Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why don't people understand the computer?

I am always fascinated when I observe people using a computer's user interface, even when using the user interface of the popular video game, guitar hero.

I have played guitar hero with a lot of "normal" (non computer) people and have found it interesting to observe their interactions with it. This process has enlightened something else I have been spending a lot of time thinking about, and that is why people cannot understand/use a computer.

And Guitar Hero is a good example. Even something as (I think) simple as the user interface of guitar hero causes people to go... I don't know what's going on, I can't use this. From my point of view, it could not be simpler, everything is self explanatory and right before you. It gives you all the feed back and guidance you need to quickly navigate around - and I therefore cannot at all, understand why they find it so difficult - I just can't get into their head and understand.

Until now when I finally understand why they find it so difficult.

For these people, the user interface of guitar hero might as well be Chinese - that would be just as comprehensible to them! I understand the language of the computer - they don't, and it is a question of language. They don't speak "computer", or should I say "read computer" since the "computer" language is only a read language. You can definitely get different abilities in this "computer" language - the people I'm referring to here though have no clue. And so it makes sense that people can be "computer literate", able to read computer - it's a very appropriate label for someone who knows their way around the computer.

The conclusion to all this is that whereas before I could not understand why people cannot understand the simplest of interfaces, and these people are not uneducated, now I fully understand why they cannot operate the interface. They need to understand the language it's communicating in.

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