Archive for the ‘Human-Computer Interaction’ Category

I’m reading through About Face 2.0 again, in more detail. I’ve come across the author’s chapter on Verb-Object and Object-Verb thinking with respect to user interaction. His introduction explains that Verb-Object was the original method of interaction, but that WIMP changed that. His point, essentially, is that the ability to interact with multiple objects requires the programmer to handle a more Object-Verb method of thinking.

The example provided goes like this: you’re in a grocery store. You pick out a number of items to purchase. The items are objects, and purchasing them is the verb. The example explains that this is, in essence, selection, which puts a kink in the verb/object order, because multiple objects may be acted on. My first thought on reading this, before I finished, was that the act of selecting is in itself a verb, preserving Verb-Object order. The author points out that a user chooses his objects before interacting with them, such as selecting multiple files for deletion.

In my mind, this is fallacious. Yes, it appears the object is designated first, but there are caveats from all three perspectives that count: the user, the computer, and the programmer. Firstly, selection is, in itself, an action. From the perspective of the computer, Verb-Object order is maintained. Like the clipboard, the selected items are added to a stored list. When a user enters a command (Verb), the computer checks to see if items are already selected. Since the user has carefully selected a number of files, that list is called up in lieu of a single item (or none, if none had been selected). The order, in Verb-Object thinking is this: Select: Item, Select: Item, [repeat n times], Delete: Selection. Verb-Object thinking is preserved from the computer’s perspective.

From the user’s perspective, the same is true: the user does not think, “File 1, select, file 2, select, delete”. Really, the user doesn’t think about selecting individual items at all, although his behavior is still Verb-Object oriented. The thinking follows more like “select items”, which is Verb-Object, followed by “delete selection”. Again, this is Verb-Object thinking.

To the programmer, Verb-Object thinking is simply mandatory. Functions, methods, or whatever the programming language being used calls them, are in essence, verbs or commands. They are passed arguments as objects. Whether using functional or object oriented programming, the action is always first. The programmer doesn’t define actions for every object, he defines actions that are given objects.

Okay, I’m done.