I was drawn back to a 13-year-old article by Don Gentner and Jakob Nielsen this morning, “The Anti-Mac Interface,” and realize that, despite the prescience of its content, operating system designers really haven’t learned much in the last decade or so.
By and large, the metaphorical nature of Windows and the Mac OS is still deeply flawed, being based on ever-more archaic symbolism, and the lack of object-based context continues to constrain the user’s ability to efficiently manage information.
Reading this article on the eve of new versions of both Windows and Mac OS X, one can’t help but be disappointed by what Microsoft and Apple are delivering. The 1996 article closes with these words:
Realistically speaking, such a complete redesign will take some time to appear. Even if the full system were not to appear for several years to come, it is necessary for detailed research to begin now to develop the needed features and to collect usability data on how the Anti-Mac characteristics should be shaped to truly meet users’ needs.
Surprisingly, 13 years has not proven to be long enough. And there seems to be little promise of any significant computing evolution on the horizon.