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Revision as of 05:35, 4 March 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 5 xkcd comics, and only 1765 (35300%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

UI Change
I know they said this change is permanent, but surely when they hear how much we're complaining someone will find a way to change things back.
Title text: I know they said this change is permanent, but surely when they hear how much we're complaining someone will find a way to change things back.

Explanation

The system that sets out the way in which the user interacts with an app or program is called its "user interface" (UI). For an app, that may be the graphic design of the app, and commonly the nature and location of certain controls.

Sometimes, when websites and apps are updated, the UI is modified. This is often done to make space for new features or to make what the developer considers to be an improvement, to the look or efficiency of the app. Occasionally UIs are modified with no obvious goal in mind other than to make changes to give the illusion of improvement when no new features have been added, thus making them completely arbitrary.

Given that some users use some apps many times a day, users tend to learn and get used to the UI of common apps. Whether or not these changes are good in the long term, users often complain because all the workflows they're familiar with have been changed, and often the software never tells you where buttons and other options have been moved to. On occasion, these changes actually make common tasks more difficult and slower to accomplish. For example, in iOS 10, on the quick access control panel (which formerly consisted of a single page of controls), moves the controls for music to a second page (accessed by an additional swipe). While this has a benefit of allowing more information about one's music to be displayed, it adds an additional step to the UI before one can control their music from the control panel. Changes also often require users to "unlearn" the automatic behavior they have in using the app (such as automatically moving to press a button in its old location).

Old people get to see during their lifetime lots of these kind of changes to the way they did things in the past, and they often don't see the reason why they are made, since the young people who make the changes have a different cultural environment that the elderly won't "get". Also, just as young people like to complain about petty changes to apps, old people complain about the way their body starts to break down as they age. Muscle weakness makes tasks like opening doors and jars more difficult, the senses such as sight and hearing deteriorate, and mental processes such as memory and rationalization can become slower and less reliable. These have a far bigger impact on one's day-to-day ability to do tasks than a simple UI change.

When big websites make unpopular changes, users sometimes start petitions to have them reverted - for example, 1.7 million Facebook users joined "Petition Against the New Facebook". Of course, they didn't get their way, and nowadays few will even remember the old Facebook layout. As for aging, well, there's no human you could even try petitioning[citation needed], and a petition to God would typically be called a prayer, rather than a petition. Cueball's comment in the title text might refer to the fact that people naively believe that if they complain a lot about an undesired change on the UI of some app that is considered permanent, they might change it back, while in real life those complaints usually don't have any effect. Just like the facebook example given before. It also could be a reference to scientific efforts to stop or reverse the effects of aging, such as organ transplants and various other surgeries. There has always been a market for immortality, with many historical figures seeking it through alchemy, science, or magic, but as of yet, products claiming to grant it have all been shams. Perhaps he is hoping that advancing technologies will become sufficient to keep him from experiencing the negative effects of old age at all.

Transcript

[Cueball is doing something on his phone]

Cueball: Ugh, I hate when apps make arbitrary changes to their UI.

Cueball: Stuff I do all the time just got harder for no reason!

Off-Screen Voice: Man.

Off-Screen Voice: You are not gonna like getting old.


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