Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 11:18 UTC
Windows The Windows Client team explains the reasoning behind an important change in Vista's user interface. "One of the first things people notice when they start using Vista is the absence of menu bars. Explorer, photo gallery, media player, and IE all don't show menus by default and just use the so-called 'command module'. What is up with that? Do we hate menu bars? And more importantly - what is the guidance that third-party developers are supposed to follow? Let me break it down for you." And on a slightly related note: Mary Jo Foley has left MicrosoftWatch to start working at ZDNet.
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mmmh
by Anacardo on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 11:54 UTC
Anacardo
Member since:
2005-10-30

All the explaining doesn't change the overall situation. To summarize it all, I created a picture (with some irony to be true). Enjoy.
http://www.marcorolandi.com/imgs/just4fun.jpg

Reply Score: 5

RE: mmmh
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 13:05 UTC in reply to "mmmh"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

The big problem with Vista indeed: consistency-- or better yet, lack thereof.

As far as I'm concerned, an interface that is not consistent, be it graphically or behaviourly, is a bad interface. You cannot create a good interface without being consistent. Windows' interface before Vista looked fairly dull, but at least it was partially consistent. With Vista, the GUI designers for each app seem to have been put in different buildings spread accross the globe, without means of contacting each other, while being given the same general overview to start from. The stuff they came up with looks vaguely similar, but are all completely different.

So, when I need to recommend a *consistent* GUI to someone... I say GNOME (or Tracker/Deskbar in r5 if the person is an OS enthusiast). Not Windows, not OSX (I mean, those 1353 different themes Apple uses have turned OSX into a graphically inconsistent mess), not KDE... But GNOME.

Gee, how times have changed.

Reply Score: 3

RE: mmmh
by null_pointer_us on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 14:38 UTC in reply to "mmmh"
null_pointer_us Member since:
2005-08-19

Your irony is exaggerated. There aren't three different versions of the back/forward buttons. Those are just the same buttons blended into windows with different background colors. Also, putting a title in Explorer would be redundant with the new address bar, which is itself far better than the old one. However, I do agree with you on one point: the help stuff could use some standardization.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: mmmh
by Anacardo on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 17:12 UTC in reply to "RE: mmmh"
Anacardo Member since:
2005-10-30

I understand my irony was a bit exaggerated, still if you look at the BACK . NEXT buttons you'll see some interesting things:
In the explorer windows N&B are linked to the main window, just left of the address bar. The idea of grouping, if I understand it correctly in this case, is that N&B and address bar have the same level of hierarchy and are therefore related some way. In fact using those buttons affects the address bar interely. But in the photo gallery window there's no address bar, the N&B having the same hierarchy as the toolbar/menubar. Curious to say the least THERE IS an address bar in the window (in the picture C:UsersPublicPictures) which has a completely different appearance from the explorer address bar and has different functionality. Of course the N&B are related to this address bar, but they are mispresented having a complretely different hierarchy.
In the defender window we have yet another use of the N&B and no address bar whatsoever (obviously, more on that later).
In the wizard panel the interesting thing is that we have a Back button which is related to the title window (?) but, strange as it seems, we have the next button ON THE LOWER RIGHT SIDE OF THE WINDOW like Xp (??) and, of course, it's textual (???). In the end, while my critics might have sounded a little exxagerated, I feel VISTA doesn't definitely need polishing. It needs some strict and rational new guidelines. If they cannot respect some sort of consistency even themselves in the default OS, how can we/they expect the developers to do otherwise?
There's another great issue in all this. In the 80s and 90s we had the paradigm Application/tool/document. The distinction between the production tool (let's say Word) and the product ( a document) was clear. Managing files and understanding the basic structure of the file system was definitely a breeze. Today the distinction, at least from a user point of view, is blurred to some extent. We have places (at least what the user percieves as spaces) contained into documents (web pages for example) we have interactive documents that look like applications, we have places become intelligent and interactive, we have applications disguised as web pages... In the end the old paradigm is falling short. The problem, at least IMHO, is that we need a new paradigm, a new interface, while in this latest Vista incarnation we see both the old school and the in-between school made famous by windows XP (let's transform everything into a browser), with some new concepts here and there. Definitely too uch meat on the fire.

Reply Score: 1

RE: mmmh
by RGCook on Sat 23rd Sep 2006 04:13 UTC in reply to "mmmh"
RGCook Member since:
2005-07-12

Simply brilliant work Anacardo! The more I see and use Vista UI, the clearer it becomes to me just how right the Gnome developers are. I used to think (I admit at some risk) that they were a bit anal retentive about clarity, usage guidelines, etc. Now I admire their efforts more than ever.

Reply Score: 1

The main problem: inconsistency
by SpasmaticSeacow on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 11:58 UTC
SpasmaticSeacow
Member since:
2006-02-17

The main problem is inconsistency. In Vista, some apps title their Windows, some don't. Some apps have a menu, some don't, some hide it by default so that only people that know to look for it (and how) see it. As the author also points out, that the new pattern is leading to using buttons with drop-downs in place of menus as a "dumping ground". In fact, in Vista there are basically two different types of menus with different appearances and behaviors: conventional menus and "command module" menus.

I don't think it's something that people won't adjust to, it's just that it's quite sloppy.

Reply Score: 5

RE: The main problem: inconsistency
by mebarg on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 12:35 UTC in reply to "The main problem: inconsistency"
mebarg Member since:
2006-09-22

inconsistency is a big issue but the real problem here is the lack of respect for standard gui rules... MS set the guide but later they don't follow it... office never followed the standard... allways a new icon here and there... and now... well the ribbon!!!

Another thing is: in menus you have words that tell you something... now you have icons, that need to be interpreted.

I installed RC1, for two days i don't realize that presing ALT make the menu visible...
And the menu is so ugly that ultimate is best that is hiden, it don't fit in the whole skin.

we are going back to MSDOS days when every app hass is own GUI rules, and we have to learn all over again.

Now linux desktop is more GUI standard than windows!!!!!!!

chaus

Reply Score: 5

Tyr. Member since:
2005-07-06

we are going back to MSDOS days when every app hass is own GUI rules, and we have to learn all over again.

Now linux desktop is more GUI standard than windows!


Exactly, why throw away 20+ years of convention and user experience across platforms just for the sake of looking different ? And if you do why not at least be consistent across all applications ? It's like they're purposefully trying to make it harder for people to use their computer.

And the people getting hurt here are the same that always get ignored : the elderly, the partially sighted, etc. People for who it is no small task to relearn how to use the interface.

Reply Score: 5

Rayz Member since:
2006-06-24

Now linux desktop is more GUI standard than windows!!!!!!!

The problem is that over the years, Windows have crammed in so much functionality, that the standard menu structure is overwhelming for beginners. What they seem to be aiming for, is a UI based around the human task you want to perform, rather than the computer function function you are looking for. I've been playing around with Office2007, and after a few minutes, it made much more sense.

What I do think is a problem, is this rather untidy dumping ground they referred to. Odd bits of functionality, that they couldn't find a 'task' to place it under; so they end up dumped under a big button at one end of the menu.

Reply Score: 1

rcsteiner Member since:
2005-07-12

So use the Geoworks approach of user levels where the menus for the various applications change based on the level of expertise the user indicates when first starting the application.

Reply Score: 1

PlatformAgnostic Member since:
2006-01-02

This is a support nightmare and very hard to test. ("Ok, go to the Format menu and select the Page... option... what? you have no Format menu? ok... switch to intermediate mode. How do you do that?... ARGH!").

You have to test the app under various circumstances in each user mode as well. I think having modes is not really a good solution and I can see why GNOME is the way it's said to be... simple and relatively inflexible (for the Linux world).

Reply Score: 1

Sphinx Member since:
2005-07-09

They hid those menus for good reason alright.

Reply Score: 1

Flatline Member since:
2006-03-06

Thank you for the ALT tip...that's been driving me nuts. I'm trying out RC1 - trying to give it a good, honest shot - and not being able to get to the menus has been hindering me somewhat.

I agree that the inconsistency in the UI is a problem for Vista. I also don't like the new Start menu or the insistence on using the Back and Forward buttons for everything (where is my beloved Up button?).

I do think that RC1 is much better than Beta 2, but I'm not sold on Vista, which is not surprising considering I haven't been using Microsoft software outside of the office (and only when forced to in the office) for years. The inconsistent UI and the annoyance of UAC (which is less intrusive in RC1 but still annoying) just turn me off. Of course, they still have a while until release, so we'll just have to see...

Reply Score: 1

DjLizard Member since:
2006-06-28

There isn't a need for a clumsy "up" button, because Explorer now has the (imho far better) breadcrumbs system. Simply click the part of the path you want to jump to. You don't have to "up one level" 5 times to go back that far... you can just click straight to the 5th level in the breadcrumbs bar.

Reply Score: 3

Flatline Member since:
2006-03-06

I realize that. I know it's just something I would have to get used to and that it isn't really a bad thing, but it annoys me for some reason (what can I say, sometimes I'm a bit irrational).

Reply Score: 1

Another fine example...
by ido50 on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 13:29 UTC
ido50
Member since:
2006-02-06

This is just another fine example of Microsoft TELLING the users what they want instead of LISTENING to what they want.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Another fine example...
by MollyC on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 14:26 UTC in reply to "Another fine example..."
MollyC Member since:
2006-07-04

MS spends more money on usability testing than any other software company by far. They definitely LISTEN to what users want. The problem is that know-it-all tech geeks like you are the last ones to talk about UI issues. UIs designed according to the tastes of such geeks are almost universally horrible for normal users. And yet tech geeks speak with such an air of authority on such issues. It's quite laughable.

Edited 2006-09-22 14:30

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Another fine example...
by rcsteiner on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 14:57 UTC in reply to "RE: Another fine example..."
rcsteiner Member since:
2005-07-12

MS spends more money, eh? Is that why they're still largely depending on IBM's CUA guidelines for their interfaces?

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Another fine example...
by twenex on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 15:18 UTC in reply to "RE: Another fine example..."
twenex Member since:
2006-04-21

As any opponent of high taxes and big government spending will be glad to tell you, throwing more money at a problem doesn't mean it will magically go away.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Another fine example...
by g2devi on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 17:43 UTC in reply to "RE: Another fine example..."
g2devi Member since:
2005-07-09

There's a difference between LISTENing and HEARing. When a user says "I can't find anything in the menus" or "I have no idea what half the options mean", they hear the words but haven't listened to the message "things are badly organized". They instead listen to their creative side and think "This user wants me to come up with a cool new GUI control to show the existing options in a fancy new way that's never been done before".

Here's an example of how badly things are organized. Look at Office 2003. Consider the following menu items:
* Autocorrect options
* Customize
* Options
Why on earth are there three of these? What's the difference between Customize and Options? Why does Autocorrect options exist if half the features are covered in "spelling and grammer" in options? Suppose you wish to check spelling as you type? Where would you go? (Hint, not Autocorrect options). This is just a superficial review of three menu items.

If Microsoft spent just a little time organizing their menus and options, they'd get an enormous gain without changing GUI elements. Once done, they could pick better GUI controls. For instance in the Options dialog, tabs are great when you only have a single row of them, but when you have multiple rows of tabs that jump around unexpectedly when you click on them, icon bars like in Firefox or Safari work a lot better:
http://www.granneman.com/images/firefoxPrefsGeneral.jpg
http://www.b12partners.net/mt/images/Safari_Privacy-1.png

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Another fine example...
by ido50 on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 22:56 UTC in reply to "RE: Another fine example..."
ido50 Member since:
2006-02-06

Man, my air of authority can't even compare with yours. I can't feel but complemented you calling me a tech-geek. But I was not speaking as a tech-geek just now, but just as a normal user like yourself (Well, not just like, I did stop using Windows when I felt I was not comfortable with it). Yes, even tech-geeks are end-users.

And by the way, MS spends more money on anything than any other software company, and still, their operating system is not the best. And that's an opinion of a tech-geek with too much air of authority, so actually, I have no right to speak about it.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Another fine example...
by dylansmrjones on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 23:42 UTC in reply to "RE: Another fine example..."
dylansmrjones Member since:
2005-10-02

There's a HUGE gap between usability testing, and usable software.

The colors used in OS/2 2.x was such an example. Very functional - very ugly.

Reply Score: 2

Not ready for prime time...
by jtrapp on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 13:29 UTC
jtrapp
Member since:
2005-07-06

But I sincerely hate nested menus.

I've been trying to run Vista (Beta 2, pre-RC1, RC1)--I just rolled back to XP. Let me know when SP2 is out and I will try it again.

From my experiences, MS's January release (or will it be May?) is going to be history's largest beta test.

I like the UI improvements...but all of the UI developers in the world can not save an OS if it does not network or print properly.

Reply Score: 1

Yes...
by Anonymo on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 13:35 UTC
Anonymo
Member since:
2005-07-06

The failure of Microsoft is imminent.

First, the delays.
Then the slowness, bloatware
Also, the user permissions.
Again with the menus. Has anyone tried using them in office 2007. They suck.

I know there are more reasons why Microsoft is no good, but then again, why list them. Everyone knows already.

I don't know if I am just biased because I switched to linux and haven't regreted it or because I just hate microsoft, but they are not going where I need them to go and I put up with too much of their crap. I hope they lose all their money and it goes into Linuses pocket (including all devs)

Reply Score: 0

No...
by DjLizard on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 15:17 UTC in reply to "Yes..."
DjLizard Member since:
2006-06-28

I find Office 2007's ribbon system and single menu to be phenomenal. I am so productive in Office 2007, and I've hated Office since Office 2000. I'm definitely going to buy Office 2007. So no, Linux troll, Office 2007 (and its lack of menus) does not suck.

Reply Score: 1

RE: No...
by Flatline on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 15:45 UTC in reply to "No..."
Flatline Member since:
2006-03-06

To some people it does suck, to others it doesn't. It's a personal preference thing. Personally, I kinda like the menu system in Office 2007, but I haven't used it enough to be as productive in Office 2007 as in 2003 or 2000. That doesn't necessarily mean that it sucks or that it is flawed, it just means I'll have to retrain my brain a bit if I'm forced to use it.

Reply Score: 1

inconsistency is a ui crime
by Sphinx on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 13:40 UTC
Sphinx
Member since:
2005-07-09

Oh for the good old days when windows actually had a book of user interface guidelines that were followed religiously, should have stuck with it.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: mmmh
by Wowbagger on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 13:42 UTC
Wowbagger
Member since:
2005-07-06

But on OS X the windows all behave the same, drag and drop behaves the same, keyboard shortcuts behave the same in all apps.

Thats consistency. Basically you don't get unexpected resutls, when trying out action you've learned in different apps on OS X.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: mmmh
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 14:11 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: mmmh"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

But on OS X the windows all behave the same, drag and drop behaves the same, keyboard shortcuts behave the same in all apps.

What part of the clear distinction I made between behavioural and graphical consistency don't you understand?

Thats consistency. Basically you don't get unexpected resutls, when trying out action you've learned in different apps on OS X.

You DO get unexpected results, because various windows and dialogs have different looks, different themes. Mail.app sports a completely different graphical look than Safari, etc.

THAT is bad, because it is INCONSISTENT. Apple can come back to lecture over decent user interfaces the moment they start taking consistency seriously again. Same goes for Microsoft.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: mmmh
by Buck on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 14:23 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: mmmh"
Buck Member since:
2005-06-29

omg INCONSISTENT omg!
Actually this Apple inconsistency is not that bad. Apps *still* behave the same, they have their menus right there and their functionality is not hampered. Also I find the fact that they look different beneficial: when I have several apps open in the background I can easily distinguish between them only by a part of the window. If they all looked the same, well, they won't look quite as nice believe it or not. Partly this is why *NIX DEs look a bit flat - all windows have exactly the same decor.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: mmmh
by ma_d on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 14:28 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: mmmh"
ma_d Member since:
2005-06-29

I agree. Differing looks help users pick windows not only by spatial means (which is meaningless on Windows where most users don't know what maximize means so they have it on all the time) but also by the look.

I haven't used any of the applications so I can't speak for their workflows. But I do like the looks.

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: mmmh
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 14:41 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: mmmh"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Differing looks help users pick windows not only by spatial means

Applications already sport a different look, namely, the window content. When you need to select either iPhoto or Safari, you do not select either by staring at the window border or buttons which look different on both; no, you select either because... Well, one is showing pictures, the other is showing a website.

If you differentiate windows by looking at those few pixels of window-common details (buttons, window borders), which are all located in the perifery of the window (meaning, requie the most eye movements), instead of by its content (which is in the center of the screen, and hence gets the most visual attention) you are only making thins more difficult for yourself.

Differntating windows is done by its contents (pictures, website, playlist, etc.).

Reply Score: 1

RE[7]: mmmh
by ma_d on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 15:06 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: mmmh"
ma_d Member since:
2005-06-29

To some extent. However they've also added coloration differences.

Also makes things look less bland ;) .

Reply Score: 1

Out on a limb here
by ma_d on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 14:24 UTC
ma_d
Member since:
2005-06-29

I'm going to go out on a limb here, but can anyone back up this "consistency good, inconsistency bad" tripe?

A certain measure of consistency is obviously a pro, but religiously following some overly specific gui standard has simply lead to ugly, difficult to use applications that don't do anything special for their special purpose.
You guys seem to want the religious following.

Frankly, some applications just shouldn't have a menu bar: It doesn't make sense for them. I think developers usually only include them for fear of being raped (not literally) by the vocal complaining population.


When we model object systems we're supposed to model the real world we're recreating. When we model workflow's we're apparently only allowed to use one model? Or is it just supposed to look the same all the time?

Reply Score: 5

RE: Out on a limb here
by twenex on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 15:15 UTC in reply to "Out on a limb here"
twenex Member since:
2006-04-21

Well, inconsistent UIs are one of the things Linux haters have been criticising Linux for for years, so yes, I'd say at least a proportion of Windows users DO expect and want a consistent interface.

Of course, if you were being snide, you could say that MS kindly solved the problem of inconsistent Linux interfaces by giving us them in Windows, too.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Out on a limb here
by ma_d on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 16:30 UTC in reply to "RE: Out on a limb here"
ma_d Member since:
2005-06-29

I frankly don't care what "most users" (which really means "vocal users") say about UI for something.
There are actual metrics for analyzing the quality of a UI design. And there are HIG's to try and keep compatibility where it makes sense (which is more often than not)

But basically. The menu was this hackish idea someone came up with back in the day in order to map command line parameters and commands onto the graphical UI. And, I think that if you watch the workflow of experienced users in professional applications (ones people use in a money making scenario) you'll see the avoid the menus except for those occasional items.

So any ideas Microsft or Apple or anyone else comes up with to try and replace the menu (where possible) I'm all for. Throw this idea of obsessive consistency to the wind. There's no reflex to click file->save_as, so why are we worried it's consistent? Because users can't spend 10 minutes learning to use the application we spent 10 thousand hours writing? That's silly, let them learn. GUI should be powerful, not crippled by standards you can't code against.
Standards are for engineers, not users.


So, bravo Microsoft for trying something new in UI: It's been a long time coming from you.

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Out on a limb here
by twenex on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 16:38 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Out on a limb here"
twenex Member since:
2006-04-21

The problem for Microsoft is that users don't WANT changes. They want more of the same. That's why MS made it possible to run old, insecure apps in XP, despite the fact it was based on their secure NT kernel. They (the users) won't care that 99% of the apps that don't work in Vista, don't work because they're insecure; all they'll see is that in Vista, MS broke compatibility with DeathMatchOffice 99.

Plus, you go on about not caring what most users say about a UI, and then say that standards are for engineers. Inconsistency, anyone?

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Out on a limb here
by ma_d on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 18:55 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Out on a limb here"
ma_d Member since:
2005-06-29

Um, not really. I basically said they shouldn't care about what vocal users say about their UI designs and that standards are for engineers, not for users.

They're two discrete topics. The first is that:
1.) The vocal users are a loud minority.
2.) They don't represent most users, they represent most "educated" users.
3.) They change their minds a lot.
4.) They disagree with each other constantly.
5.) They usually don't know what they're talking about.

The second is that standards are for engineers.
1.) Standards are useful in making sure that two designed items can work together, and then 3rd parties can replace those items or extend them using the standards.
2.) They're useful in hashing out how you should do something, especially if you write an implementation alongside the standard.

Users are people, not machines. They learn, they flex, they adapt: They don't need a standard to work with the machine.
In some cases, their inflexibility can help their workflow: You can reflex the mouse to a corner of the screen, but you can't do it to pixel #(7,342). Here, keeping things consistent can be nice. I think an example of this is ok/cancel order: Many users stop reading them, and they click the side they expect ok/cancel to be on.
Menu's are not an example. You aren't supposed to use the menu by reflex, that's what keyboard shortcuts are for. It's a standard concept in some sense, but that concept predates the menu and a replacement to that menu won't change the concept of commands which are static to the current static of the program.

Users shouldn't expect to just use a program without a learning curve. This concept isn't holding back UI design (it's very often ignored anyway), it's holding back users who think they should be able to just use a program.
Keep in mind, I'm not throwing the idea of things being intuitive out the window. I'm actually coming closer to saying intuitive is not universal among all application domains.

Reply Score: 2

Does it really matter?
by siebharinn on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 17:16 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Out on a limb here"
siebharinn Member since:
2005-07-06

Are dogmatic style guidelines really that much of an issue any more?

We live in the web age, where conventions are different from site to site. Somehow we manage to navigate. Somehow we can keep track of where we are, what we're doing, and where we're going. As long as pages within the same site or webapp are consistent, then we're ok.

There are a handful of common themes and patterns on the web, but for the most part, anything goes. Why do we not have a problem navigating web pages, but deviate from the application interface rule book by one pixel and the user base comes crashing down in flames?

I used Vista for about two weeks. The only thing that killed it for me was that I couldn't get my wireless card to work.

I didn't notice any real issues with the UI. This is an important point. I wasn't nitpicking to try and find inconsistencies, I was just using the system. And you know what? Stuff was more or less where I expected it to be. Things that I did notice were positives, like the Explorer breadcrumb thing.

Menus suck. They were created to avoid having those terrible Word Perfect keyboard template things. I am all for something better. I haven't had a chance to try Office 2007 yet.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Does it really matter?
by sappyvcv on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 17:35 UTC in reply to "Does it really matter?"
sappyvcv Member since:
2005-07-06

Excellent point. While a lot of sucks are poorly done and suck, any well designed site, no matter how it looks, will keep the viewers happy enough. I also don't see why the same wouldn't apply for applications.

Granted, I think various apps in Vista could stand to be just a bit more consistent, but it's not as bad as some play it out to be, I think.

Also, how many non-geeks do you hear complain about Apple's various apps sporting different themes? I doubt many give a rats ass. As long as it looks decent and is relatively simple to use, that's all that matters.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Does it really matter?
by n4cer on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 21:41 UTC in reply to "Does it really matter?"
n4cer Member since:
2005-07-06

We live in the web age, where conventions are different from site to site. Somehow we manage to navigate. Somehow we can keep track of where we are, what we're doing, and where we're going. As long as pages within the same site or webapp are consistent, then we're ok.
There are a handful of common themes and patterns on the web, but for the most part, anything goes. Why do we not have a problem navigating web pages, but deviate from the application interface rule book by one pixel and the user base comes crashing down in flames?


Microsoft has actually said similar at some of their dev conferences where they discussed some of their findings about UI design/interaction and how devs should take advantage of the flexibility Vista offers.

Basically, there are similarities between the browser/standards/webpage and the non-client area/platform standards/client area. The non-client area, common controls, app models, and HIG provide developers with the basic tools to use and guidelines to follow, but they shouldn't be hindered by the guidelines if some aspect constrains the functionality/usability of their app. In these cases, you should still leave the non-client area alone as it gives the user a familliar grounding outside of the application's content (like the browser window), but you're free to use the client area to create the experience that makes your app work best for the user. Just as users can cope with variations on the same theme when browsing the web, so can they when using rich client applications. As on the web, use discretion whenever you do deviate from platform norms, and have a good reason for doing so.

This user-centric design flexibility is also evident in some non-web software, hardware, and other everyday products. There are hundreds of variations that follow the same guidelines, but differ in some aspects of their design due to optimizations for the user and/or the nature of the product's usage. In the majority of cases, users easily transition between the differences while/because of recognizing the similarities, applaud those design evolutions that make the experience better, and reject those that don't.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Out on a limb here
by rayiner on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 16:23 UTC in reply to "Out on a limb here"
rayiner Member since:
2005-07-06

Consistency isn't tripe. All windows have titles and menubars, etc, for the same reason that all of a company's business mail is on standard letterhead, for the same reason internal company documents have standard headers and sections, for the same reason that all scientific papers have more or less the same organization, for the same reason all cars have controls in more or less the same place, etc, etc.

When people use a lot of different instances of the same general type of thing, as is true with applications, they value the ability to depend on certain things just being there. At some point, what's optimal for an individual instance is less important that what's optimal globally. Applications fall into this category. A person uses dozens of them regularly, and it doesn't matter of being non-conventional makes the app slightly more efficient, because the time cost by distrupting the user's programmed behaviors negates any efficiency advantages by being more specialized.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Out on a limb here
by PowerMacX on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 18:09 UTC in reply to "Out on a limb here"
PowerMacX Member since:
2005-11-06

A certain measure of consistency is obviously a pro, but religiously following some overly specific gui standard has simply lead to ugly, difficult to use applications that don't do anything special for their special purpose.
You guys seem to want the religious following.

Frankly, some applications just shouldn't have a menu bar: It doesn't make sense for them. I think developers usually only include them for fear of being raped (not literally) by the vocal complaining population.


GUI consistency allows you to use an application on first glance. You don't have to wonder "Gee, I wonder where did they put (or how did they represent) the 'Save' option/how do I open another doc/how do I know if the open doc has unsaved changes/how do I copy/cut/paste/undo...".

But let's stick to the specific point of this article: Menu bars.

What's the point of a menu bar? I think that for well designed applications it serves the same purpose as a "Site Map" does in web sites: A guide to explore *all* it has to offer.

Not every useful action can be present graphically. There is only a limited amount of pixels on the screen and, more importantly, a limited amount of different things a person can focus at one time.

Reply Score: 1

strategical decision
by ombz on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 16:26 UTC
ombz
Member since:
2005-12-09

i believe that this fundamental GUI changes are strategical decisions; what the final users like or think doesnt care:

------------------------------------------------
They fear the *commoditization* of software,
because its a threat to his monopolistic advantage,
then they need to desesperately differentiate their
products
------------------------------------------------

Reply Score: 1

Consistency first
by Bounty on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 17:03 UTC
Bounty
Member since:
2006-09-18

The default look of the applications should be built for consistency. If you are a uber-leet engineer type who knows all the shortcuts, or an IT manager who wants to implement a policy to only allow certain gui features fine. Go to File, Edit or Tools then click "Options" or "Preferences" then change ths skin. I shouldn't even have to spell out all those iterations, but so far everyone isn't consistent already.

Pretty soon I'll have to tell everyone to click the "icon that looks kinda like a cross between a bear and a fish" then spiral out to the little greater than icons to show the menus that you don't use very often, then find "L" shaped icon, don't click on it... you need to press ctrl+the key on your keyboard that looks like celtic art, then click it.... Unless you've changed your skin from default..... then we'll need to ..................................................................SCRE AM!

Reply Score: 1

task based
by Yamin on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 17:14 UTC
Yamin
Member since:
2006-01-10

I'm currently working in company that makes medical software. I make no jokes about this, when I say, that doctors and other health people say going through a menu is too time consuming. 3 clicks...too much.

So we end up having to do a lot of things like keyboard shortcuts, lots of buttons, command button bars, context menus... Many of the things we see in the vista UI.

We still have the big menu available of course, though for some parts of the application, I don't even use it.
All the functionality is there in the buttons, command bars.

Personally, its simple. Can you use the application optimally? If yes, then its a good UI. If not, then its a bad UI.

Reply Score: 1

v Why is Vista on OSNews?
by Xaero_Vincent on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 17:48 UTC
RE: Why is Vista on OSNews?
by bovinity on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 18:28 UTC in reply to "Why is Vista on OSNews?"
bovinity Member since:
2006-06-20

Either you're new here or that was a terrible attempt at a joke. In the event it wasn't a joke, you're at Operating System News, mate. Not OSSNews. ;)

Reply Score: 1

RE: Why is Vista on OSNews?
by g2devi on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 21:38 UTC in reply to "Why is Vista on OSNews?"
g2devi Member since:
2005-07-09

Nope.

It's always been OS News or "Operating System" News since OS is the acynoym for Operating Systems. Open source has any one of the following acronyms: OSS (Open Source Software), FOSS (Free & Open Source Software), or FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software), and not OS.

As you pointed out, OS News covers more than a few closed source operating systems and that's a good thing since most news sites have specialized to the point that anything outside the narrow focus is looked upon with suspicion. Without general special interest news sites like OS News and Byte Magazine (RIP), you tend to develop tunnel vision and a distorted view of your OS with repect to others.

OS News has its issues, but its diversity of content is a feature, not a bug.
.

Reply Score: 2

What's going on here?
by ccchips on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 18:32 UTC
ccchips
Member since:
2006-05-24

Did the people who design software forget that there are people out here who can't use a mouse very well, or not at all????

For cryin' out loud, I'm starting to wish I'd never use a computer in my life!

Reply Score: 1

RE: What's going on here?
by macisaac on Sat 23rd Sep 2006 03:02 UTC in reply to "What's going on here?"
macisaac Member since:
2005-08-28

exactly. though I can use a mouse, and often do so, a while back at work I noticed that I was developping a _lot_ of pain in my right hand/arm. Being that I hardly do any hand writing, and I spend most of my working day behind a computer, the only difference I could see between my left and right hands to cause this difference in pain was one the right I use a mouse, on the left I don't.

so, I set about deliberately minimizing mouse usage at work, learning and mapping out keystroke shortcuts and such, and eventually getting one those nifty ergo keyboards. and the pain gradually got more and more manageable.

these types of software requiring you to be clicking all around to get use out of them mean more pain for folk like me, so no thanks. (that and personally other than for the really simple stuff, back, home, forward, etc., I find when everything's an icon on an app, I have to mouseover them a bunch and wait for some tooltip to show up (hopefully) explaining what the heck it's supposed to mean.)

Reply Score: 1

v Mary Jo Foley
by dnstest on Sat 23rd Sep 2006 08:56 UTC