Post-WIMP

ZUI

In computing post-WIMP comprises work on user interfaces, mostly graphical user interfaces, which attempt to go beyond the paradigm of windows, icons, menus and a pointing device, i.e. WIMP interfaces.The reason WIMP interfaces have become so prevalent since their conception at Xerox PARC is that they are very good at abstracting workspaces, documents, and their actions. Their analogous paradigm to documents as paper sheets or folders makes WIMP interfaces easy to introduce to novice users. Furthermore their basic representations as rectangular regions on a 2D flat screen make them a good fit for system programmers, thus favoring the abundance of commercial widget toolkits in this style.

However WIMP interfaces are not optimal for working with complex tasks such as computer-aided design, working on large amounts of data simultaneously, or interactive games. WIMPs are usually pixel-hungry, so given limited screen real estate they can distract attention from the task at hand. Thus, custom interfaces can better encapsulate workspaces, actions, and objects for specific complex tasks. Applications for which WIMP is not well suited include those requiring continuous input signals, showing 3D models, or simply portraying an interaction for which there is no defined standard widget.

Interfaces based on these considerations, now called ‘post-WIMP,’ have made their way to the general public. Examples include the interface of the classic MP3 player iPod and a bank’s automated teller machine screen. Average desktop computers are still based on WIMP interfaces, and have started undergoing major operational improvements to surpass the hurdles inherent to the classic WIMP interface. These include the exploration of virtual 3D space, interaction techniques for window/icon sorting, focus, and embellishment. The seminal paper for post-WIMP interfaces is ‘Non Command User Interfaces’ by Jakob Nielsen 1993, followed by ‘The Anti-Mac Interface.’ Examples of Post-WIMP interaction include 3D interaction and reality-based interaction (e.g. a wearable computer to render real-world objects ‘clickable’).

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