Wednesday, January 24, 2007

OLPC is Genius

An overview of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) user interface design ...

"If you haven’t done so already, go read the OLPC HIG now. I swear to God, this document is a work of pure, inspired genius. Will it work? I don’t know. But if you have an ounce of interest in your body for design, you will admire their balls and creativity.

This UI is quite simply one of the deepest and most interesting redesigns of the desktop user interface ever produced. It makes MacOS look like what it is - boring and unoriginal. The list of things this UI gets right is so long it makes my head spin:

• It actually uses Fitts Law effectively. Compare that to Windows/MacOS/GNOME/KDE which basically do nothing with the 4 corners of the screen (maybe you can set a corner to activate the screensaver or something similarly rare).
• Network and presence is fully integrated into the core of the design
• They threw out the clipboard and replaced it with something that doesn’t suck
• They junked 2.5D, which is something that regularly confuses less technical types or people who are older and haven’t grown up with WIMP style ui (notice how many Windows users have every window maximized all the time and simply use the taskbar to switch between active tasks).
• They junked the address bar. You can still type in URLs but now it just shows you the title of the page. I want them to make anything you type in here go to a search if it doesn’t parse as a URL - Firefox almost but not quite gets this right. Given that nearly all the top queries on Google are the names of websites, it’s quite clear that huge numbers of people still don’t understand the address bar and the structure of URLs despite them being everywhere around us. Usability studies done on web browsers also confirm this. And who can blame them? URLs not only have a stupid TLA as a name, they are full of weird punctuation and bizarre acronyms like “http”, “www”, “com” etc.
• The Bulletin Board sharing concept is marvellous - a single, simple idea can be used to not only keep track of your own work, but to share it with others, and review/collaborate using spatial comments."    (Continued via Mike Hearn)    [Usability Resources]

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