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The importance of a familiar user interface
Thursday, July 23, 2009

When I began writing this book, I noticed that for the first chapter I was really tense all throughout. My shoulders were tight, my lower back was hurting, my neck was stiff. If I was to have a good experience, I had to do something.

I decided that I needed a new desk, so I got one, even though the one I had was adequate. After some tweaking and obsessing about the proper ergonomic settings for 2 weeks, I finally found the right height not only for my desk but also for my chair. Bliss at last, I thought. Not so.

I continued to have a stiff neck. I blamed my bed, my pillow, and my posture. I tried everything, but nothing worked. In the end, I found out why I was having such a terrible time.

What was the problem?

While writing in my writing journal, in the middle of writing the book, I noted that I was enjoying more writing it (a blog like interface) than writing the book (Microsoft's Word interface). But I don't attribute my tense neck entirely to Word's user interface--though, I think Office's UI is too busy now. The problem, it appears, was mental, and it had do with my past experiences.

When I began writing the book I was using Word's "Print Layout." This layout uses the book template the publisher sent me. The thing looks too much like the real thing and this was making me nervous, and, therefore, I was tensing up.

What was the solution?

In my effort to calm down, I tried to understand why I enjoy writing in the first place. More important, I tried to understand why I was tensing up while writing the book. And it hit me: I enjoyed more writing in my blog because I like the freedom of blog writing; it looks so free flowing. I mean that it doesn't look like anything, except black letters on a white canvas. So I switched Word's document view from "Print Layout" to "Web Layout," and I now write freely, without the constraint of a page view. Furthermore, whatever I'm writing doesn't look like a book, but a friendly note that comes out of nowhere.

Of course, I know that what I'm writing will be published in print, but the mind is an interesting thing. Training and past experiences have more of an effect than we would like to admit. In my case, I began writing on the web, without book templates; therefore, I'm at ease when words just keep accumulating at the end each line without page breaks. I can, literally and figuratively, write anything that comes to mind, and I can do it with a relaxed neck.

This is what the Print Layout looks like:

And this is what the Web Layout looks like:

2:36 AM | 0 comment(s) |


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