, and can use it just fine, but I want to make an observation. Not a complaint, mind you! But to all this endlessly repeated received wisdom that these devices are ‘intuitive,’ I’d just like to say one thing. No, they are not that intuitive. I’ll tell you what they are. They are designed to appeal to and work well for the portion of the population who like to poke at things. This may be a substantial majority for all I know, but it’s not everyone, I am here to let you know.

Let me stick with the one (now obsolete) device that I did thoroughly master that was also renowned for its intuitivity. The iPod. Granted, it had very few buttons and maximized the number of things you could do with them, but intuitive it wasn’t. There is nothing about a ‘wheel’ that intuitively communicates ‘scrolling up and down’. There is also nothing intuitive with putting pressure points ON that wheel at the four compass points, that have nothing to do with the scrolling feature. And the button in the middle of the wheel? Oh, that’s a button? How intuitive! As is its obvious unlabeled purpose!

The functions of these features rapidly becomes clear to people oriented to poke at things. They poke and poke and poke and eventually the functionality emerges. All well and good. Others like to look at a display and have it communicate to us functions in the form of an information flow chart. Those of us who fall into that category have been out of luck since the dawn of computers, (and no that nearly random bar of ‘File Edit View Favorites Tools Help’ does not count as functional), well, we are out of luck.  It does not promise to get better soon, not that I’m complaining.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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