Posts Tagged ‘UI’

Average user does not mean complete idiot

There’s been this common misconception with user experience design for years now. Good design is a design where a complete idiot understands how to use every feature immediately.

This is completely wrong and leads to useful features getting cut because, “It’s too complex”

There is an elitism in IT where people assume they are special because they know more than the basics about computers and that those, “Average users” are complete idiots and should be treated as such.

Nowhere is this more clear than with Windows 8. Many reviews have said how complex and how it will confuse the end user. But they never say that it confused them. Here’s the problem, they were able to get the hang of it pretty quickly, but they see themselves as “elite” as they not only use computers everyday, they write about computers. But then they make comments about how this theoretical “Average User” will struggle.

A good user experience does not mean something so simple you can’t do anything meaningful. A good UX is one that can be explored – it pulls you in to touch it, experiment with it, play with it. A good UX is consistent, so that once a user has learnt how to do something can guess how to do similar things.

The modern UI in Windows 8 achieves this surprisingly well.

The ribbon

This is a bit of a follow up to my last post on windows 8. If there’s one thing Microsoft has been criticised more than anything else in Windows 8 it’s the decision to include the ribbon in explorer.

“Look how big and ugly it is!”

“Clean design means providing us only the functionality we want, not shoving every command in sight”

The think there is a fundamental misunderstanding in what the ribbon is. People see it as a toolbar replacement. This is incorrect.

The ribbon is a menu replacement that might render toolbars redundant.

So when comparing UIs, you shouldn’t compare a ribbon to a toolbar, but to a menu. Compare Windows 8’s ribbon to OSX’s menu and you’ll come to the conclusion OSX’s menu is far more complex.

“But OSX’s menu is hidden; it’s out of the way, the ribbon is in your face”, you say? Well again, I think you’re missing an important thing the ribbon can be minimised so it looks just like a menu. I will admit I hope in the final release Windows 8 has the menu minimise by default.

This behaviour of being able to minimise or stay open is very powerful, what if you wanted to do multiple things in your menu? As soon as you select one the menu disappears and you have to start again to select the next. On the other hand with a ribbon if it is minimised you can double click it to keep it open select all the options you want – selecting one doesn’t hide the ribbon, the double click the ribbon again to minimise it – That’s much nicer.

One more note about Windows 8. They really need to work on the icons. There is no consistency between them. “Hue variance should justify itself”

Visual Studio

I’m actually going to go to the territory that no developer has gone to – I want the ribbon inside Visual Studio. I may have just lost you but listen to my reasons.

  • In all the hundreds of menu items, I go into the menu to use a grand total of 3 of them.
  • The ribbon is a menu replacement, not a toolbar replacement. Toolbars can stay how they are (or preferably back to what they were in VS2008, there’s so many problems with them in VS2010)
  • The most important way select commands in Visual Studio is shortcuts. The ribbon does an excellent job at exposing shortcuts.
  • The menus are cluttered from years of addition of commands and never removing commands. The ribbon forces the organisation to be rethought.

I think these are quite compelling reasons. At the moment, I have kept my toolbars to an absolute minimum (10 commands). Some of these I wouldn’t mind to be more hidden inside the ribbon – Target Deployment Device, Solution Configurations & Solution Platforms.

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The occasionally interesting thoughts & insights of a software developer