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It's Official: Users Navigate Flat UI Designs 22 Percent Slower (theregister.co.uk) 408

Reader Zorro writes: The mania for "flat" user interfaces is costing publishers and e-commerce sites billions in lost revenue. A "flat" design removes the distinction between navigation controls and content. Historically, navigation controls such as buttons were shaded, or given 3D relief, to distinguish them from the application or web page's content. The mania is credited to Microsoft with its minimalistic Zune player, an iPod clone, which was developed into the Windows Phone Series UX, which in turn became the design for Windows from Windows 8 in 2012 onwards. But Steve Jobs is also to blame. The typography-besotted Apple founder was fascinated by WP's "magazine-style" Metro design, and it was posthumously incorporated into iOS7 in 2013. Once blessed by Apple, flat designs spread to electronic programme guides on telly, games consoles and even car interfaces. The consequence is that users find navigation harder, and so spend more time on a page. Now research by the Nielsen Norman Group has measured by how much. The company wired up 71 users, and gave them nine sites to use, tracking their eye movement and recording the time spent on content. On average participants spent 22 per cent more time (i.e. slower task performance) looking at the pages with weak signifiers," the firm notes. Why would that be? Users were looking for clues how to navigate. "The average number of fixations was significantly higher on the weak-signifier versions than the strong-signifier versions. On average, people had 25 per cent more fixations on the pages with weak signifiers."
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It's Official: Users Navigate Flat UI Designs 22 Percent Slower

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  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:10PM (#55142189)
    ... and you've got difficult to read and difficult to navigate, some good reasons why the current UIs are less than usable. So... why were these productivity reductions made in the first place?
    • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:15PM (#55142237)

      And once you add the "thin as fuck" fonts, it makes things impossible to read as well as difficult to navigate.

      Sometimes I have to turn off CSS to be able to read the fucking content. How is that for bad design?

      • What a mess (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:38PM (#55142429) Homepage Journal

        In all seriousness, you can add "really bad looking" to those.

        o Design evolution stopped
        o Low contrast text fad makes things difficult to read
        o Flat UI is difficult to navigate
        o Flat UI is really bad looking

        Recently, I had occasion to bring up an OS X 10.6.8 virtual machine. The first thing that struck me about the desktop was the dock, which is decidedly 3D and had some very distinctive icons on it right out of the box was "this is really very good looking." Then I looked back at the dock on the 10.12.6 OS X (MacOS) host... ugh. All that flat crap looks terrible by comparison.

        My S7 phone used to be the same. Flat as a pancake. Ugly. But for it, I found Nova Launcher, and now at least the desktop looks better with 3D folders (and my phone's desktop is all folders, so that's something, anyway. There are still a few 3D app icons, too.)

        I really do wish this mania for flat would go the hell away. Flat is not better. At all. This merde was never more than "change for the sake of change."

        • Re:What a mess (Score:4, Interesting)

          by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:58PM (#55142649)

          If only they would go to the trouble of having an OS-wide setting for user interface: 3D or Flat.

        • Re:What a mess (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @03:40PM (#55143559)

          I've got a term for this disease that I use a lot when I'm trying to explain how and why user interface design has gone down the toilet lately: Phonification. (Often spoken alongside another phrase I coined: "You can't say crap without app." That's another topic, though.)

          Another few sins I'd like to add to the list:

          * Non-standard iconography: Icons that mean the same thing appear differently between programs and platforms.
          * Non-obvious iconography: Icons are used which have no obvious meaning. Why is there a ball-and-stick molecule thing for 'share'?
          * No text to describe what icons or buttons do, even as an option, even when text would fit. If you're lucky you can get a mouse-over tip. Very lucky.
          * Interface elements do not reside in predictable or consistent regions of the screen. I thought this was a basic rule of GUI design, but I guess not.
          * No obvious visual cues for when a button can or can't be used. (I'm looking at you, Citrix.)

          It's more than just change for the sake of change. It's a bunch of stupid valley hipsters and brain-dead suits who don't know the first thing about visual communication, throwing away nearly forty years of GUI design standards and principles (which have been tried, proven, and I would dare say perfected, over that span of time,) just so they can make something that looks trendy and sophisticated, when it's really just annoying. When people complain, they assume the problem is with the user, and not with the bullshit design ideas that they're embracing. (So in a lot of ways, an interface that's like them.)

          It's bad enough that so many sacrifices have to be made for palm-sized touch screens (don't even get me started on these,) but piling ugly pastel colors, flat interfaces, gigantic empty margins and spaces, unreadable fonts, and cryptic icons that roam from page to page, all on top of that, has made the smartphone user experience an exercise in frustration. Whenever this rot spreads to other platforms (especially design choices that only make sense when you're dealing with a touch screen, on a platform where the touch screen is absent) I just groan and shake my head and ask, "Why? Why would you do this to your program?" Deliberately reducing the usability of your programs, especially for new users, just for the sake of looks is not a valid artistic decision! Function first, form second, it's the golden rule of design!

          There's a damn good reason absolutely everyone hated Windows 8. To the design leads at Microsoft and beyond: Stop trying to shove this down our throats, people. We don't like it, you can't make us like it, and we're not dumb for disliking it.

          On the topic of phones, wanna know what my favorite phone is from the last ten years? The Jitterbug. Yes, I'm aware that it's a phone specially designed for the elderly, but look at that interface. It's fucking glorious. If this is a phone for old people, then call me Grandpa. I want this kind of design to be standard, everywhere.

          As for the phonification of the web and the desktop, stop, please, just stop. These people have no idea what they're doing. Interface design has become a cargo cult, and it's probably going to take another Mother of All Demos (and maybe a viable alternative to that cancer, the touch screen,) to get everyone back on track.

          • Amen, brother! I agree with you 100%.

            One thing that irritates the hell out me is people calling everything an "app". They even call games apps, for Pete's sake. No, an application is something you can actually use to something productive. I always divided the programs (remember programs?) on my computer into applications, games, utilities, etc. Of course, on a phone I guess it doesn't make any difference because you can't do much productive on a phone.
          • Re:What a mess (Score:4, Interesting)

            by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @05:51PM (#55144535) Homepage Journal

            It's a reaction to the hideous skeuomorphic crap we had for years, aka "maybe if I click on the cheese plant" UI design.

            And then before that we had "OMG I've got 2MB of video RAM I must fill it with low quality textures and photoshopped rounded icons."

            Similar thing with contrast. In the 70s and 80s we understood that too much contrast is bad, and so is too little. Then it went insanely high contrast as hardware improved, now insanely low because amateur graphic designers...

            Flat can be okay when it's done well, but it's too easy to screw up. The old 80s style may look dated, but it's hard to get wrong.

        • Re:What a mess (Score:4, Informative)

          by alexgieg ( 948359 ) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @04:23PM (#55143937) Homepage

          Low contrast text fad makes things difficult to read

          The fun thing is when that affects your IDE, particularly when it's entirely graphical. Until version 2015 LabVIEW had nice black graphics in its icons (equivalent to functions in text languages). With version 2016 they went low contrast, hard, so that icons all appear disabled now (there's a wrap around option that allows one to disable areas of the screen and fades the icons there -- all icons look like that now). End result: older programmers complaining and asking for an UI option to switch between low contrast and high contrast, as it isn't like the old icons don't exist anymore.

          National Instruments's answer was to the effect that: under focus group tests the lower contrast was welcomed (I wonder if they tested it with 20-years-old only); that nature has no hard blacks so low contrast is easier on the eyes; that industry as a whole is moving towards low contrast so better you guys get used to it; that adding a high/low contrast switch would move engineering effort towards a low priority feature; and that if you're not being able to discern the icons, your monitor is uncalibrated, so call a specialist to calibrate your monitor or buy a better one.

          Older programmers answer to this was to uninstall LabVIEW 2016, go back to LabVIEW 2015, and to stick to it for as long as it's supported.

          Good thing my company didn't purchase the upgrade to LabVIEW 2016. I still have the version I can comfortably look at. :-)

    • by Khyber ( 864651 ) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:17PM (#55142255) Homepage Journal

      "So... why were these productivity reductions made in the first place?"

      Because UX/UI designers now days obviously never read a book regarding the subject of user interface design.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:36PM (#55142413)

        Because UX/UI designers now days obviously never read a book regarding the subject of user interface design.

        Also a lack of usability testing. My UI designs were subjected to usability testing a few times, with customers video recorded while attempting to accomplish a task. Watching those videos was a very humbling experience. I kept trying to scream "NO! Not THAT button!", but since it was a recording, they didn't hear me. Afterwards, my designs got much simpler.

        One book that helped me is Microinteractions [amazon.com].

        • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:52PM (#55142567)

          One of the victims of the philosophy of 'automated test only', which is the management perversion of automated testing. Usability is not a test that can be automated, therefore it's not worth doing.

          • Usability is not a test that can be automated

            It can be sort-of automated using Fivver or Mechanical Turk. On Fivver, you can find people that specialize in UI critique, and they can often give really good feedback. MT is better for single interactions, like "page A" vs "page B".

        • Because UX/UI designers now days obviously never read a book regarding the subject of user interface design.

          Also a lack of usability testing. My UI designs were subjected to usability testing a few times, with customers video recorded while attempting to accomplish a task. Watching those videos was a very humbling experience. I kept trying to scream "NO! Not THAT button!", but since it was a recording, they didn't hear me. Afterwards, my designs got much simpler.

          One book that helped me is Microinteractions [amazon.com].

          Very funny :-D I also have moments like that with my clients, usually I keep thinking "what the hell is he trying to do ???"

        • by godrik ( 1287354 )

          I participated in user testing of some of our internal systems. And I remember they give us tasks to do and observe what we are doing. I remember telling them afterwards things like "I have no idea what this button is going to get me to", or "I understand you have a color scheme for the institution, but shades of greens and oranges are color blind un-friendly".

          And they fixed some of them.

          Anyway, it is fun participating in user testing as well!

        • We don't need usability testing, because that would give us results we don't want to hear. The endless stream of telemetry is way easier to manipulate into whatever management wants it to mean.

      • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:54PM (#55142587)

        Because UI developers are more interested in being 'artistic' than functional. Lightweight airy fonts with plenty of open area and avoiding 'harsh' contrasts appeals to artistic sensibilities, but is much harder to use.

    • The irony is (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:44PM (#55142479)
      Tim Berners-Lee's vision of the web was that the server would transmit the relevant info (pictures and text) to your browser, and your browser would format it in the manner which was most readable on your device.

      Graphic designers and page layout artists went nuts over this because it basically put them out of work. Unfortunately most web designers started off as graphic designers and page layout artists. Their first salvo against reader-control of content formatting was the Flash website. The entire page and navigation was in Flash so the user wasn't able to change, resize, or reformat any of it. They fought for and won the inclusion of immutable formatting tools in the HTML standard. So now we're stuck with idiotic designs like Slashdot's homepage where the "supplemental" sidebar on the right actually has formatting priority over the useful text on the left. If you try to shrink your browser horizontally (like viewing on a phone in portrait mode), the text becomes unreadable in order to preserve the full width of the sidebar.
      • Re:The irony is (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:56PM (#55142621) Journal

        Tim Berners-Lee's vision of the web was that the server would transmit the relevant info (pictures and text) to your browser, and your browser would format it in the manner which was most readable on your device [or user preference].

        This conflicts with the marketer's view of the world. The marketer wants to control the message, and that includes the look of the message. If they want to attract a given "cohort" (demographic), they want to be able to shape and style the content that way to attract that demographic, and sometimes ONLY that demographic to weed out alleged riff-raff and/or not waste ad fees on unlikely buyers.

        And how can you get a jump on the latest style if you cannot convey the latest style? Purple denim's the latest craze? Okay, Marketing Joe wants the page show a purple denim font. If the UI dev doesn't deliver, he/she is fired.

        Vulcan vs. Ferengi culture conflict.

      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        Lets be honest here though, at the time he developed the idea PC rendering was pretty simple so the content he was thinking of likely bares no resemblance to what we show today. Heck it was probably 12-15 years before designers took over the web.
      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        Well, I don't see history that way. For one thing, if designers were becoming obsolete because of the web, there'd have been nothing they could do about it. No, the web gained font tags, and then later style sheets, because people felt the need for designers' services.

        Good design adds a lot to a website, but there's no way to enable a good designer to do a better-than-average job without empowering a bad designer to make a mess.

    • Right. It all fits right in with the "suck your own cock" trend, thx google.

    • It is easier for a group of low-grade developers to make a "flat" interface where the button is a mere colored rectangle than to make a interface with obvious (and good-looking) buttons. Also easier to render, so the flat UI may be a bit faster than a more 3D-looking interface.
    • I'm mixed about this. I like the flat design in later OSX the best, mostly because it gets rid of the distracting flash, borders, etc, and focuses on what you want to see. I never really liked the look of Windows 7 either, it was too glossy with special effects that said "look at me!" I don't mind the windows 8.1 desktop (the metro "apps" are abomination of course), but after some registry tweaks.

      On the other hand, the flat style that gets too minimalist is bad. For example my web mail recently has been

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Because customers are willing to pay more for a flat interface than for a more usable "old" interface.

      • by green1 ( 322787 )

        Really? have you actually given any of them the choice? I doubt it. People are willing to buy "new" vs "old" but just because "new" happens to include the flat design doesn't mean they prefer it to something "new" that also happens to be usable, it's just that we give them the choice between "new" and "usable" and idiots chose new. If you gave them the choice of "new and usable" vs "new and flat" I think the answer would be different.

    • by plover ( 150551 )

      Because the industry has been collectively blinded by the engineers who built it, and has been for decades.

      Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Software Quality [wikipedia.org]. This page is essentially a summary of the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge topic on software quality and it represents the collective wisdom of decades of work. Now search the page looking for the word "usability". It's not even listed as one of the attributes of quality! Usability is still something just pasted on after a product is un

      • by green1 ( 322787 )

        That's where Steve Jobs made all the money. He understood that he had to make it usable first, and worry about function and feature completeness later (or never.)

        You had me right up until here. The thing is though, Steve Jobs had no such ability to make things usable. Apple UI in the Steve Jobs days was way behind all the competition in usability, AND features. It has changed a lot since his death, but not in a favourable direction.

        Example: first generation iPod had a circle on the front of it labelled with play/pause/stop/ff/rew, nowhere on it did it indicate in any way that it was a scroll wheel that could adjust things. it also didn't indicate in any way that the

      • He understood that he had to make it usable first, and worry about function and feature completeness later (or never.)

        Why do people always seem to forget that the "or never" side of this equation was once mere months away from tossing Apple onto the Adam Osborne junk heap.

        Furthermore, the "function" you are discussing is the belated arrival of a working virtual memory subsystem where one could realistically run two piggish programs at the same time.

        On the one side you've got the cult of the cast iron pan: e

    • ... and you've got difficult to read and difficult to navigate, some good reasons why the current UIs are less than usable. So... why were these productivity reductions made in the first place?

      I suspect that the "flat" designs were used because Microsoft wanted to bring Windows to $100 cost devices with minimal processor speeds and minimal amounts of memory. So they were doing everything they could to reduce processing cycles and memory use. They were so fixated on running $100 devices with low RAM that they decided to ignore the rest of their user base.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        I suspect that the "flat" designs were used because Microsoft wanted to bring Windows to $100 cost devices with minimal processor speeds and minimal amounts of memory. So they were doing everything they could to reduce processing cycles and memory use.

        I don't understand how that'd help. Windows 95 ran with 8 MB of RAM and wasn't flat.

    • difficult to read

      ...says the person who starts their comment in the subject line...

    • by Sarusa ( 104047 )

      Same reason we still have open offices even though they're hell for productivity (unless your job is just talking to people all day). Same reason people buy lottery tickets. Everybody knows better but want to believe they're the geniuses who can make it work this time for sure.

      The UI people want to believe that if their design is just beautiful and elegant ENOUGH that it'll automatically have amazing usability. And if course it won't. They're no longer UX people, they're graphic designers.

  • Group think (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Never underestimate the tendency of human beings to blindly follow other human beings.

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:14PM (#55142223)

    The example in the article is hardly a connection to "flat" UI designs. It looks more like spot the damn difference which is what I would be doing if presented with that test.

    But really it's hard to judge those flat UI changes because flatness was only one very small part of the shift. We also lost meaning and context, were introduced to new symbols which seem to be made up by people who were blinded at birth (3 horizontal lines for menu? or was it dots?, WTF is wrong with writing menu), was combined with a massive reduction of colour and contrast, a reduction in font size, an increase in the use of white space...

    Really out of all the UI changes in recent years "flatness" is the one that impacts me the least.

    • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:48PM (#55142521)

      >3 horizontal lines for menu? or was it dots?, WTF is wrong with writing menu

      I suspect that every symbol replacing text is another item they don't need to translate for non-English markets.

      That still doesn't excuse blending buttons into the rest of the content.

      • I suspect that every symbol replacing text is another item they don't need to translate for non-English markets.

        And yet every such app normally is either well translated or has walls of untranslated english text.

        That still doesn't excuse blending buttons into the rest of the content.

        Flat design says nothing about blending the buttons with the content. Actually it's typically quite the opposite. What you're talking about is crap design, not flat design.

    • (3 horizontal lines for menu? or was it dots?, WTF is wrong with writing menu)

      It looks like a menu and, probably more importantly, fits well in a vertically-oriented screen.

      Honestly, that seems a silly nit to pick.

      • The dots or the lines or the fact that people seem unable to standardise.

        Honestly, that seems a silly nit to pick.

        A lot of things are silly to nit-pick if you know what they mean. For most people 3 vertical dots means absolutely nothing. Sure a smartphone veteran who has suffered though this adaptation to UIs know *now* what it means, but that also wasn't always the case. When did it stop being a wheel of a cog, and what did that represent as well? Speaking of I'm currently staring at what looks like a tombstone with a + symbol in it. Sure I know

  • by EvilSS ( 557649 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:14PM (#55142229)
    So can we finally go back to the amazing shiny bubbles of the 90's? Please!
  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:15PM (#55142233)

    ...UI designers are replaced with graphics designers.

    One of the reasons why Windows 95 was so successful in the corporate workplace was the icon set and look-and-feel. Remember, at that time there were still competitive offerings like OS/2 and UNIX X-windows with CDE, and even Apple's MacOS. Windows 95 took some faux-3d experiments from Windows 3.1/3.11 and ran whole-hog with them to the point that it was almost weird when a legacy application still used flat icons or 2d windows.

    Microsoft has regressed with its UI so severely that it's embarassing. They're basically back to 2d icons and a program-manager interface, and from my view it's change solely for the sake of change, not because it actually improved anything. Worse since they've fragmented into pre-metro and metro elements, there are essentially two control panels to take care of the OS where neither method contains access to all of the settings and where there's no clear division of functions between the two.

    • by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:54PM (#55142583)
      I'm really hoping for a reversion to black and green screen. Text and possible EGA mode for games.
      • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @02:49PM (#55143133)

        This may be news to you, but not all change is good, and not all change is bad. This isn't a case of people rallying against something simply because it's "new", people are against it because it's not as good as what it replaced.

        The two biggest things I hate when people talk about change:
        - People who do something a certain way only because they've always done it that way
        - People who insist that just because something is new it must be better
        Every new idea needs to be evaluated on it's merits. If you find a better way of doing something, great! If however your new way is worse in any measurable way, then I don't want anything to do with it.

        This was a case of something that provides no benefit, but has many drawbacks, as such it should never have spread. Unfortunately the marketplace is a combination of very few very large players with minimal differentiation between their products which both limits the ability for customers to vote with their wallets by moving to a better option, and causes those large risk-adverse players to mindlessly copy the trends of each other for fear of missing out if the new change really does turn out to be better in some way they can't figure out.

  • ... trump a good utilitarian design in the eyes of marketers and business directors any day.
  • by iYk6 ( 1425255 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:18PM (#55142265)

    I'm glad that they did a study, because clearly somebody needed a study, but this seems really predictable. How could MS and Apple and these other subpar UI designers not predict that making it harder to tell what is a UI element would make it harder to navigate?

    Hopefully next they'll figure out that increasing the number of clicks or keys and hiding the options (aka hamburger menu) also makes navigation harder and slower.

    • But it looks nicer without all those controls cluttering up the content. At least until you actually want to do something...

      "We have a page with 100 checkboxes and it looks ugly. Can you fix it?"
      "Sure. We'll come up with less ugly checkboxes."
      "Do you really need 100 checkboxes?"
      "Well, figuring out how to do a UI without 100 checkboxes will take time. Coming up with less ugly checkboxes is easier."
      "Okay..."
      "And Marketing will love it because they can slap a 'new and improved UI!' sticker on it."
      "Sounds g

      • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @02:53PM (#55143171)

        Except that's not how it works.

        The first step of this is always to take those same 100 checkboxes, and spread them out through 5 menus, each with 15 sub-menus, but that only creates 75 pages, and we wouldn't want an odd number of checkboxes on each page, so we'll take out the remaining 25 checkboxes altogether. Never mind that they represented critical functionality that people needed, they no longer fit with the new design.

        Then we'll make the checkboxes prettier, and by prettier we mean removing anything that might make them look like checkboxes or accidentally indicate whether they are checked or unchecked.

    • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

      How...?

      Fashion. Fashion is what prevails when the stakes are low; the companies behind stuff like "Material Design" are living la vida loca, swimming in billions, and the horde of design debutantes they employ are running riot.

      And the fashionistas aren't going to take this laying down either. Besides making anemic and ambiguous UIs they are also really good at shouting down critics. Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman have let themselves in for several years of flames, at least.

    • I'm glad that they did a study, because clearly somebody needed a study

      If the purveyors of flat interfaces gave even a modicum of a fuck about usability studies, there is no way we would have had flat interfaces in the first place. There are tons of studies about how color and shading help users easily distinguish different objects but that never stopped them from removing shading and color from icons. Some went as far as removing the text that accompanies icons as well. The next trend I'm noticing is

  • by blahbooboo ( 839709 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:21PM (#55142295)

    Settings->General->Accessibility->Button Shapes
    &
    Settings->General->Accessibility->Bold Text

    I've showed these two changes to many many friends, all of whom are so grateful. This doesnt fix everything, but at least you can see the OS level navigation properly. Maybe this flat design stuff will start to decline with this report...

    • by blahbooboo ( 839709 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:41PM (#55142451)

      Settings->General->Accessibility->Button Shapes
      &
      Settings->General->Accessibility->Bold Text

      I've showed these two changes to many many friends, all of whom are so grateful. This doesnt fix everything, but at least you can see the OS level navigation properly. Maybe this flat design stuff will start to decline with this report...

      Forgot this one setting. This gives back some contrast to the redicoulous color scheme in iOS post v6. These 3 settings are what made iOS usable for me after v6 :)

      Settings->General->Accessibility->Increase Contrast

  • Hallelujah! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:24PM (#55142333) Journal

    That's what I've been saying to the stubborn fad-sniffers. NOW I have evidence to use against them so that they can't merely dismiss me as an old fogie. (I am an old fogie, but a correct fogie!) Thank You, Dear Slashdotter!

    One can't easily tell what are buttons, input boxes, etc. in the flat look. It's all a bunch of flat rectangles of different colors. If you don't know the rectangle color coding scheme of a given site, you have to guess. The 70's called, and they want the Partridge Family bus UI back. [partridgef...rtybus.com]

  • Slow and crappy. Yes, before I read anything in the article I'm going to comment b/c I have known for all time that flat GUI is bad GUI. Slower to see where you are and what is in focus. Simple as that. I noticed it in Windows since 7... I never know what window is in focus and I always hesitate, then click when I should double click, or double click when I didn't need to in order to grab focus on something. I can't stand slow computer interfaces, it is gross!!!!

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:27PM (#55142357) Homepage Journal

    If something is clickable, make it look clickable. If some items are clickable and some are not, they should look different.

    But hey, we've only known this for 17 years. Maybe not everyone has caught up yet.
    https://www.joelonsoftware.com... [joelonsoftware.com]
    (Scroll down to the "etrade" example.)

    • It goes back further than that. In '95 I did a course - by Microsoft, ironically - on UI design. It stressed the need to make clickable stuff look clickable. It even used the word "affordance"
    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      17 years? We've known this quite literally for centuries. "on a computer" doesn't make it different.

      Take a look at physical antique devices. Controls used frequently are obvious and not hidden. It was known that if you needed to use something, it had to be obvious that you could use it.

  • may i just register my frustration with "invisible or hidden UI", the ones that you DON'T EVEN SEE until you happen to roll over the correct area of the screen? with no visual affordance, there's no way to visually discover that there's something to click on. i am dismayed and discouraged that Apple threw out their own very good "Human Interface Guidelines" to foist this insane UI design on us, and then, like Lemmings, the industry has picked it up and run with it, as if apple made some brilliant decision
  • We've already discussed that [slashdot.org].

    Too bad, CEOs and marketing people are clueless idiots in regard to design and functionality and I don't see this flat idiocy being killed any time soon. After all it's foisted by Apple and if Apple does that, that must be right, right?

    • How could you characterize Google today? An entire company full of Marissa Mayers. Various shapes, sizes, colors, sexual persuasions and net worths, but essentially they are all Marissa Mayer.

  • Remember Motif looked way better than the X Athena Widget set that was flat as well, ok there was Xaw3d but hey. But it had to happen that fashion brought Athena's flatness back. So lets rephrase Oscar Wilde by saying "UI designs are a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter them every six months.” Sounds pretty harsh on the poor programmers, and Motif definitely looked good.

  • by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @01:56PM (#55142635)

    Yeah, I could have told you this back when Windows 8 came out... oh wait, I did.

    Titlebars that don't highlight when the window has focus, monochromatic icons, CAPS MENUS... 30 years of UX research thrown into the toilet when Microsoft decided to turn our desktops into mobile "screens" and now with three 4k displays, I can't even figure out what window has focus and find myself always searching a sea of visually similar icons for the tool I want.

  • I used to think I wasn't smart enough to navigate the new UIs, but I'm glad to see there are many other dumb people too. I kept thinking "is that a text box, a button, or a label?" and "Did I save the changes I made to the form/settings?"

  • Ohmygod, you mean getting rid of door knobs and those silly "push"/"pull" signs makes it harder to figure out where the damned door is and how to open it? Who would have guessed? </sarcasm>

  • Commenters whose posts I've read seem to think that this will ring in the demise of the "flat" UI and be a proof of how detrimental it is.

    I say: to the contrary.

    From the article:

    and so spend more time on a page

    ... which is exactly what out ad-fueled, metrics-driven brave new internet thrives on. People that spend more time on you site.

    Sadly, it has not dawned on the marketing morons yet that perhaps, just perhaps, getting people frustrated by your web app/page detracts from the wares you pander. Oh wouldn't it be great if marketing ac

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @02:14PM (#55142801) Homepage Journal

    or a case of designers who haven't figured out yet how to make the new design styles functional.

    The other day someone showed me an Android app that was confusing them. It had a "like" button that appeared disabled. In Material Design the widget would be called a "Toggle button with an icon", and here's the thing about it that particular widget: it only has two states: on or off; there is no "disabled" state. The visual cue for "not focused" looks to any ordinary mortal like the visual cue that other widgets with a disabled state (like the humble checkbox) use for "disabled".

    I'm retired now, but having designed apps and user interfaces for decades, I can follow the designer's logic here: I only need two states: like/not liked. A flat icon button look sooo much cleaner than a frumpy old checkbox, and if I need to disable the thing I'll just make it invisible. But the thing is users haven't read the MD design guidelines; they have infer what's going on from the conflicting cues MD gives them.

    Now the MD guidelines do kinda sorta steer you toward using toggle buttons in situations where they're unlikely to cause confusion, but design still takes judgment. And reading the MD guidelines, it strikes me that most people who need to produce an Android UI are presented with many subtle judgments to make when choosing between alternatives, and where there are a lot of choices there are a lot of opportunities to make bad choices.

    I think UI glitches happen for the same reason that security glitches do: not enough developer training and schedule pressure. MD makes it easy to create a UI that looks modern and clean, but your job isn't done when a UI looks good; it has to minimize the cognitive load on the user as well. To do that there's no substitute for closely observing an untrained user struggling with your app. Find every little bump that trips him up and file it flat, even if you have to use a dumpy old checkbox.

  • He preferred icons that had meaning to real world objects and, as such, blocked any and all attempts to "plastify" the UI - much to the chargin of the UI designers who immediately raced ahead and changed it all in iOS7 TWO YEARS after Jobs DIED!

    He didn't bless it, they finally had the chance to overrule him!
  • The firm dispenses with the counter-argument that users were "more engaged" with the page.

    "Since this experiment used targeted findability tasks, more time and effort spent looking around the page are not good. These findings don't mean that users were more 'engaged' with the pages. Instead, they suggest that participants struggled to locate the element they wanted, or weren't confident when they first saw it."

    So that's for a store, where usability is considered a good thing.

    What if this wasn't a store,

  • Ages ago, that is some 23 years ago, I was visiting a friend and watched his son, little Biswas playing Mario brothers on the living room set. Game sarts, and Mario is off and running. Runs down a passage, turns right, to the end of the passage and bangs his head on the wall 8 times. A gold bar pops out, he takes the points and runs away.

    I asked Biswas, "How did you know there was a gold bar there?" "Easy uncle, (all friends of parents are called uncle/aunt by Desi kids) Just keep testing to see what happ

  • The latest trend are the "mobile friendly" websites that companies also use as their main site. While they may work on a small smartphone screen, on a laptop or desktop they are pure wastes of space. As an example, our bank recently changed their online interface. Where I used to be able to see 20-30 transactions on the screen, I can now see 5. It becomes a scroll-fest. And, really, who is going to pay bills, or reconcile a month's worth of transactions on their phone? Really?

    Or the Swiss trains: they have [www.sbb.ch]

  • by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2017 @02:51PM (#55143143)

    The company wired up 71 users, and gave them nine sites to use, tracking their eye movement and recording the time spent on content. On average participants spent 22 per cent more time (i.e. slower task performance) looking at the pages with weak signifiers," the firm notes. Why would that be? Users were looking for clues how to navigate. "The average number of fixations was significantly higher on the weak-signifier versions than the strong-signifier versions. On average, people had 25 per cent more fixations on the pages with weak signifiers."

    If you're someone who subsists on ad revenue, this is a good result. Users look at ads on your website longer than your competitors. They look hard at your ads too, because they have to look hard at everything to find what's active. They probably click on ads more often too, in a desperate attempt to find the page controls.

    This reminds me of the early days of television, when shows were effectively produced by the advertisers, and their characters would seamlessly start talking about how great their sponsor's product was in the middle of the show. There were inevitably scandals, which eventually led to regulations separating commercials and the programs. But that hasn't happened on the web yet, so designers are perfectly free to be as confusing as possible about what's a website control and what's an ad.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin

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