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Monday, November 8, 2004

Inverted Interface

There’s a flaw so common in interface design, especially for DVD or video game menus, it’s worth pointing out. Let’s call it the “inverted interface” which causes ambiguity impossible to resolve by anything but trial and error.

The flaw always occurs when there are two choices to be made. For example a language selection (English vs German), a choice of subtitles (On vs Off), or a game mode (Singleplayer vs Multiplayer).
Take the following sample illustration of “Fungame”, which contains the word “Multiplayer” in red, and the word “Singleplayer” in white colors:

Now what happens when you move your joystick down? The colors will change; red turns white, and white turns red.

The same happens when you move your joystick up. The obvious error (so obvious in fact you wonder why it occurs) is that you have no chance of knowing which word is actively selected and will be chosen once you press the action button. (Of course you can just click one of the buttons and see what happens, but that takes time. In the case of a DVD where you might need to wait until after the title credits to know which language is playing, this cosst minutes.)

The error here is easily resolved by creating an unambiguous selection graphic. For example, one can give it a glow or put an arrow next to it:

The “inverted interface” phenomenon is not just restricted to buttons. You can also sometimes see it in ambiguous maps: as the map is highly abstract, you cannot know which part is land and which is sea:

Please look at above and make up your mind before you view the same map within a context and a layer effect. Though the second map uses the same colors, it is now much more easy to recognize and use.

Gmail Snooping Attachments?

The most recent Google conspiracy accuses Gmail of snooping attachments. A user who is called Darknest (and Darkrest in the next paragraph) saw his Gmail account being terminated. According to this was “because of suspicious files stored in his account.” Darknest claims “that the [Gmail] bot is also searching for words that are associated with illegal files, such as key generators and cracks.”

As usual, this might be true or just a rumor – I’d ask for proof before I believe it. And while Darknest states “that Google has no business looking at his emails”, he wasn’t in compliance with the Gmail Terms of Service, which read: “You shall not (...) use the Service to upload, transmit or otherwise distribute any content that is unlawful, defamatory, harassing, abusive, fraudulent, obscene, contains viruses, or is otherwise objectionable as reasonably determined by Google.” And: “Google may at any time and for any reason terminate the Services."


Koders is a search engine for source code, and it lets you define which language and licensing model to return.


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