A while ago I got myself a shiny new ThinkPad and installed Windows 7 on it, along with Office 2010. The move from the XP to Win7 was more dramatic than the move from Win ‘93 through ‘95 and ‘98. Icons had replaced text-based menus and everything was sleeker, curvy-edged, Mac-like. Adjusting to this new UI didn’t take very long. The folder directory, for instance, stayed structurally the same, but the icons’ design was changed, making the whole viewing experience a disorientating one. Things stayed the same yet were now totally different.
This got me thinking about the first TV ad for iPad, which claimed “It’s magical. You already know how to use it”. Smashing Magazine did an excellent, comprehensive piece on pattern recognition and familiarity, explaining the cognitive reasons that make us so happy to discover shapes and colors we are used to and how Apple capitalize on that tendency.
Having been conditioned to variations on the same user interfaces for years now (Mac/Microsoft/Google), I can’t help but wonder what the last time any of us had a REAL first time user experience, when it comes to software or webware. Like, a groundbreaking, innovative, unheard of new UI that we would have to actually learn from scratch and not count on our intuitive understanding of operating systems to handle.
An exciting thought, no? Well, even the most seemingly intuitive reasoning has its counter argument. Tune in next week, when I explore the flipside of intuitive UX design…