The Idea Dude

CONNECTING THE DOTS ONE AT A TIME

Monday, March 26, 2012

Choosing the right metaphor

I just upgraded to OSX Lion on the weekend. The first thing I noticed was that the trackpad gestures were doing the opposite of what I was used to. To scroll down a document, you would use the up gesture on the trackpad. I realized it was because they were trying to mirror how you would use gestures on an iPhone or iPad, i.e. if you wanted to see the bottom of the document you would place your fingers on the document and drag upwards.

I found out that Apple calls this the natural scroll direction. The irony is that isn't natural. I have an iPad too and found no problem moving around documents even though it was opposite to what I was doing on the iPad. Finally I realized the issue.

a) On the iPad and the iPhone, you are actually putting your fingers on top of the document so it is natural to pull the document upwards to see the bottom. There is a disconnect between moving your fingers on the trackpad and watching something moving on the screen (your fingers are not visually on the document). This is why new computer users struggle with the mouse. It's like scratching your right knee because your left ear itches.

b) We spent many years training our selves to use the trackpad like our mouse. Now we have to adjust to doing things in the opposite direction because it is deemed natural.

It's a case of mixed metaphors. Before Lion, the trackpad metaphor was the mouse metaphor. After Lion, the trackpad metaphor is the document metaphor. But it's really hard to switch. After a frustrating day, I relented and switched the trackpad to way I used to use it.

Changing a metaphor is a dangerous thing. Like learning to drive on the wrong side of the road. If you drove cars with manual stick shifts, you'll know how hard it is to change gears with your right hand instead of your left after doing so for the last 20 years.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Gary said...

Nice post which The irony is that isn't natural. I have an iPad too and found no problem moving around documents even though it was opposite to what I was doing on the iPad. Thanks a lot for posting.

12:41 PM  

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