> My mom isn’t dumb, but she has not and never had any interest in learning how tech works.
This is precisely the audience I am most concerned about. (See my other response, or my other articles on the subject.) People who identify as technical are willing to learn how to use almost any system, and misidentify certain kinds of skills (like an elaborate mental model of widget interactions in WIMP GUIs) as universal while claiming that other, substantially more common skills (like inventing a procedure for solving a problem with available tools) are unavailable to ‘non-technical’ users.
More flexible interfaces are easier to reason about without technical knowledge because fewer problems require using corner cases and dirty hacks to solve.
The ‘normal end user’ experience of a computer is one where nothing works quite the way one expects and nobody can tell you quite why, and so doing anything complicated requires formulating an elaborate plan and using a bunch of tools far outside their intended domain — in other words, the ‘non-technical’ end user is a master hacker owing to her unfamiliarity with the tools and concepts necessary for making clean solutions to her problems.
> do you have any concrete examples of UI done right?
I cover a handful of already existing examples in prior essays (including the Canon Cat), and pitch some ideas for new ones. My next book is a survey of interesting interfaces, and hopefully will answer the question so many people keep asking — “where is your exhaustive list of alternatives”.
The main problem with the Macintosh UI is not that it is a bad interface (though it is), but that it is the only interface most people are aware of, and the only interface most people can imagine. This means that everything it’s bad at, in the eyes of most programmers and users, becomes simply “hard to do on a computer”.