1770: UI Change

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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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.


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.

The comment in the title text could refer to either user interface changes or the effects of aging. As for the former, when websites and programs 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. 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.

As for the latter, there's no human with the power to undo the effects of aging yet[citation needed], and a petition to God would typically be called a prayer, rather than a petition. Scientific research on how to stop or reverse the effects of old age is ongoing, with limited successes but no indication that we're anywhere close to the ability to "change things back" by restoring an old person to full youthful vigor, nor that this will necessarily happen within the lifetime of anyone currently alive (though neither is it guaranteed not to happen[citation needed], but it will take a while if it does). 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 Cueball is hoping that advancing technologies will become sufficient to keep him from experiencing the negative effects of old age at all, and that complaining about the situation might improve the pace of progress.


[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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Man, Facebook Android App did this just this morning! Comments are broken!Seebert (talk) 14:01, 9 December 2016 (UTC)

Pretty funny how the explainer so far focused on physical deterioration (old people's bodies beginning to fail) with respect to the offscreen comment. Randall is an environmentalist like everyone else, but even he clearly acknowledges in this comic that the point is mental deterioration and intelligence decrease with age -- failure to grasp things such as interfaces as fast as before. It's not about motor performance at all. ~~~~ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

That's somewhat right, but I think that getting old means that you find it much harder to understand new things, but the things you could always do well you still can, except into much older ages. But I have no proof of this, it's just my experience. I'm open to being proved wrong by a study. Also, please don't nowiki your "~~~~" at the end of your comment, it defeats the purpose. 11:12, 10 December 2016 (UTC)

Title text scenario: the Windows 8 removed START button was reintroduced first via community hacks ("classic shell"), then officially with version 8.1 (ref.WIKI) and is still there now (W10 - but, how long for?): sometimes it just makes sense to go back, IF/WHEN possible 15:07, 9 December 2016 (UTC)

I think one of the best examples would be the removal of the Context-Menu key on Android devices. Previously, menus could be accessed in any app by pressing the same key on nearly any Android device. (The Running-Apps screen could be accessed by holding the Home key.) When the Menu key was removed, many apps took a long time to implement an on-screen Menu button (making many features unavailable on those newer devices until all apps were updated to add an on-screen Menu button), & there is STILL no consistent standard for where this button is placed on the screen. In addition, the icon representing the Menu button often varies, with some apps using a "hamburger" icon (a stack of 3 horizontal lines) & others using a "dots" icon (a stack of 3 dots). Some apps even have TWO menus, using each of the icons on opposite sides of the screen. The Context-Menu key has been replaced with a dedicated Running-Apps key. (Presumably in an effort to get users to "close" their apps more often? Ironically, many apps will relaunch their background processes unless Exit/Quit is selected from their internal menus.) Context-Menus are used with great frequency in many apps, especially when toggling a setting is desired. Given the frequency with which Context-Menus are needed, & the relative infrequency with which the Running-Apps screen is needed, this could be seen as an arbitrary, nonsensical, & annoying UI alteration.

(Also, why are there so rarely any text labels on icons anymore? High resolution interfaces give plenty of pixels to fit a small line of text under each icon, reading "Menu", "New", "Delete", et cetera. Certainly, multi-lingual development would be slowed by the need to translate text-labels, but the increase in usability may often be worth it. For instance, the "Archive" icon in Gmail doesn't really look enough like anything to give an indication of its purpose until you tap it. The extensive use of pictograms often accompanies other symptoms of a society in decline. If we need pictograms where common labels would go, that's probably not a good sign for our social development.) 20:30, 13 December 2016 (UTC)

The title text has two levels: both Application interfaces and getting old. Randall is likely referencing Google's Calico lab which made a minor media buzz in 2013 with headlines like CNN's, "How Google's Calico aims to fight aging and 'solve death'. The MSN feed recently featured one of these stories along with Microsoft trying to "solve" cancer. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

" products claiming to grant it have all been shams" That is exactly what they want you to believe! Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 15:57, 9 December 2016 (UTC)

Psst!, the title text is politics duh. Old people protest with their vote to change things back. Now if they are angry enough, politicians will change things back, right? 'Cause that's always possible.-- 16:57, 9 December 2016 (UTC)

I'm not sure the "getting old" refers to loss of physical and mental function so much as "arbitrary" changes in society's "user interface": newspapers disappearing, face-to-face socializing being displaced by on-line interactions, job discrimination against older workers (especially those who haven't updated their skills), etc. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I agree, the comment about "getting old" seems more relevant to changes in society than changes in one's body. Many processes which were once relatively simple have been made fully electronic, or deprecated entirely; For instance, customer assistance that was once a phone call away is now often hidden behind an extensive menu system, if it is available at all. "Electronic billing" generally does NOT send you a bill, but rather requires you to go log into a website to retrieve it. Forms & services which were previously relatively straightforward may now be complicated by extensive anti-fraud measures. Devices that once had only basic controls like "Power" & "Play" may now involve multiple steps to perform a single action. "The cloud" (off-site 3rd party service) is now used for many features which previously were performed locally within the device itself, resulting in additional Connection, Login, Buffering, Conversion, (Re-re-re-)Retransmission, & battery considerations. In many ways, our new-gen digital systems are less convenient than in years past. Even YouTube is bloated & over-complicated compared to what it was in 2001. (ProTip: Use the "Embed" links to get a lightweight video page that plays well on older machines, without any of the unnecessary gak around the edges.) 20:30, 13 December 2016 (UTC)

Maybe a reference to the reddit iOS app randomly swapping the positions of upvote/downvote and the share button? 15:22, 9 December 2016 (UTC)

If the changes only were permanent this time 09:36, 10 December 2016 (UTC)

This is an obvious political reference to Trump and the latest Social Justice improvements. Take a step back and you'll see the big picture. -- 20:59, 10 December 2016 (UTC)

TANJ! (There Ain't No Justice) 20:30, 13 December 2016 (UTC)
No, I don't think so. Nothing in the comic seems to imply politics at all, much less Trump or SJ specifically. 13:01, 5 March 2024 (UTC)

Just noticed yesterday my fonts in MS Office looked funny. Oh, they designed a brand new font and made it the default for the planet. (Gee, thanks, how about some bug fixes?) 13:01, 5 March 2024 (UTC)