Metaphors, Learning and Flexibility in User Experience

  1. What are the Pro’s and Con’s of Metaphors in U/X?
    1. Pro: Relatable.  Regardless of learning-style, we can only begin to understand a new idea or concept by relating it to knowledge of something already understood, which is why metaphors are so prolific in programming- from “spinning-up” a new AWS ec2-Instance to “forking a repo,” computer-scientists can only begin to learn from what they already know.
    2. Cons: Although metaphors can create short-cuts in learning, they can become confusing and equally debilitating without expert-guidance.  For example, `git push origin master` sounds very confusing to the untrained-ear, especially if the code-base was created locally.  A priori knowledge must be supplemented with a posteriori knowledge– or more simply stated: there are some types of learning beyond books that can only be achieved by experience; you can’t learn to ride a motorcycle by reading a book.
  2. How do you use metaphors in your designs?
    1. At BucephalusDev, we approach U/X | U/I withOccam’s Razor” as a design-pattern– meaning all things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the right one; ergo, aesthetics can only be afforded by the most basic, easy-to-use user-interface to ultimately create the best user-experience.
  3. Have you seen other great examples of how metaphors are used on the Web?
    1. Virtually every term in Gimp or Photoshop is defined by metaphors:
      1. Airbrushing
      2. Add “warm” skin-tones
      3. Zoom” in/out for scale.
    2. Spin-up– like spin-up an AWS eC2 Instance
      1. Like you are “spinning-up” a “web.”
    3. Numerous metaphors in Git:
      1. Pull-request: request admin to pull code-revisions to master.
      2. Fork a repository: experimenting with a code-base without disrupting remote-origin.
      3. `Git branch`: check all branches existing in your repository.
  4. Is the Desktop metaphor still valid?
    1. Absolutely- over twenty years after Steinberg’s Lifestreams, and four decades since the birth of the Internet, computer-scientists and layman alike are relegated to the same archaic desktop; like Tarzan and Jane, we still hack-away with text-editors, terminals, spreadsheets and Gimp along with Photoshop to tell our stories.
  5. Can you propose something?
    1. Recent developments in graphics-card and image-process engines have advanced to a legitimate, scalable V/R experience, which means we may be at the precipice of a U/I revolution transforming today’s U/X.  According to Asus, at 90Hz, current headsets provide an updated view of the world every 11.1 milliseconds. The graphics card has to generate new frames that quickly to keep up, which is a tall order even at the relatively modest 2160×1200 (1080×1200 per eye) resolution used by the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, so you effectively want a minimum frame rate of 90 FPS.  I believe the first stage of the desktop U/X evolution will require a helmet like Oculus-Rift, in addition to gloves for guided-user interface assistance.  Hopefully, advances in digital-light processing (DLP) will enable connection to guided user-interface experience akin to Minority Report.  Until any human can simply reach out and touch data, computer-science has a lot of work to do.

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