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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

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User friendliness doesn't mean derp

There seems to be this perception that if you prefer a user-friendly gadget, you must be a little bit derp.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

It seems counter-intuitive to me.

When I invest in a gadget, I want something I can use; something that isn't going to take me several days to figure out. When I pick up a new thing for the first time, I want to be able to get around easily, with clearly labelled navigation and a user interface that's not going to get in the way.

Probably the best example of this for me is e-readers. So many people love the Kindle. I can appreciate what the Kindle offers (cheap books, a bookstore that's always in your pocket and so on), but I find the user interface so ugly and arduous compared to other e-readers that it's low on my preference list (a personal taste that's undoubtedly coloured by the fact that the first Kindle in my possession went completely kaput within a couple of weeks of arrival).

Meanwhile, I love my Kobo. When the very first Kobo was launched, it offered very little in the way of features — no dictionary, no store connection — but it was something I could pick up and use straight away. The Kobo Touch I have now is the best friend I never knew I was missing; it picked up the feature slack, yet still somehow managed to be very easy to use, even down to offering users a quick tour of the device upon switching it on for the first time.

Admittedly, the "user friendly = derp" argument hasn't filtered down to e-readers (yet), but it is around; visible most often when it comes to things like video-game platforms, smartphone operating systems and computer operating systems.

"iPhone users are drooling idiots" — you'll see this plastered everywhere (paraphrased for convenience), while iPhone users stick out their tongues at imaginary Android bank balances. Windows users decry Mac OS users, while others try to present "proof" that Windows users are the thickies. Meanwhile, the gaming world is a huge, tiered mess, where mobile gamers sit squarely on the bottom rung, with PC gamers lording their smug superiority over everyone else.

I get confused about my own place in the hierarchy. I find Windows easier to use than Mac, since it's the OS I grew up with; I used to play PC and console games a lot more, but nowadays I find mobile games a lot more relaxing (and creative); and I have both an Android phone and an iPod Touch, neither of which I find difficult to use in the least.

We've reached a point where the bells and whistles don't have to be sacrificed to the arcane gods of useability. We can have our cake and, by golly, eat it too.

Further, though, hating on someone who uses something different to what you use seems like a colossal waste of precious energy that could be spent actually enjoying life.

Here's what user friendliness means to me: it means someone has actually sat down and thought carefully about how we interact with our devices, and designed the smoothest experience available. It means that somewhere, someone on a dev team actually gives a good goddamn about giving users a chance to be able to get the most out of what they are offering. It means that someone out there is smart enough to realise that people want to be able to use what they have bought.

And if you want to get into the guts of what you're using and tinker around, that option is available, too. But someone enjoying something differently doesn't mean they're a moron. So why not just leave 'em be, eh?

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NoahH posted a comment   

I certainly think that this is a one sided account. It is just as often that someone puts down android, and other non iOS users as the latter, if not more. In fact, if I am correct, people were flaunting their iPhones antagonisingly and looking down their noses at others, long before android achieved mainstream success.

As far as I am concerned, this is simply iPhone devotees getting their just desserts!


DmitryL posted a comment   

I think when it comes to UI and consumer electronics, it's very important that an easy UI is delivered by the brand. If you're a nerd you'll anyways find a way to complicate your life with hacking, rooting and other open source candy that is out there, but people don't use iphones to launch space shuttles or control tanks - they use it to make calls, read news, tweet, take photos etc etc, and the easier is the UI, the better. Our cognitive functions, memory and education don't depend on how difficult is a mobile device UI. In fact, I prefer to spend as less time as possible, thinking about how to perform a certain task when using a mobile device.
P.S. If a blonde asks you to show how to attach a picture to her message on iPhone, it does not mean she is too stupid to figure it out herself. She probably has a different agenda with you :)


JackW2 posted a comment   

Personally I like it when things are hidden and Cryptic so that you go looking for them. Not because I'm old, and I liked it better when people couldn't find out anything about a person just by googling them, but because I like it when i find super-awesome fancy **** that nobody else knows about :B


AmosS posted a comment   

i assume the author is an iphone user?


Michelle Starr posted a reply   

Did you read ALL of the words? ;)


MarkT10 posted a reply   

Raging battle between Google and iOS is great for consumers and competitors@


Michelle Starr posted a reply   

Does that mean consumers need to call each other names? Well, you live and learn, I suppose ...


NotTodayG posted a comment   

Fancy language.


petermchardy posted a comment   


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