Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 24th Jun 2007 13:44 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces Federkiel writes: "People working with Apple computers are used to a very consistent user experience. For a large part this stems from the fact that the Lisa type of GUI does not have the fight between MDI and SDI. The question simply never arises, because the Lisa type of GUI does not offer the choice to create either of both; it's something different all along. I usually think of it as 'MDI on steroids unified with a window manager'. It virtually includes all benefits of a SDI and and the benefits of an MDI." Read on for how I feel about this age-old discussion.
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It's Both, Guys
by darkwyrm on Sun 24th Jun 2007 17:20 UTC
darkwyrm
Member since:
2006-03-15

All of this stuff that you guys are commenting on, back and forth, is something I've been wrestling with for a while now - why it seems that everyone claims to be an expert on what's "intuitive" (FWIW, I consider myself a student of usability, but no expert ;) but there are seemingly endless debates on what's right.

Usability is both an art and a science -- both objective and subjective.

Some components of usability can be easily verified scientifically, such as Fitts' Law, the time savings in using keyboard shortcuts, or why it's so time-consuming to switch between the mouse and keyboard. Other aspects aren't so simple, like what constitutes a logical order in window control placement for a particular task or what would be a suitable toolbar icon for a "Compile" icon in an IDE.

Case in point: the menu bar placement. This is an age old debate -- each has its pros and cons.

A global menu bar (like MacOS) consumes less screen space and, according to Fitts' Law, is easier to click on because the user need only concern himself with horizontal aiming. Having a menu bar in each window has a natural mapping of tools to the document, as you have said.

Both cases deal with mode -- the current app/document -- in different ways. The global menu bar provides a consistent place for the user to look for what app he is dealing with but at the cost of a visual disconnect between the menu and the document window. Window menu bars utilize nearness to connect tools with a document but at the cost of being slower to click on and more screen space. These are the empirical parts of menu bar usability. Which one is easier for a user is partly the human factor, but also it's a matter of training / habit.

We all have some low-level training, such as using the left mouse button for regular clicking. The art of usability is really a balancing act between habit, training, scientific facts, and the ever-so-unpredictable human factor. It's this fuzzy, subjective stuff that causes all the bikeshed debates, or at least as far as my experience has been.

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