I was sitting in a restaurant today and noticed a middle-aged man and an elderly woman sit down behind us with a brand-new Toshiba laptop. He was helping her unbox and start it up for the first time and it was clear that she was not an experienced computer user. On first boot, Windows 7 immediately began asking basic account questions, just as Mac OS X and Linux do, but she was stymied by the input method. It took several minutes for her to figure out how to make the Toshiba’s trackpad work so she could move the cursor to the correct data fields to complete the forms.
Once the machine completed its setup, it began popping up a series of dialog boxes, the text of which she had trouble reading on the Toshiba’s high-resolution screen. And when she could read it, she needed her friend’s help deciphering it.
The entire exercise fascinated me. Any other day, I would have been making snide Windows remarks to myself, but today – after having spent some time yesterday with an iPad – I was struck by just how unintuitive and bad most computer interfaces really are.