Now that the One Laptop Per Child's Sugar User Interface is somewhat baked and out in the wild, usability experts are starting to review it in detail. While everyone gives full credit to the OLPC XO team for creating a different look and feel, Thom Holwerda and Harry Brignull aren't sounding like fanboys in their separate reviews of the Sugar UI.
First Thom Holwerda is clear in his post title The OLPC Sugar Interface: Don't Do it. Thom seems to dislike the very effort of creating a new user interface, radically different from the current Windows, Apple, or Linux experience:
What the OLPC team is doing is creating a whole new paradigm for their laptop's interface, and this brings with it various difficulties, even though there is absolutely no need for this.Then Harry Brignull gives us his opinion on Why the OLPC needs lots of usability work:
Children in the 3rd world are not magically less competent than us Western kids, and hence there is no need for a special interface. Just give them what has been proven to be an easy to understand and use system, and focus on the things that really matter (price, distribution, resource management).
Building a UI is like making a pair of shoes. Creativity is all well and good, but ultimately they have to fit the person you are making them for or they aren’t walking anywhere. While lots of hard work has gone into the UI design so far, it seems they are getting ahead of themselves and chasing their own dreams.I'll have to disagree with both Thom and Harry. The OLPC team is brave and right in redesigning the user interface. From children in the developing world I've tried to teach to my own Mom, I constantly see confusion and frustration with both Windows and Linux user interfaces. I haven’t used Apple interfaces enough to judge others' reaction, though I know I find it disconcerting personally.
The whole ‘breaking away from the desktop’ smacks heavily of academics who have finally found an outlet for their wacky ideas. Creativity is of course very important, but it has to be tempered within the requirements of the target audience.
In playing with the Sugar UI, I see a complete rethink that only academics could pull off. A reorientation of the computer from a cold tool to a trusted playground. A place to connect with friends and activities, which I can't wait to venture into on my very own Children's Machine XO neighbourhood.
But enough of what we think about the OLPC Children's Machine Sugar UI. Take a tour of Sugar with another great video by Harry Brignull. Check out OLPC XO-1's social features, the follow-up to Harry's excellent Sugar UI Demo:So what's your opinion? What is you review of the Sugar UI? Is Sugar a paradigm shift in children's interaction with computers or an academic power trip?
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