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"Poke" that link

24 Mar 2004 by Jason Fried

Wow… I was conducting a customer interview for a business-to-business office supplies extranet project we’re working on, and instead of saying “click” when referring to a link or button, she consistently said “poke.” I just love that. Poke that link.

30 comments so far (Post a Comment)

24 Mar 2004 | Benjy said...

I'd never heard that before, but I guess when hovering over a link, the hand does kind of poke the link!

24 Mar 2004 | Charbel said...


24 Mar 2004 | Mike P. said...

Is she a double poker? A current client of ours is a double poker, double pokes every hyperlink; I just bite my tongue but MAN do I want to say 'Save the pokes!'.

(Sometimes he triple pokes!)

24 Mar 2004 | Steve S. said...

We have a project manager who says 'hoover' instead of 'hover'.

As in "What should this hoover text be?"

24 Mar 2004 | Taylor Garries said...

I love the double-pokers. They get so twitchy when it comes to links, as though their finger is trying to mate with the mouse button. That's when I think to myslef, you know, you may be 57, but I bet you'd be vicious in UT.

I had a client who always referred to EXE as "ecks-ah" files.

24 Mar 2004 | CM Harrington said...

Perhaps it is similar to the Pillsbury Doughboy idea. Now I want to create a site that adds an aural "hoo hoo" every time you click a link ;-)

24 Mar 2004 | Francis Wu said...

Funny... I once had a client refer to her desktop icons as "little pictures".

24 Mar 2004 | peter said...

Has anybody noticed a correlation between age and double-poking everything? It seems to be internet users over 50.

If you think it about it, in most OSes, it's not that clear when a double click is required in the OS. I feel I know the rules as to when each is required, but I couldn't give you a list to save my life. On the web, almost everything is single-click, but older users don't seem to pick up on that.

Older users quickly learn that they can be try the "single click, wait, then try double clicking be frustrated" routine or they can just double click everything. The second option is bad for poorly designed e-commerce sites, but users won't know that it's "their" fault that two widgets showed up when they ordered one. So they stick with the double clicking and get frustrated when they get unexpected results.

On a similar rant, I used to have a heck of a time explaining to older users how fast a double click should be. My over-50 mother figured out a mnemonic that's instantly helped her and everyone I've shared it with since: "Pizza Pizza" like in the Little Caesar Pizza commercials. (Your kilometerage may vary outside the range of U.S. t.v.)

If anybody has a simpler teaching technique that doesn't involve confusion or food, I'm all ears.

24 Mar 2004 | Richard Bird said...

More "legends of double-poking" : In the "early days" of web design, the IT departmenet of one of our largest clients (a major financial services company of the bovine persuasion) wanted us to write our web application so that double-poking was REQUIRED in the browser! It seems that an internal survey revealed the leap from double-poking on the desktop to single-poking in the browser as one of the major concerns of staff worldwide.

Note: the same client also wanted to know if people "without a computer" would be able to use the web. Little did we know...

24 Mar 2004 | Mr Foo said...

Only a true nerd can critique someone's mousing techniques.

I have a relative who literally mashes the mouse, frequently full-hand-style. I think working with an iMac a few years ago must have taught him that. But it's kind of awkward to bring up...

24 Mar 2004 | One of several Steves said...

My favorite was someone I was training who wondered why her pointer wasn't moving. She had not only reached the end of her mousepad, but was off the desktop altogether.

And what's funny about that isn't so much that she did that - think about it; if you've never used a mouse (this was the early 90s, and this was a woman in her 60s) - just continually moving the thing to the right makes perfect sense - it's that the things that seem painfully obvious to those of us in the business often aren't.

25 Mar 2004 | Graham Hicks said...

I have a relative who literally mashes the mouse, frequently full-hand-style.

I've actually head that this was the reason that Apple Pro mouse doesn't have a separate "button" (the whole top of the mouse pushes down when poking). It lets people hold the mouse however they like, and accommodates pretty much every size hand. Plus it looks pretty, I guess.

25 Mar 2004 | mark said...

Actually, many people here in Mexico use the literal translation for poke (picar) to refer to clicks, since there is no exact translation for click. But you can also say "haz click aquí" which means "click here" but it isn't exactly a verb, becuase it's seldom conjugated, in part I guess becuase it sounds too awkward.

25 Mar 2004 | innuendo said...

maybe she wanted a poke from jason and couldn't think straight?

25 Mar 2004 | Jamie said...

Just a quick reminder - despite the temptation, it remains bad form to have a link that simply states: Poke here.

25 Mar 2004 | Chris said...

In '98 I walked into a computer shop looking for some piece of equipment. There was a couple, in their late 50s, and they were eyeing the new iMac's.

They were "hoovering" over the computer and the fellow had the mouse in his hand, suspended about 1 foot above the counter, swaying it back and forth, to and fro, up and down. It was then that I realized they were trying to get the mouse to work... in mid air.

This is probably why they stood alone in the store with no assistance. The sales staff were probably wondering how to break the news that the mouse doesn't work in 3D.

25 Mar 2004 | Oyvind Solstad said...

Reminds me of good old 80s, when a Commodore 64 was a dream machine. Not affording to pay for games, we had to program them ourselves. And one of the most advanced commands in Commodore Basic was Poke (and Peek). Poke put something into an adress, and Peek read it out again. So Poke the adress of the screen backround with a valid number, and hey - the background changed color.

I don't remember the adress, but:

10 Poke 61023,rnd(255)
20 Goto 10

That is: Put a random number between 0 and 255 into the screen backround color. And do it again. And again.

Watching this was a sure way to get sick, and/or make your parents want you to turn of that thing and get some fresh air instead...

;-) Oyvind

25 Mar 2004 | Arne G said...

When I think about the whole mouse thing, it’s quite an abstraction.

On a touchscreen, I can instruct “Touch your choice”, and it’s a very concrete direction (assuming the user limits their touches to the screen).

With a mouse, I can instruct “Click on your choice” then: first you have to know that there is this mouse “over here” that corresponds with interactions on the screen “over there”. Then you have to figure out what the translation is between what’s done “over here” and what happens “over there” (axis and distance transformations, plus resetting origins by lifting and repositioning). After you’ve figured that out, then you have to figure out that some kind of “click over here” is going to accomplish the desired action “over there”. It’s a good thing for me that mouse literacy has become relatively common.

It is interesting and a bit amusing that someone would refer to “poking” things with a mouse. She’s taken all of the abstraction and built herself a mental model of what’s going on (I poke stuff to make things happen). It’s probably not too far from the model that most have built after using a mouse (especially given prevalence of hand shaped pointers).

25 Mar 2004 | Tim said...

I recall this horrible interface for a Lotus mail suite (I can't think of the actual app name) I used during my out-of-college job at a big consultancy...probably from 1999.

The intro screen had similar option to the "shortcuts" menu in outlook (stuff like "Mail," "Groups," etc etc). But they were these BIG HUGE SQUARE buttons...beveled so they appeared convex. Thing is, clicking/poking them once didn't launch, say, merely depressed the button state. You had to click/poke again, from it's depressed state, to launch it. A weird double-click. It was so annoying.

25 Mar 2004 | Don Schenck said...

I've seen more horrible user interfaces than I care to remember.

25 Mar 2004 | Matthew Oliphant said...

I've seen more horrified user faces than I care to remember.

25 Mar 2004 | Arne G said...

“I've seen more horrible user interfaces than I care to remember.”

Me too, and shamefully many of them have been by my own hand (admitting the problem is the first step to recovery).

25 Mar 2004 | Bob said...

I sent this discussion to a colleague of mine and he properly noted (when using IE on Windows)...

"Well, because of the little hand with the finger that appears when the cursor is over a link, I think it should more properly be called "giving the finger" to a link."

25 Mar 2004 | Dave Hendler said...

Speaking of double poking, I was working on a content management system a few years ago as a student worker at my school. One of our clients reported a really strange bug where a bunch of items were showing up as being created on her site without her ever really creating them. We spent hours looking through the code, trying to figure out how these rogue items were being created. We were pretty stumped. Finally, we went to go watch what she was doing tha tmade them appear. Turns out she was double poking the link that started the item creation process. In that process, we created an item and made sure it didn't go live until the user decided to publish it. By double clicking that link, she was creating 2 items, but only getting to edit the second one. So, if nothing else, let this be a warning to web developers. Double clicking does occur so make sure you take it into account.

25 Mar 2004 | Don Schenck said...

Had a similar double-poking incident: we developed a Windows application, and the President of the newly-formed start-up decided to try it out. He kept double-clicking the buttons, causing our software to bomb.

We, of course, went back and changed it so that a click would render the form's controls _disabled_ until the processing was finished.

Funny; we would have never thought of that.

Usability testing ... it's what's for dinner.

25 Mar 2004 | Brad Hurley said...

On double versus single: Do any Windows users actually use the optional "Active Desktop" feature that turns your desktop into a Web-like world where single-clicking opens files and programs?

I tried it for a day or two, but it was just too weird...I think I've gotten too used to the "single click on the Web, double-click everywhere else" mentality, and I just couldn't get used to the idea of single-clicking on files to open them on my computer.

I never used the Launcher feature on pre OSX Macs for the same reason, although I seem to have had no problem getting used to the Dock in OS X (single-click to launch).

25 Mar 2004 | Don Schenck said...

Brad -- I had a client that insisted on using the Active Desktop on Windows 98. Then, *I* was the double-clicking idiot!

(That is, in addition to being just a regular ol' idiot)

26 Mar 2004 | Hagbard Celine said...

Out of roughly 90 users, I have one who uses the "view desktop as a web page" option. She also insists on defragging her hard drive and running scandisk every Friday, despite repeated requests to just leave the damn thing alone.

Sorry, back to the point. On the not-so-rare-as-I'd-like occasions when I have to fiddle with her PC I don't seem to have any trouble making the switch to single-clicking. (Maybe I just spend too much time on teh Intarweb.) It's still annoying, though.

26 Mar 2004 | Darrel said...

Personally, KDE (and now XP) drive me nuts with the single-click -to-launch/open OS items. I'm contantly opening up double windows in KDE. Ugh.

My favorite 'poking' story was when I was in the military. I was in supply. The most boring profession in the world, btw. Anyhoo, we finally got computerized (around 2001) and my Sergeant could now go onto the 'intranet' and download the latest forms and actually fill them out on the computer (wow!).

So, he's training me in on this:

Boss: OK, open this link here, and then keep clicking over here until the form comes up.

Me: mean click on the blue link?

Boss: OH! So *that* is what those are for. Nice!

Me: (I open the form up, then the calculator and the database to start filling out the forms)

Boss: Whoah! How's you do that!?

Me: Do what?

Boss: did you get the calculator to open at the same time as the form! I always have to open the form, fill something out, write down the numbers, close it, then open the calculator, do some calculations, close it, then open the form.

Me: They didn't actually train you on any of this, did they?


26 Mar 2004 | Heath said...

From now on, I shall only poke links.

Reminds me of people who insist on calling the Net "the online."

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