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Tag: buttons

Don’t let a modern user interface coddle you with easy-to-identify-buttons—demand a confusing and unlabeled mystery zone of wonders!

Background:

It is often recommended that pet owners buy “challenging” toys to keep their pets mentally stimulated in a world where the owners take care of all the pet’s needs.

Although an owner could simply put a dog biscuit in a bowl, it would be more exciting for the dog if the biscuit were inside a difficult-to-open ball that required the dog to work to figure it out.

The issue:

Similarly, modern automation has removed many elements of daily life that were once mentally challenging. For example, turn-by-turn directions make it theoretically possible for a person to go through life without ever learning how to read a map.

Proposed idea, which has already been implemented:

A long time ago, any user interface elements on a computer were clearly marked: a button would have a thick border around it, a link would be underlined in blue, etc.

Unfortunately, this sort of coddling may cause the human species to become helpless and incapable.

What is needed is an unforgiving type of interface that does not clearly label elements that accept user input: this will force humans to become better at remembering things.

A case study is available in Figure 1. Can you figure out what is, and is not, an interactable UI element?

Android Guess The Button 1.png

Fig. 1: In order to prevent the user’s brain from atrophying due to lack of use, Google has developed a settings screen for Android that has no visual indication of what is and is not a button. Try puzzling through it yourself: can you guess what tapping on each element would do? Answers in Figure 2. This screenshot is from Android 9, but the situation is identical in Android 10 (2019).

 

Android Guess The Button 2_answers.png

Fig. 2: Answers: BLUE is a normal app button and GREEN is a user-interface-related button. The two red rectangles indicate “buttons” that highlight when clicked, but do nothing otherwise (it is theoretically possible that they do something on other phones).

Google shouldn’t get all there credit here, though: the idea of making a complex swiping-puzzle-based interface was arguably pioneered by Apple. If you don’t believe it, find someone with an iPad and ask them to activate the multiple-apps-on-the-same-screen mode: you’ll be amazed by the quality and difficulty of this puzzle!

Conclusion:

With the addition of unlabeled user interface elements and a huge array of “swipe” gestures, modern phones—both iPhones and Android phones—are adding a new category of exciting brain-challenging puzzles to everyday life.

PROS: It is theoretically possible that a user who plays these memory games with their phone will become better at crucial memorization and concentration-based tasks (although there is zero evidence of this, but it seems intuitively appealing, which is good enough here).

CONS: None!

The three weird buttons that will stop procrastination forever! You will shriek and wail when you think of all the procrastination you did before you had these!

The issue:

Sometimes, it’s difficult to avoid being distracted by the wide variety of enticing modern entertainment options. It’s always possible to physically unplug your Internet router and turn off your phone, but most people aren’t going to do that on a regular basis.

Proposal:

An individual could purchase a set of wireless buttons that would have various effects, for example:

  • Turn off the Internet for a set period of time, forcing the button-owner to actually work / read a book / interact with other people (Fig 1).

  • Turn off the lights until the next morning, preventing the button-owner from staying up incredibly late (Fig 3).

  • Lock the fridge and kitchen cabinets for a certain period of time, preventing casual snacking.

Here are three buttons that may be of general interest:

do-work-button

Fig 1: This is basically a “NO INTERNET” button—it’s time to do work with no interruptions! When you press this button, your phone locks you out entirely, your TV refuses to turn on, and your router blocks most Internet traffic (i.e., video sites, social media traffic, instant messaging) and temporarily stops fetching incoming emails.

This one also doubles as a “read a book” or “actually interact with other humans” button!

hold-my-calls-button

Fig 2: Work is over! Time to relax. Your work email won’t be checked until the next morning and any work-related phone apps are paused. If you have any work-only contacts, their calls to you go straight to voicemail. I hope you have a 9-to-5 job and aren’t on-call, or else you will definitely get fired if you push this button!

sleep-button

Fig 3: This button returns your house to caveman times, because it’s time to actually go to sleep! Your computer and phone now refuse to let you log in until the next sunrise, your TV and stereo refuse to turn on, and your house’s lights are limited to 10% of their normal brightness.

PROS: Allows you to behave as if you  have self-control!

CONS: Requires installation of phone and computer applications. You might become so dependent on these buttons that you forget how to survive without them!

Amazing (possibly weird) trick to capture additional value in social network relationships graphs via more finely-grained “friend” buttons

The issue: Most social networks only allow you to “friend” or “unfriend” a person—a binary choice. Although a few networks have additional degrees of granularity (“co-workers” / “show only my public profile”), in general it is assumed that the relationship between individuals is symmetrical.

buttons-friend

Fig 1: The familiar but insufficiently expressive “friend” button.

Proposal: To capture additional asymmetrical relationships between individuals, we need to account for the case of:

1. “Friend” one way, unknown / indifferent relationship in the other direction

2. “Enemy” one way, any relationship in the other direction

We can label these buttons “stalk” and “vendetta” respectively, and greatly increase the amount of information available for data-mining in the relationship graph!

buttons-stalk-vendetta

Fig 2: Additional buttons in action. Now we have captured crucial but previously-ignored information between individuals!

 

And a final view of what the user interface might look like for such a site:

friend-photo

Fig 3: The final interface mockup

PROS: Increases ability of social networks to capture the complex relationships between individuals.

CONS: None, this is a great idea that your Internet-enabled business should implement immediately.

Never be embarrassed by your shirt again (INCREDIBLE), thanks to magnets

The issue:

Rarely, when buttoning a dress shirt, one may inadvertently buttons the buttons on one side to the wrong button holes on the corresponding side, causing mortifying embarrassment and eternal shame.

(This problem can be encountered with snaps as well as buttons.)

The solution:

If each button / snap was magnetized, and its corresponding target was oppositely magnetized, then the correct pairing would draw together with a satisfying click, whereas incorrect pairings would repel each other, notifying the buttoner of their imminent error.

magnet-shirt

Fig 1. The yellow lines show the indended button/snap pairings. Red / black indicate magnetic polarity.

By alternating north / south polarizations, it would be possible for each pair of buttons to only pair with either the correct target or with a target that was 2 (or 4, or 6, etc.) buttons off.

magnet-with-description

However, it is hardly worth worrying about button-target pairings that are two or more buttons off, because it’s very unlikely that a person could button a shirt that incorrectly without immediately noticing.

PROS: Would solve the leading cause of shame among wearers of dress shirts. Helps support the struggling domestic magnet mining industry, where all the “North” magnet ends are produced.

CONS: There are no downsides to this proposal.