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Re: A really good article on software usability

On Thursday 04 January 2007 17:33, Jim C. wrote:
> Anne Wilson wrote:
> > Really?  What did he say that you found helpful?  I didn't see anything
> > that impressed me at all.
> > Ann
> Well it just seemed to me that there are so many Linux applications that
>  are way to complex. That's why I posted the missive in question. Are
> you saying that the article seemed like a no-brainer?
Since you ask, here are my reactions to some of it:

One of his peeves is when a text-editing program like Microsoft Word asks 
users if they want to save their work before they close their document.

That question makes little sense to computer novices accustomed to working 
with typewriters or pen and paper, he said. For them, a clearer question 
would be: "Throw away everything you've just done?"

Really?  I can't take that statement seriously.

"Your car does not ask, 'Do you really want to start the engine?' when you 
turn the key," Platt said.

but I'd be eternally grateful if it reminded me that I was doing 60mph at the 
time that I tried to stop it.

The confirmation box has become so overused that no one pays any attention to 
it, even when it's warning about a document that should be kept, he said.

That's not a design fault, but a user issue.  We all have a brain-fart from 
time to time, but I do not blame others when I do so.  There are a number of 
cases in linux where you can choose to not be reminded, of course, such as 
the delete one, where I choose to be reminded for deletes but not for 
trashing.  I prefer to have the choice.

Error messages represent software communication at its worst, Platt said. In 
his book, he recounts how after trying to save a Web page from his Internet 
browser, he received a message that said it couldn't be done and gave him no 
other recourse but to hit the OK button.

"No, it is not OK with me that this operation didn't work and the program 
can't explain why," he wrote.

At last, one that I can agree with.  Clearly not enough thought had gone into 
that one.  There are still some such around, but I wouldn't say they are 

To illustrate his point, he notes that computer programmers tend to prefer 
manual transmissions. But not even 15 percent of the cars sold in the United 
States last year had that feature.

How relevant is that?  In the UK I doubt if 15 per cent of cars have automatic 
transmission.  What does that prove?

According to Thomas, the trouble with software programs is that good ones 
often get overloaded with features demanded by "power users," such as big 
corporations or vocal individuals.

So who decides which features I want and will use?  There are plenty of 
smaller applications that give minimal feature sets, but I would guess that 
most people require at least one feature that they can't get in those 
applications.  How do you know what's valuable to me?  How do I know what's 
valuable to you?  There was a thread recently about auto-replace in OOWriter.  
I don't use it, so I hadn't even realised that the Fedora team had taken it 
out, but I do see that many people do use it.  It has no value to me.  It has 
lots to others.

"Every time I want to look at an article and I have to click to get past that 
multimedia thing, it drives me crazy," Thomas said. "They should be 
monitoring the fact that 99 percent of people try click on 'close' within a 
certain fraction of a second to get away from that thing."

I hate it too, but is there any evidence to show that I am in the majority?

Starbucks Corp. (Nasdaq:SBUX - news) incurred his wrath because the coffee 
shop chain required him to specify a search radius when he was trying to use 
its site find the nearest store.

Distance is relative.  What is an acceptable distance to me, here in the UK, 
would make no sense at all to people in many other parts of the world.  The 
writer is making an unjustified value judgement.

Platt said he voiced his sentiments to Starbucks, but received only an 
automated response.

That really does wind me up.  However, it has no bearing at all on the subject 
of the article.


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