Tuesday, September 13, 2011

the perils of unconstrained creativity

One of the most damaging features of the computer age is creativity. Creativity must cost the world thousands of man-hours of wasted productivity every day as experienced computer users have to constantly learn new interfaces for no good reason.

Microsoft is common offender, changing interfaces with each new release of every major product. Almost none of the changes have been an improvement and more than a few have been worse than the previous interfaces. I suspect they do it just so that new users have something to talk about, thereby creating buzz about the new release and enticing other users to try it --even though the functionality changes are not really worth an upgrade.

Unfortunately, open source projects follow the Microsoft lead. I just spent five minutes trying to figure out how to shut down a machine running Gnome. Eventually I gave up and spent too long trying to figure out how to bring up a shell window so I could type a shutdown command. When someone who has been using multiple different kinds of computers for thirty years can't figure out how to turn off a computer with five minutes of searching then there is something seriously broken about the user interface of said computer.

None of this innovation in user-interface design is either necessary or useful for the large majority of users. There has not been a notable improvement in computer interfaces since Windows 95. I don't care if people want to make up odd little places to put menus and buttons, but every computer system should start up with an option: "Use Win95 Interface?" for people who don't want to deal with their crap.