Linked by Julian Fietkau on Fri 11th Mar 2011 09:55 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces Over the past few decades, the software that enables us to be productive with our computers has become increasingly sophisticated and complex. Today's UI designers are faced with the challenge of devising graphical user interfaces that are easy to grasp and use, yet still provide access to a wide range of features. Here are some ideas about the nature of GUI complexity, followed by a couple of thoughts on simplicity that might just surprise you.
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Joel & Google Docs.
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Fri 11th Mar 2011 20:55 UTC
Bill Shooter of Bul
Member since:

Just a couple notes in general on the article:

Google docs seems to be simpler to use, not more complex when looking at the newer interface. They did not follow the MS Office treadmill of adding more and more tool bars. They've added complex functionality while hiding it form users that don't need it and making the simple things easier to use.

Joel on software. *shakes head* Why do people quote him as if he's the final answer on software design and development? Its not like you're quoting Einstein on his theory of relativity : a remarkable work that has withstood rigorous testing. He's just a guy that once worked on excel and later started his own software company that makes software very few people use. Oh yeah and he started a blog and wrote a book on software design. He has some good ideas, some bad ideas. Just because an idea came from him, doesn't make it an awesome "end of discussion" case resting point.

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RE: Joel & Google Docs.
by JulianFietkau on Fri 11th Mar 2011 21:22 in reply to "Joel & Google Docs. "
JulianFietkau Member since:

Ah, here we go, thank you. ;) I'd already started to feel light-headed from all the praise...

Re: Google Docs, this is probably a good point in time to admit that I've never used it very seriously and haven't created any real documents with it. So if you feel that I'm wrong, that's likely the reason, and in that case feel free to dismiss my opinion. Still, I'd like to clarify that I don't think Google Docs is necessarily more complicated or difficult to use today than it was three or four years ago, just that it is more complex because it has many more features than back then, today you can do much more with it. Hiding advanced features well enough is a viable option for coping with increasing functional complexity.

As for Joel Spolsky, I didn't intend to frame him as some sort of ultimate authority. He simply wrote something that fit very well into the article, and (I am taking him at face value here) he has several years of experience doing what he does at least semi-successfully. The quote in the article was not intended as religious dogma, but as an illustration of my point. I didn't make my intentions clear enough in that regard, sorry for that.

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Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:

Thanks for the clarification. I think I was a bit off in the previous post as well.

There really is a difference between complexion and complication. A good UI should be complex but not complicated. Microsoft ( prior to the ribbon interface) would have defended the vast number of tool bars as necessary given the complexity of the features available. The genius of the ribbon was not that they made their software less complex, but made it less complicated. That's what Google did to docs as well.

At one point in my life I was teaching underprivileged kids basic computer skills on win 98 machines, using MS office 2000. The kids were really interested in clicking everything in sight without much thought as they were very curious. The result was the interface for Word often became indescribably messed up.

Frequent senarios:

1) Every tool bar imaginable would be on the screen leaving an inch for actual editing.

2) Default Template changed to a document they had written

3) No tool bar visible, combined with the inability ( for me anyways) to figure out how to put any of them back.

4) Prompt on start up to insert a disk to complete installing some half installed feature.

The point is the UI allowed people to do stupid things that no one really would ever want to do. while making it difficutl to undo any of it. That was stupid. Don't do that in your UI's. The ribbon interface, I'd imagine would have prevented some of those problems.

I know some people love Joel. I don't know why. I understand why some people have an inordinate amount of love and respect for Jobs, Ives, Raskin, the developers of Amiga, BeOs, Linux, BSD and perl. They made really good software and designed it pretty darn good, millions use their products every day, because they *want* to. Joel was part of a team that ripped off Lotus 1-2-3 and visicalc's interface.

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