Metaphors and the user interface

I just read this article by Katalin Szabó which “provides a glimpse into the world of metaphors and how they can be used in user interface design”.

In the text Szabo makes an interesting notion that metaphors are error that are committed on purpose, as the two things that presented as identical are in fact not. This is followed by the comparison of metaphors and similes, and according to Szabo a metaphor differs from a simile since it is an implicit simile in which the fact of comparing is not explicitly mentioned.

Even though the paper has been written in 1995 there is already an interesting notion, that holds true today. Szabo states that as users become accustomed to interface metaphors, in the long run they don’t even think of them as metaphors anymore.

I think it would be interesting to conduct a survey with 14-18 year olds who have been exposed to computers practically all of their lives, and see if they are actually conscious of all of metaphors that they face in everyday life.

Another interesting research to pursue would be to make a study of the evolution of the most common interface metaphors in graphical user interfaces ranging from 1984 to this day. Additionally perhaps attempting to create some sort of a taxonomy or classification for different types of metaphors.





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