Thursday, April 5, 2012

User Interface Generational Gap

Even though my children are old enough where they are hardly children anymore, we still enjoy going to Chuck E. Cheese. My youngest son is now 17 and we have been visiting "the mouse" since he was barely able to walk. We have always enjoyed the pizza and salad bar but not surprisingly the things we play are different now. They are no longer in whacking a mole or trying to catch ping pong balls in a net. We now play the first person shooters, skee ball, a fire fighting game, or an old-school Pirates of the Carribean pinball machine. I am surprised that my youngest son not only likes to play this but is good enough to get 50,000,000 points and collect 125 tickets.

But this post is not about his proficiency at this game or the two high school couples on their way to the prom in their finest attire dining at Chuck E, it is about me wanting to play Pirates of the Carribean and having to wait on a boy who was probably about 10 years old.

While watching him play, it struck me that he was doing absolutely terrible on this machine. I watched wondering if he just hadn't gotten the timing of the flippers. Then I had a sudden realization. He was tapping on the glass on top of the flippers thinking it would make them move. He thought it was a touch screen and had no idea that there were buttons on the side of the machine you pressed.

After he lost the final ball, I offered to let him watch me play a while so he could see the basics of how it worked. I am not very good but I do know you have to press the buttons to get the flippers to move.

We talk about technology generation gaps and user interface problems but this was a case I had never heard mentioned. Think about this for a moment -- there was a ten year old boy who naturally assumed this had a touch screen. That's how much things have changed. It is like the urban legend about the woman who assumed a mouse was like the foot pedal on her sewing machine and she had to press it to make the computer go. It is a generation gap.

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