Death to Word?

Not the written word, of course… just the application. At least that’s what Tom Socca is calling for in an article he posted last week on Slate called “Death to Word: It’s Time to Give up on Microsoft’s Word Processor.” While this might be a bit extreme, I have to agree with Socca on a few points.

Word’s menu bar looks like the dashboard of a commercial airliner…not a tool for processing words. And although I think I’ve finally figured out how to maneuver my way around most of its forced defaults (like the auto-formatted outlines, bulleted lists, and incorrect grammar alerts), I could certainly do without many of Word’s “helpful” options.

Throughout its many releases in the past decade, I’m afraid Word has fallen victim to “feature creep.”  Its functionality has overtaken its usability; its many features actually slow people down and keep them from performing what should be a very simple task: creating a document.  Sure, I guess it’s nice that Word gives me seventeen different options for cover pages. But do you know how many times I’ve used them? Not once.

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Rhetoric Makes Me Cynical and UX Makes Me Critical

I remember voicing a complaint in my Historical Foundations of Rhetoric class several years ago that all this “rhetoric stuff” was making me cynical (well, even more so than I naturally am). I felt like it was leading me to over-analyze everything and to think that everyone had hidden agendas and manipulative motives.

Well, I’m experiencing a related reaction toward the texts I’ve been reading about user experience and user-centered design practices. Although instead of becoming even more cynical (I think I’ve hit my ceiling), I’m just becoming hyper-aware of every little error message, dialogue box, and confusing task or setting on every single piece of technology I use.

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Mobile Devices and Education: Consumption v. Production

Images of different mobile technologies--iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Nook.

Designing the Obvious (2010) author, Robert Hoekman adamantly encourages developers to design with mobile applications in mind. While mobile devices, such a the iPad and iPhone can be limiting to expert users who need more intensive tools, these devices do all the tasks that most people need from their technology:

And while many people in the tech industry still see some of these gadgets as luxury items—often even wondering what on Earth they would do with a tablet—these devices are designed for the other 99 percent. They’re designed for that large segment of the population that uses computers for paying bills, social networking, making plans, watching videos, checking the news, listening to music, digging up recipes, learning new skills, creating spreadsheets for work, writing memos, and of course, checking email. These people use computers primarily for media consumption, web browsing, and basic document-creation. And that’s exactly what the iPad and other tablets are designed to do best. (Kindle Location 156-1490).

The last part of that quote made me pause: “These people use computers primarily for media consumption.” What is the relationship between media/information consumption and production within the context of the college classroom–more specifically, a classroom within the Humanities?

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