This morning I was asked to perform a little tech support for my mother. Here was the problem:
How do I write an Email on this tablet? It only has Gmail.
Now; you may scoff. That is an absurd question, isn’t it?
No. It’s a great indication of a reality at least one whole category of people experience. The gut reaction of us web designers and web developers smirking or rolling our eyes is also a great example of the hubris and lack of understanding which many designers have when they are creating applications targeted at a general audience.
After more than a year of using her tablet to read Email, my mother had no idea the Gmail application can be used to write an email.
Why? Because after more than 12 months of using an application, she still failed to recognise two vital core-feature UI components. Because they were just fucking icons.
É com essa história que Matt Wilcox começa a ilustrar os problemas de usar ícones desacompanhados de contexto (ex: texto) para transmitir significado. Ele segue:
Icons are pictograms. They’re modern day hieroglyphics. They’re poor at conveying meaning and are easy to misunderstand, or are simply unrecognisable.
You know what linguists and archeologists struggled with for decades? Deciphering those simple pictures which were initially made so that the common illiterate could understand concepts without someone standing there and telling them. Why did historians and archeologists have such a protracted problem in understanding these purpose-made simplistic pictorial icons?
Because of assumed context which we no longer shared with the authors.
Guess what? This problem exists today in exactly the same way.
Icons isolated from supporting context are bad at conveying concepts.
No final do artigo, se enumera o que um ícone sozinho precisa ter pra ser efetivo:
What a lone icon must accomplish to be effective
- Instantly recognisable as something that is interactive.
- Instantly convey an accurate equivalence of the action or concept to a viewer.
- Be equally useful to people using assistive technology as those who are sighted.
- Not break the interface or experience when unable to be displayed.
Lone icons are hard to satisfy all those requirements. What stands a better chance?
Icons are great additions to labels or great when used by a targeted audience.
They are lousy at all other times.