Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 11th Nov 2007 15:52 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces This is the fifth article in a series on common usability and graphical user interface related terms [part I | part II | part III | part IV]. On the internet, and especially in forum discussions like we all have here on OSNews, it is almost certain that in any given discussion, someone will most likely bring up usability and GUI related terms - things like spatial memory, widgets, consistency, Fitts' Law, and more. The aim of this series is to explain these terms, learn something about their origins, and finally rate their importance in the field of usability and (graphical) user interface design. In part V, we focus on modes.
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focus stealing and drag&drop
by jal_ on Mon 12th Nov 2007 10:10 UTC
jal_
Member since:
2006-11-02

Another particularly irritating mode error is that of the focus stealing window or dialog. You are typing something somewhere, and suddenly, a window or dialog steals focus, and you continue typing in that new window or dialog; you could be hitting the letters "y" or "n", affecting the outcome of a dialog window before you even get the chance to read it.

Or even worse, press the space bar. In Win95 (and perhaps 98), after downloading a file (with IE) a dialog box stole the focus, informing the user the download was finished, and the file was being copied from the temp directoty to whatever directory you specified as destination of the download. There was one button on it: Cancel. It had the focus. And it was thus activated by pressing the space bar. In those days, downloading was slow, so imagine I was "slightly" frustrated when I was typing in some other program, the dialog stole the focus after an hour of downloading and I was just typing a space...

User-maintained modes also underlay one of the prime features of today's graphical use interfaces: drag and drop, whose invention is attributed to Jef Raskin (who else). Copying and pasting in the Xerox PARC world happened in a "click-move-click" fashion, a strictly modal way of doing things. Raskin found this cumbersome, and consequently, came up with a drag-and-move way of copying and pasting - effectively a quasimode, because the user has to maintain the clicked state of the mouse button in order to continue the operation.

I honoustly think that drap&drop is one of the worste UI designs ever. It is so easy as a user to drop it in the wrong place, never to be seen again, and you can't do anything else than drag (and drop). For a programmer it is hell as well, because you need to enable (i.e. program) all kinds of nifty features to support it. It introduces a pseudo-modality that each and every app must recognize in order to work properly. That's really evil.


JAL

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