Computer-musens opfindelse handler også om brugertest

Den første computer-mus, opfundet af Douglas Engelbart (Foto: Wikimedia)

 

Jeg er i øjeblikket i gang med at læse John Markoffs fantastiske (men også meget intense) ‘What The Dormouse Said’ fra 2005 med undertitlen “How the Sixties Counter-culture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry”.

Som du nok allerede har gættet den, handler bogen om, hvordan nogle af dem, der gik mod strømmen og var centrale figurer i og omkring hippie-bevægelsen spillede meget vigtige roller i den udvikling, der gav os den private computer, og som siden har skabt os smartphones.

En del af bogen handler om opfindelsen af musen, der er et skelsættende tidspunkt for den private computer. Pludselig blev det slut med kun at navigere rundt på skærmen via et tastatur og vejen var nu banet for de grafiske interfaces, vi kender i dag.

Fra mus til iPhone

Opdagelsen af musen er så vigtig, at Steve Jobs refererede til det, da han i 2007 præsenterede den første iPhone. Hans argument var, at der var alt for mange knapper og taster på de såkaldte “smartphones”, fordi de skulle kunne alt muligt i alle mulige forskellige apps. Det gav ingen mening for Steve Jobs, der pointerede, at det problem allerede var blevet løst én gang med opfindelsen af musen.

Når man normalt hører om den tid, hvor musen og meget andet, vi i dag tager for givet, blev opfundet, er det nemt at tænke det som laboratorier, hvor intelligente mennesker lagde hovederne i blød (for nogles vedkommende i LSD) og kom op med geniale tiltag.

Det passer naturligvis ikke, og i fortællingen om computer-musen er der en vigtig pointe, der også er relevant den dag i dag; hvor mange af os argumenterer for, at man involverer sine brugere/kunder i sin produktudvikling.

Påvirkede også designet

Musen var i starten nemlig blot et muligt interface sammen med en masse andre (et af de tidligste koncepter var en kuglepen-lignende tingest, der hang i luften foran skærmen). Det bedste skulle findes ved brugertest, naturligvis. Og det fik ikke bare betydning for valget af musen – men også udformningen af den.

Markoff skriver:

Engelbart’s idea had been to get a collection of devices, including the mouse, together and then perform an experiment that would give the researchers some idea of which one was the best in terms of selecting text. The screen that had been rigged to work with the minicomputer that would serve as a test machine was set into a frame that sat on the computer desktop, and looked very much like the round screens that are still used today by air-traffic controllers. The challenge for the volunteers they brought in as part of the experiments was to see how quickly and accurately they could get to a particular character on the display. A subject would tap the space bar, grab the pointing device, find the character on the screen, and then push a selection button. In a sense, they were all playing one of the world’s first video games. The mouse won the contest hands down, but there were some surprising results. Pedals were thrown out immediately, as were cursor keys, but the knee control actually provided good results, in some cases ranked second behind the mouse.

After they completed the tests using the first mouse, English began to refine the concept and made a key design decision that was revealing. He had wondered how many buttons were appropriate to place on the mouse, and it quickly became obvious that the right number would be three, not because of any detailed study but because there was room for only three switches inside the early wooden mouse case.

The number was a disappointment to Engelbart, who was passionate about the need for a complex control device. Using it would require training, he argued, but once the user mastered the contraption it would give him far more power over the system. In his mind it was like the scaling lesson of the pencil tied to the brick.

The conflict between ease of use and expert power was one that would plague the inventor throughout his life and years later lead him to say that he had failed in his mission. Eventually, ease versus power became a divisive issue in the computing world. It was an example of a range of issues where he was both ahead and slightly out of touch with the reality of the world that surrounded him. Engelbart had a complete vision, but as he evolved it, his best ideas were cherry-picked by others and used to create one of the world’s most vibrant industries.

Det (lange) citat understreger behovet for, at man får involveret brugere i test, undervejs i produktudviklingen.

På den måde lærte man ikke bare hvilket interface, der gav mest mening og var lettest at bruge; man lærte også vigtige ting om udformningen af musen, så den ikke var for besværlig at bruge. Og dermed var kampen mellem masser af features og brugervenlighed født.

Hvad end musens opfinder syntes om det, kan det bestemt ikke udelukkes, at musens succes skyldes, at den var nem at bruge og ikke var pakket med en masse knapper, der krævede oplæring.

Og derfor (og af mange andre grunde) skal du teste undervejs i dit udviklingsarbejde. Du kan spare tid og penge – og øge sandsynligheden for, at du laver noget, folk både kan og vil bruge.

 

Foto: Wikimedia

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