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An Optimized GUI Based On Users' Abilities

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the how-about-a-difficulty-slider dept.

GUI 114

Ostracus writes "Researchers at the University of Washington have recently developed a system, which, for the first time, offers an instantly customizable approach to user interfaces. Each participant in the program is placed through a brief skills test, and then a mathematically-based version of the user interface optimized for his or her vision and motor abilities is generated. The current off-the-shelf designs are especially discouraging for the disabled, the elderly and others who have trouble controlling a mouse, because most computer programs have standardized button sizes, fonts, and layouts, which are designed for typical users."

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Let me help (5, Funny)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923669)

"Ok,, just press any key..."
"...sorry, I can't find the 'any' key..."

Re:Let me help (5, Funny)

impaledsunset (1337701) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923705)

As a user, I'm politely asking to stop making fun of me. It was only once that you, software designers, made us stupid with this any key thing. Do I have to remind you of your muffs, you know, things like "Keyboard not found, press F1 to continue?" I'm sure we scored more than you at this game!

Re:Let me help (4, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924047)

That is because the F1 will not make you continue.

The interface clearly states: Would you like to delete the seleted file(s)?
The answwer below it should read:
All, No or Yes? Press A, N, Y key to continue.

And if you do not believe that, I will make something else up.

Re:Let me help (3, Informative)

0xygen (595606) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924331)

Funnily enough, I had this yesterday, only to discover THE MESSAGE IS RIGHT!

I plugged in the USB keyboard, the backlight came on, I pressed F1, and the machine booted.

Motherboard is an Abit IP 35 Pro with BIOS USB Keyboard support enabled for disbelievers who want to try it...

Re:Let me help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25924463)

It has always worked on USB keyboards connected to motherboards with BIOS support for USB keyboards.

On AT and PS/2 systems it is just a matter of resetting the keyboard controller after the At or PS/2 keyboard is plugged in.

Re:Let me help (3, Insightful)

Fumus (1258966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924557)

That's because if you don't have a keyboard, your PC is kind of useless. (not counting headless systems operated by SSL)

This error message is there to show that you can continue as soon as you plug a (USB) keyboard in. That's why it wants you to press a key, so it know that you now have a keyboard.

It really should be rewriten as "Keyboard not found. Plug one in and press F1 to continue.".

Re:Let me help (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925277)

This error message is there to show that you can continue as soon as you plug a (USB) keyboard in.

That error message is far older than USB, and I've heard that older keyboards weren't supposed to be hotplugged (even though it never caused any problems for me).

Re:Let me help (2, Informative)

JaBob (1194069) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926195)

PS/2 keyboards could be hot plugged once the BIOS handed over control of the computer to the OS. But if you set the computer to ignore the missing keyboard and just continue booting, then you were out of luck until you power cycled the computer with a keyboard plugged in. I don't remember if DIN keyboards had the same functionality, so someone else could chime in on that one.

Re:Let me help (2, Informative)

skolima (1159779) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927131)

That's because if you don't have a keyboard, your PC is kind of useless. (not counting headless systems operated by SSL)

I may be strange, but I prefer SSH...

Re:Let me help (1)

Fumus (1258966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927603)


Re:Let me help (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927713)

That message is about 20 years older than the USB standard.

I've seen it on 80286-based computer _without_ hot-pluggable keyboard (well, you could try to hot-plug PS/2 keyboard, but it had the real potential to burn your motherboard).

Re:Let me help (1)

ZygnuX (1365897) | more than 5 years ago | (#25929013)

Yeah, very useless. I distinctly remember trying to set up a Pentium IV server with an Asus mobo. Installed Debian, got SSH configured, everything ready to go. I turned it off, disconnected the monitor and keyboard, and plugged the server into the servers room. Started it up.. but i couldnt access it through SSH. What was it? "Keyboard not found, press F1 to continue" Funnily enough, there was no option in the BIOS to skip "All errors". So the server is still there, with a keyboard plugged in and hidden.

Re:Let me help (4, Funny)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923731)

Guy goes into a Home Depot and asks what they have that he can use to cut wood. Clerk shows him a shiny new chainsaw kit - the guy buys it and takes it home after being assured that he can bring it back if he isn't happy with it.

Two weeks later the guy brings the chainsaw back to HD, saying he'd like to return it.

"I'm sorry you had trouble Sir, what seems to be the issue?"
"I worked from dawn to dusk for the last two weeks, but all I got done was half a lousy cord of wood - I'd like something that might make the job go a bit faster..."
"I see - let me check it out for you..." says the clerk as he proceeds to fire up the chainsaw...gunning the engine and spinning the sharp-toothed chain, to which the surprised customer replies rather loudly...
"What's that sound???"

Re:Let me help (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923771)

>Each participant in the program is placed through a brief skills test,

Knock on door...
"Who is it???"
"It's me, man, Dave - let me in!"
"Sorry, man............Daves' not here!"

Re:Let me help (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923807)

Stooges Keep Gaming tech support help line #401...2 am GMT...

"Ok, Mr. Woebeegone, thank you for calling SKG, but before we get to your problem with the new game, can you first tell me the color of the small yellow square in the lower left corner of your screen, please...?"

Identifying OS by Color (2, Informative)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925143)

... can you first tell me the color of the small yellow square ...

Interesting! I've never thought of this.

Green rectangle with "Start" - Windows XP.
Blue(?) circle - Windows Vista.
Grey rectangle with "Start" - Windows 2000 or XP Classic.
Grey rectangle with no words - GNOME.
None/Black border - Sugar.
None/Multicoloured long rectangle - Macintosh.

Anyone knows KDE or others? XP and Vista Themes?

Re:Identifying OS by Color (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25925771)

KDE 3: grey and yellow-ish brown K with gear wheel (old style) or blue background square with white K and gear wheel (new style, seen on KDE 3&4)

Re:Identifying OS by Color (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25927529)

KDE (3) is usually customized by the distro, SuSE and OpenSuSE got a green circle with the chameleon head, Xandros (for EeePC) uses a blue and red rectangle.

KDE default is a square with the letter K and a gear

CDE do not have anything in the lower left corner.

Reason not to buy chain saw at discount store (2, Insightful)

Latent Heat (558884) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925131)

It just goes to show you that you get what you pay for when you buy something like a chain saw at a discount outlet.

I bought a chain saw because the guy I contracted to paint some buildings on the property told me I had to clear all of the brush, or it would cost me a lot of money if he did it. He told me what brand and model of saw to get, and he told me to buy three extra chains on account of the kind of work I was taking on: "the second you touch stone working close to the building, you have dulled the chain and are going to have to change it out, and by the amount of work you have, you are going to need three spares."

I also bought it from a place that showed me how to start and stop the saw, how to set the chain tension, how to change the chain. I also checked with them about their arrangement for sharpening chains.

So my wife is cleaning out some junk on one of those buildings and comes across one of those cheapo saws you buy at the discount store. It must have been left behind by my dad some years ago. I cleaned out the gummed up gas and got the saw to run -- it doesn't cut quite as fast as the fancy saw the painting guy made me get, but with a new chain on it, it runs OK.

When the saw was rediscovered, the chain tension was completely slack and the chain teeth were as dull as toothless gums. I guess this saw didn't see much use as I never remember my dad doing anything with it. It probably got used until the chain dulled up and Dad decided that "this saw is no good" and it got buried in a pile of other junk. But I suppose no one told him about keeping sharp chains on the thing or how to do change outs or even how to set the tension.

As to blaming customers for being stupid about user interfaces on everything from chain saws to computers, there is something to be said about proper training and for purchasing from sales outlets that provide that training.

Re:Reason not to buy chain saw at discount store (4, Interesting)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926899)

As to blaming customers for being stupid about user interfaces on everything from chain saws to computers, there is something to be said about proper training and for purchasing from sales outlets that provide that training.

Of course, with computers, a big part of the problem is that most of the settings, options, whatever, aren't documented anywhere that the user is likely to discover. And when something is documented, it's usually in the developers' obscure jargon that doesn't share any keywords with the description a typical user would give.

I recently stumbled across a useful example: I'd been frustrated for years that, good as firefox is, it didn't seem to have a way to do something obvious that was in all the other browsers (of the 12 on my Mac, for example) had right there in the obvious menu: I couldn't get it to open a group of bookmarks in tabs in a new window. I made all sorts of guesses, googled for it, and asked on various forums. A few people said that it was possible, but gave no clues as to how. Then suddenly, a few months ago, I mentioned it in a comment here in /., and someone answered with the key combo. It's shift-click on the menu item, in the OSX edition. Now, I used shift-click in a number of other situations, but I guess I hadn't accidentally tried it on a bookmarks group-level item. Of all the zillions of possible multi-key possibilities in the zillions of widgets I see on the screen, there was no particular reason to guess that it would do that in this widget. There's no metaphorical interpretation of the various shift-clicks that I know; they all seem to do something totally idiosyncratic when they do anything at all.

I just repeated a search through FF's Preferences stuff, and I can definitely say there's no clue there. Or if there is, it's couched it terms that make no sense to me. The "Tabs" window has only six items, and clearly none of them applies to this task. If it's hidden somewhere else, I can't spot it.

This isn't particularly a criticism of FF, of course. It's just a single recent instance of a universal problem with computer UIs: The user usually has no way of discovering most of the capabilities, other than in discussions like this, on line or via email or in person or however. Or by randomly hitting keys and trying to make sense of the responses.

This is especially frustrating, because you know that most apps have one or a small number of tables that handle the mapping of input to functions. It should be easy to present this table to the user, and let them edit it. I've seen this done in a few apps. I've written such config windows myself for several apps. But even in the few cases where this is done, it's usually nowhere near complete, so users remain ignorant of most of the hidden capabilities.

What's even more frustrating is that, as a developer, I've worked on several jobs where I was explicitly ordered not to write such an unneeded tool. "Customers aren't asking for it; don't waste your (billable) time on it." In other cases, it was written and widely used by developers during testing, but was removed as unneeded "debug" code in the deliverable.

So now, instead of such "unneeded" tools, we're reading about a much more complex config approach that doesn't educate the user, but instead enables a minimal subset that limits the user to what they understood during the initial installation. Somehow I'm not sure this is an improvement. I think I'd prefer something that tells me what is implemented, and maybe lets me configure it a bit to match any physical (or mental ;-) limitations I may have.

What you're asking, is to be treated as an intelli (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25928053)

What you're asking, is to be treated as an intelligent, independent Person.

I've been geeking for nearly 1.5 decades, and our CULTURE opposes that:
the Western put-down culture is torqued-up in the academic/geek culture, so that obstacles are placed to "prove" others' inferiority ( which shows some vastly stinking insecurity... )

It takes integrity to know that one doesn't know omniscience, and to enable others instead of disabling 'em ( & to remember that ANALOG computers, ie our brains, malfunction in odd ways -> see "panic" for circuit-override in counter-to-survival-way ).

*Living* integrity.

Read "Corps Business: the 30 MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES of the US Marines" ( David H. Freedman ) for principles that counter our failure-manufacturing culture... []

( including "tell 'em WHAT, the End-State, and WHY, the understanding, and LET 'EM WORK OUT THEIR OWN WAY.
Their way will suit them better, may be an innovation that supersedes your known-way, and its discovery/development will be enabling of 'em.
Obliterating their way, for your way, is insulting, disabling, and demeaning.
Do you get smarter when you're trusted to try? or only when you're prevented from doing so?
( as an aside, if one has created software whose UI make wrong-usage more likely than right-usage, then one hasn't learned from "The Design of Everyday Things" [] , and could be considered incompetent as a designer )

Rule of 3: one can only maintain *simultaneous* knowing of 3 points of responsibility. If there are more than 3, split 'em between people/teams.
Anyone pouring concentration into remembering their points of responsibility, ISN'T pouring that concentration into solving 'em!

The 75% solution: better an imperfect plan ( see eXtremeProgramming ), implemented NOW, than a Perfect Solution, implemented Too-Late-To-Make-Any-Difference. )

that's 3 of 'em...

It's an excellent book that counters our unconscious anti-pattern programming, written by a Forbes senior editor ( "this isn't what they say: it's what they do" ).

Re:What you're asking, is to be treated as an inte (2, Insightful)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928757)

What you're asking, is to be treated as an intelligent, independent Person.

Heh. I'm reminded of various "management" things I've read, ranging from grade-school teaching to top-level corporate levels, where it is pointed out that if you treat your charges like idiots, they'll act like idiots, and if you treat them as intelligent people, they'll magically become intelligent people.

But it's pretty rare to see this advice applied sensibly.

Re:Let me help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25925479)

Yes.. the user will always devolve to the point that no matter how simple the interface they'll screw it up.

A friend of mine and I once mocked up the "double-dumbass user interface" which simply displayed a rectangle on a Sparc that said "Place head here to start Xterm." People still screwed it up.

Re:Let me help (1)

TheMCP (121589) | more than 5 years ago | (#25929239)

Yeah yeah. You think it's a good joke... and it is... until the day a user calls you and says that. And I not only have had it happen to me, I know several other people who had it happen to them.

Commies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25923685)

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. That's the way we want it.

Re:Commies! (1)

powerslave12r (1389937) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923877)

Will they have a matrix mode?

The real killer app... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25923695)

would be a system that automatically and continuously monitors mouse movements and typing and continuously adjusts the user interface for the user's current skill level.

That way as you drink more beer the fonts get bigger and the mouse remains useable. Bonus points if eyeball movement can be detected and the screen be moved in time with the wobble.

Re:The real killer app... (3, Insightful)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924125)

Bonus points if eyeball movement can be detected and the screen be moved in time with the wobble.

That might make it difficult if you actually want to look at a different part of the screen...

Tech support (5, Insightful)

Ma8thew (861741) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923697)

This will make tech support a lot more fun.

Re:Tech support (3, Interesting)

impaledsunset (1337701) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923835)

I'm not sure that the idea will work at all. You spent half an hour for the program to learn about your abilities. During this time, it might have correctly guessed some of the settings which will be correct for you, but still it will be far from perfect and you might need to tweak it anyway. And I'm talking about the case when you have serious disabilities, if you don't, the task of this program will be hard.

Tweaking the settings on your own will take you less time, and even if they are not perfect, your false impression that you're fine with the GUI this way will actually improve your productivity. Not so if you spent twenty minutes doing bullshit and end up with a GUI settings that you find horrible at first.

The system might be useful if it does learn while you work, and it tries to guess what improvements to the interface would be necessary. One problem that in both cases this will be very hard to get right. I don't say it's impossible, it's good that someone is trying to do it, but unless they do take this very seriously and spend enourmous amount of time and money on research, this won't work.

And I'm sure that this time could be spent on researching what problems users actually have with the GUIs and in creating a suitable way for them to tweak them. Which means spending the time in actually improving the GUI itself.

Now, if tech support has troubles because of the changes, I think it will be the least of the problems. If the UI changed that much, the nightmares for the user will be guaranteed. Unless the user has serious disabilities, in which case the changes will actually help, even with tech support issues.

Re:Tech support (1)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924863)

Not so if you spent twenty minutes doing bullshit and end up with a GUI settings that you find horrible at first.

This system does actually ask you which GUI settings you do prefer. For the user it works as a extended configuration wizard, but it doesn't only register your preferences but also your real performance within the system.

Re:Tech support (2, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923939)

I use an xterm, you insensitive clod!

Re:Tech support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25923987)

don't forget testing too, ui testing is error prone enough already.

Re:Tech support (3, Informative)

Saysys (976276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923999)

It should have no functional impact on tech support. It's not like someone with CP needs the start control panel to be only accessible through a right-click on the desk top.

"By contrast, a woman with muscular dystrophy who participated in the study used both hands to move a mouse. She could make very precise movements but moved the cursor very slowly and with great effort because of weak muscles. Based on her results, Supple automatically generated an interface with small buttons and a compressed layout."

Re:Tech support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25924779)

Someone with CP needs ways to escape the party van.

Re:Tech support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25927057)


Existing support for scaling the UI (5, Interesting)

dleigh (994882) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923871)

I have athralgia which prevents me from using a mouse. I rely heavily on keyboard shortcuts but use a trackball as a pointing device. I often find GUI buttons are too small and easily overshot - and the worst offenders often have dialogs without any support for keyboard shortcuts. InfraActive comes to mind - they even removed keyboard shortcuts between versions 7 and 8. Button scaling in many apps breaks the layout, or doesn't even work. While this is a interesting and useful development, I don't see anything changing soon on the disability usability front. There is existing support in common OSs for making global UI changes, but most apps ignore/override these settings or just break horribly because the UI developer didn't design the interface to adapt to these sort of changes.

Re:Existing support for scaling the UI (3, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923893)

I have athralgia which prevents me from using a mouse.

I had to google that. Have you tried using a mouse with the left hand rather than the right? I changed over when I had a lot of pain in my right hand. I know that your problem may not be RSI related its just that I find the left handed configuration to be more balanced, which reduces the stress on the right hand.

Re:Existing support for scaling the UI (2, Interesting)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926055)

Have you tried using a mouse with the left hand rather than the right?

I'm mainly right handed, but when i started using a mouse in the early 90s i deliberately started using it with my left hand. I figured that if i used it with my left hand it would be easy to swap over to my right hand if i needed to, but if i started using my right hand it would be hard to swap to the left and i'd never do it. I hoped to avoid RSI type problems that way - and i pretty much have.

Re:Existing support for scaling the UI (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928575)

I'm left handed but always used right-handed mice. Lately I've realised how bad this layout actually is; the left hand doesn't move from the left of the keyboard, while the right hand is constantly reaching between the keyboard and mouse, over the arrow keys and (relatively useless) numpad. That's a lot of needless full-arm movement and it does start to hurt after a while.
I'm not sure whether the best solution is to get a new keyboard without the numpad, or get a mouse I can use left-handed (current one is one of those right-handed ones with too many buttons), but then I'd have to relearn everything.

I've also noticed I have a bad habit of using only the right shift key, left ctrl, etc...

Re:Existing support for scaling the UI (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 5 years ago | (#25930753)

It's better to relearn it now, while you've got the option of switching back to the right hand when you need to - rather than wait till your right hand's so bad you can't use is any more. I use a normal two button plus scroll wheel right handed mouse, configured normally (i.e., not with buttons switched).

One very important consideration when it comes to avoiding RSI etc is never use those small sized mouses. Like all too-small tools, they'll ruin your hands faster than anything.

As far as numeric keypads go, i don't understand why every keyboard has to have them. I'm sure they never get used on 99% of keyboards. However, you can buy keyboards without them.

Laptops can often be just as bad on the other side though - my current one's got the audio sockets and a USB socket on the left side so the plugs stick out right where i want to be using the mouse!

Re:Existing support for scaling the UI (1)

xelah (176252) | more than 5 years ago | (#25932075)

The numeric keypad certain is's why I use a mouse with my left hand despite being right handed. However, I turn mouse-keys on and use a mix of the mouse buttons and keypad for clicking. For dragging, especially, that's more comfortable than holding down the button and moving the mouse simultaneously. I just wish the designer of mouse-keys hadn't decided it was a good idea to make /, * and - change button and 5 do the actual click. It turns most click operations in to two keys - one to make sure the right mouse button is selected, another to actually click.

Re:Existing support for scaling the UI (1)

dleigh (994882) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928683)

I've been using my left hand for the pointing device ever since I got this problem, and I recommend that layout to everyone. This was the first thing the Health and Safety guy at work suggested and it makes a major difference to comfort. Unfortunately it makes pointer aiming worse; even after 6 months I'm not as a accurate with my left hand as my right.
Even on the left side, I can't use a mouse properly - I can't form my hands into the normal shape to hold a mouse, with wrist pointing down, middle fingers stretched and thumb/pinky bent inward. I can use special vertical mice or trackballs, but if forced to use a normal mouse I have to rest my hand on top in a loose fist to push it around.

Re:Existing support for scaling the UI (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924095)

Changing the size of text is the biggest cause that I've seen for showing problems in software UI design. Dialogue boxes are often fixed in size, they won't "grow" based on the contents of the window, so text just gets cropped. Other items, such as scroller width, window border width, don't seem to cause problems.

Apple's resolution independence initiative appears to be a good step, but right now, their tools to adjust the window control buttons (close, minimize & zoom) and the scroll bars are almost non-existent, if existent, are hard to find.

Dialog box sizes are fixed in the HUI for a reason (1)

csoto (220540) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924483)

If you put too much stuff on a dialog box, it's no longer as effective. There's clear research in this. If you have lots of informative text or selectable options, you're either not using the right kind of UI element, or you're not narrowing choices sufficiently.

Re:Dialog box sizes are fixed in the HUI for a rea (2, Interesting)

xelah (176252) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924599)

It isn't about the number of user interface objects on display - it's about the number of pixels used to display them. Ultimately, EVERYTHING should be resolution independent - none of this 'make the resolution and image quality lower just so I can make objects bigger' nonsense. Widgets, windows, spacing and icons should all be sized based on dialogue units, or some equivalent, not pixels. That way if I want everything at double size so I can read it without my contact lenses then that's what I can have.

Re:Existing support for scaling the UI (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25924253)

many mouse drivers have a snap to buttons effect you can turn on. whenever you roll near a button it has a bit of gravity to help prevent overshoot.

I am color blind (3, Interesting)

Extremus (1043274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924259)

I am color blind. And I can tell you that I HATE web designer! Why do they need to use, for example, light green for the links on white background?!

Ok Ok. Some designer think of it. But only in major websites...

GUI hygiene (4, Insightful)

tsjaikdus (940791) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923901)

I sure wish people would stop inventing their own user interfaces. Instead just follow the conventions of your operating system. The sluggish and unfriendly custom interfaces I encounter in my day to day work makes me age two times as fast and makes me do my job four times as slow. We don't need a reinvented GUI, we need programmers that enforce just that little bit of GUI hygiene in the first place.

Re:GUI hygiene (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924019)

What if the existing GUI conventions are broken? Sometimes an original user interface is more natural and more efficient for a particular program than what the standard OS GUI interface offers. The standard WIMP interface and desktop metaphor was designed primarily for office work, after all.

Re:GUI hygiene (2, Informative)

ben0207 (845105) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924029)

Try a Mac. I'm not saying 100% of apps use the normal interface bits, but certainly most.

Re:GUI hygiene (2, Interesting)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924111)

Ditto for KDE 4. All the programs are very consistent.

Re:GUI hygiene (3, Insightful)

OhMickey (1053630) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924169)

tsjaikdus, this isn't about you. it's about your grand pa, your disabled cousin and my sister w/ other disabilities.. who says one GUI must serve them all? Your GUItopia will never exist until the world is peopled by nothing but perfect trek-drones. Since that is unlikely to happen, we can embrace the tools that make our lives and the lives of our friends and family easier. V/R --Micke

Re:GUI hygiene (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924175)

some people are trying to make the gui intuitive and responsive :)

there is nothing wrong in examining the possibilities.

Sometimes a gui simply doesn't suit a device - if I take a standard mouse UI and put it onto a touch device it doesn't work too well.

i prefer simple fast and intuitive :)

Re:GUI hygiene (2, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924511)

"We don't need a reinvented GUI, we need programmers that enforce just that little bit of GUI hygiene in the first place."

I don't believe this is the case at all, I am quite frustrated by modern GUI's and the rather enormous amount of complexity that has come about for information and data-types in general, try pasting text directly into youtube video, etc, adding/changing and editing things right now is a real PITA (pain in the ass) because many GUI's for editing absolutely suck, but hte problem goes deeper and I think many modern gui's suffer from lack of creativity in the programming space.

Some apps I really love that have enormous creative ideas for GUI development should anyone actually take these ideas and improve them and blend them right...

I've been keeping my eye on the following: [] [] []

IMHO right now what is must frustrating about user interfaces is in fact the fact that one needs seperate programs to modify disparate and differing formats of video, audio and text. Mixing and mashing different data-types for even the most SIMPLEST and basic things one could do in the real world takes a hell of a lot of work on a computer.

I've often thought of writing a GUI totally based on proper hybrid of vector based shapes and typography, as well as the implementation of layers (ala photoshop) and nodes ala the brain for connecting data in different ways which would need to be prototyped and tested. I have so many ideas for GUI development that I'm bursting at the seems, but I don't have the time to poor into such a large project, though it's something I've personally thought about and writing about and hoping someone could pick up the design and run with it.

Flash hygiene (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925309)

"I've often thought of writing a GUI totally based on proper hybrid of vector based shapes and typography, as well as the implementation of layers (ala photoshop) and nodes ala the brain for connecting data in different ways which would need to be prototyped and tested."

Flash with Action script can be used to do GUI prototyping.

Re:GUI hygiene (1)

Hes Nikke (237581) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928239)

some of your ideas sound a lot like OpenDoc [] . The problem with OpenDoc was that it was dog slow on the hardware at the time. That and nobody wanted to support it.

Re:GUI hygiene (1)

xelah (176252) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924701)

Developers need to take time to read the Windows Vista user experience guidelines, or the equivalent for their own platform (or just read the Windows ones, whichever platform you're on, they're pretty good: [] ). They're imposing documents (760 pages for the Microsoft one), but you really shouldn't be writing UIs without reading it.

Re:GUI hygiene (1)

cellocgw (617879) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927569)

Developers need to take time to read the Windows Vista user experience guidelines
You are joking, right? "User experience guidelines" from a company that hasn't figured out that EVERY app should respect -Q for quit and -W for close window? A company whose most integrated product, Office, can't copy text from Exel to PPT without losing the font type and font size?
I could go on for ages. Msoft products are nowhere near meeting consistent, or sensible, gui or keyboard guidelines.
And even when they come up with really good tricks, like double-click to select a word and triple-click to select a line, they don't even try to educated the user base.

Re:GUI hygiene (3, Insightful)

xelah (176252) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928633)

You are joking, right?

I'm not. Go and read them - or your target platform's equivalent - and then decide whether they give you any insight in to anything. I've no idea how well Windows follows Microsoft's own guide and I don't especially care, I hardly ever use their products. However, your Windows applications are unlikely to come out any more consistent with other Windows applications if you ignore their guidelines (which, incidentally, say that Ctrl-W should close the current tab/active object/window and that Ctrl-Q is one of a small number of keys they recommend for application-specific shortcuts because it's east to press and they haven't assigned a standard meaning). In particular it's likely to alert you to things you've missed - like phrasing or capitalising text in a way not consistent with the rest of Windows, or putting commit buttons in an unusual order, or missing out accelerator keys.

The people who write these things have spent a lot more time working on, refining and thinking about user interfaces than the typical developer, and your own interfaces will come out better if you at least consider what they have to say.

If your target platform is not Windows and you don't care about Window's standard spacings or dialogue box button order it may still be worth reading, for example, the section on layout starting on p581. This covers, amongst other things, the order in which they've found users scan the objects in a window (interactive controls first, footnotes, blocks of text and the window title last - and with a tendency to read top left to bottom right). Even better, read your own platform's guide, if it has one. Don't just assume that as an experienced user you know all of the conventions.

Re:GUI hygiene (1)

tsjaikdus (940791) | more than 5 years ago | (#25932155)

You are joking, right? "User experience guidelines" from a company that

This is ridiculous. You've obviously never worked with SAP or (much worse) in-house software. What you're doing is whining that the goose liver in the Christmas hamper is such a small can.

Luddites Unite (4, Insightful)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923969)

Quothe the fine article:

Assistive technologies are built on the assumption that it's the people who have to adapt to the technology. We tried to reverse this assumption, and make the software adapt to people.

Interesting enough, but I wonder if the day will come when GUI designers who aren't catering to special-case scenarios will offer the following options:

[x] Make no assumptions.
[x] Get out of my way.
[x] Yes I really mean it.
[x] No I don't want to try things first.

When skill, knowledge and ability are penalised, it's the non-below-average group that becomes the under-represented minority. Those falling into the maligned category range from Firefox users resisting the New and Improved, Microsoft Office ribbon haters, Gnome users who like the clean interface but still resent the near-absence of customisability or documentation, to the subset of Windows Power Shell users who have actually used a command-line before.

Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25923973)

Sounds very much exactly like the configuration GUI in xine.

narrowed performance gap (2, Funny)

VeryLargeNumber (1394367) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924007)

"From initial tests, the system narrowed the performance gap between disabled and able-bodied users by 62%."

There are two ways to narrow a performance gap, you know. Make poor performers work better, or slow down good performers so they don't get ahead of the group.

The second approach is often used in math classes in high school.

Re:narrowed performance gap (1)

sraviik (1375785) | more than 5 years ago | (#25930981)

funny? i think the above is more informative then funny, its not really funny when smart kids have to slow themselves down just so they don't get ahead of the group. it just makes them feel stupid and not want to do the work.

Partially an old had... (2, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924015)

I already use a better input system in my software. In my system, there is no testing phase. You just use the program, and it grows and shrinks with you. It's like having the best of vi (speed) and notepad (simplicity) at the same time.

But it does not even come close to my next project. And that's why I did not release it.
Because after optimizing the input interface, I realized, that the usual graphical user interfaces are a total piece of crap. The most annoying part is that they are built like they are the biggest enemy of the keyboard. And you can basically combine all control elements (buttons, sliders, menus, labels) into one thing.

If it is ready for the world, I'll release it as open source... something like a windowing and (g)ui toolkit with the power of the pipe operator in bash... hard to describe.

I just have to finish my current game project first.

Re:Partially an old had... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25924245)

will you be patenting your ideas under the name shampoo?

Re:Partially an old had... (1)

windsurfer619 (958212) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924665)

Why not release it now, in it's incomplete state, and let open source work it's magic? See if the community could help you.

Re:Partially an old had... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25925295)

Why not let the man get his software into the state he wants to release it in before asking him to hand it over to people who won't share the same vision he does?

If he releases it too early it may never be what he wants it to be.

Open source doesn't always work "magic". Especially with unfinished, unpolished product. One only has to look at Sourceforge to see that.

Partially an old mashup... (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925331)

"If it is ready for the world, I'll release it as open source... something like a windowing and (g)ui toolkit with the power of the pipe operator in bash... hard to describe."

In other words a GUIfied power shell.

Interesting? Sounds like B.S. to me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25927981)

What else does your magical interface do that you've attributed lots of fantastic properties to -- but haven't provided any proof of its existence?

Already been done... well, mostly... (4, Interesting)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924097)

GEOS actually had a user skill level function. Not sure how aggressive it was in the later versions, but the earlier versions were quite aggressive.

The beginner mode had no file management - it just gave you an application, with a drastically simplified interface (no drop down menus,) and the program could only open one document, and I believe multitasking just didn't happen. There were giant EXIT and HELP buttons.

Intermediate mode had applications with a full user interface (but always maximized,) and you could manage a restricted subset of files.

Advanced let you do whatever you wanted, gave you full functionality, and actually had windowing, not maximized windows for everything.

Re:Already been done... well, mostly... (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928143)

Wow, I hadn't thought of GEOS in a long time. I remember using a desktop publishing program for it, it was remarkable!

Microsoft already tried this (5, Insightful)

joelholdsworth (1095165) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924133)

Microsoft already tried this with sort of thing with Office 2000-2003. Remember infrequently used menu and toolbar items being hidden away? I do, and shudder. It made teaching people how to use it a total nightmare. Even using it as an expert user always felt clumsy.

Good UI is not about making a UI that learns the user - a computer will never be able to do a good job of that. Good UI is about making the app easily learnable. This is much easier than it sounds: simple tidyness and consistency get you 80% of the way toward good UI. But when you start making dynamic UI, consistency is the first thing to go out the window.

Office 2007 does this quite well (though it is themed differently to all other apps), and so it's much easier to work with than any previous versions of office.

Re:Microsoft already tried this (5, Informative)

GeckoAddict (1154537) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924495)

If anyone is interested, Microsoft had a pretty interesting presentation at MIX [] that they posted on the web. They talk about all the usability and UI research that they did on Office 2003 that caused them to develop the ribbon for 2007, and then they spend some time talking about how they came up with the idea and worked out the details of the ribbon.

It's an interesting presentation if you work on UI design and have some time, or are curious as to why the hell they went to the ribbon.

Re:Microsoft already tried this (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925333)

Teaching people exactly where a particular option is in a particular program is entirely the wrong way to teach someone, they will end up reliant on that version and very resistant to change. So in your case, even tho office 2007 works a lot better, there are still people who refuse to move from 2003 because that's all they know.

And of course, teaching one version of one app is no long term solution, especially in schools, as people will be using something completely different by the time they start work. We learned wordperfect for dos in school.

Instead, you should teach users what the options they want are called, what they do, and how to look for help if they can't find them... A lot of users don't even know what many options are called, they just know what the icon looks like and if you changed the icon they wouldn't be able to do it.

But you are right on the tidyness and consistency, simplicity really is key, too many options cause confusion and those who need the more advance functions tend to be more advanced users and therefore better able to look for them.

Re:Microsoft already tried this (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928159)

I disagree. Knowing that the "File" menu is where to go to save something makes it that much easier. Knowing that the "print" option is there helps too. That's why all major OS's provide design guidelines to simplify the interface for the user. Consistency is very important especially for training new users.

Re:Microsoft already tried this (1)

Keybounce (226364) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925825)

The real problem with the "hidden" menu items wasn't the "Lets learn and adapt to the user" factor. Hidden menus do not learn and adapt to the user.

All this does is say "If there's something that you want to do that isn't your normal activity, you will NEVER find it. Since the tech person that comes over is, by definition doing something that you don't normally do, they will have trouble finding what it takes to fix it".

Adapting to the user? Not by removing controls that will be needed tomorrow that haven't been used this week.

Re:Microsoft already tried this (1)

epine (68316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928447)

Good UI is not about making a UI that learns the user - a computer will never be able to do a good job of that.

I'm going to write that one down beside the meme leader: that no matter how much hard drive capacity you have, the next version of the Microsoft OS will expand to fill it. This was the universal anguished cry of the mid to late 1990s.

Update for 2010: I hear a rumor that Windows 7 will ship with over a billion distinct holographic avatars, so that no two customers share the same image. They've managed to fit this into 1.997 TB, so a Windows 7 install on a 2 TB disk drive will only leave you with 3 GB of free space.

The difference between saying that "no adaptive algorithm will ever be any good" and "man will never land on the moon" is that the later was once defensible.

Adaptive interfaces has more to do with human psychology than intrinsic difficulty with machine learning (which is not to say the problem is yet solved).

Humans are used to dealing with other humans, and we assume a highly contextualized interaction. Computers have never been given access to a context as rich as we assume in our most casual human interactions. When we program computers for adaptive behaviour without providing this context, the result strikes us as oscillating wildly between inspired and moronic.

If a software module managed to obtain as much context as a living human would obtain another person in the same room would be regarded as pretty darn invasive. Wouldn't you just love to see the singular value decomposition of the perceptive android that shares your living space?

on the rag 70%
on outs with boyfriend 30%
bloating due to tofu lunch 45%
neediness 85%
competitive grooming 79%
criticism rejection 33%
sarcastic infighting 61%

We perceive little progress in machine learning because we have such a myopic gold standard. If computers made any real progress toward our myopic gold standard, we'd be scared as hell.

Furthermore, the incentives are dubious. What's the rate limiting step in personal productivity? Mousemanship? Man, if only my mouse were perfectly tuned to my nervous system, I could have rendered the whole of Ratatouille in under a day.

How many discussion threads does one need to read to figure out that for most of the human race, rising to the level of processing ideas would be a mental stretch. Most of what goes on in the human brain under the guise of thinking is bickering and rhetoric dressed up as insight. Perhaps the rate limiting factor on human productivity is how we process information, not how we push it around? In which case, how much economic incentive is there to optimize the flow of pixels to the n'th adaptive degree?

Another problem in making an adaptive desktop is that the end user is not a pure game theoretic construct. Generally the user experience is a two headed monster: one head is conventionally labeled "consumer desire" while the other head is labeled "corporate overlord".

The two heads have competing interests, which corporate overlord is busy downplaying until consumer desire wearily acquiesces. Relative to consumer desire, a truly adaptive DVD player would skip past those obnoxious FBI warnings.

You can't make an appliance adaptive to consumer desire "except when" it conflicts with corporate overlord, because that would require corporate overlord to define the boundary of the control imposed. Not going to happen. So we get quasi adaptation, within narrow parameters, which isn't adaptation at all, and Coke vs Pepsi, or two old white guys on the next ballot posing as choice.

Should we be careful what we wish for? What is our true appetite for adaptive interfaces? How much should it pander to our bad habits? How many times should an adaptive desktop optimize the interface to enable you to more quickly select individual files using a GUI picker before it reaches out and cuffs you in the face with a regex editor?

Here's another great scenario. A guy sits down at a console beside you. After an hour of interaction, his console has unmistakably configured itself as the short bus. The guy is the VP of sales. You think he's impressed at the fluency of his GUI?

I become extremely discouraged by the inability of people to distinguish technology X from technology X as situated in untenable human political context Y, with a grouse VSOP when Y = "on the desktop".

There's some pretty amazing things going on in machine learning if not viewed relative to the dysfunctional interpersonal space between keyboard and screen.

Re:Microsoft already tried this (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928751)

Good UI is about making the app easily learnable.

That's only part of it. Different apps have different modes of use. Some apps shouldn't be learned because people don't use them for long periods: they should just be usable straight away. Others will be used daily for years by trained experts, and the learning phase will be comparatively short: the real value there is in making the users productive, and the UI can be deep and complex. Those definitely aren't the only possibilities either; there is a sophisticated spectrum, and since the reason for that is "people", that isn't changing.

If you want to appear less ignorant, try finding a copy of About Face by Alan Cooper. I read the first edition long ago, and it was great then (though dated). The third edition (which ought to be using much more relevant examples if nothing else) was published last year, and so should be in your local good tech library.

George W Bush GUI (1)

wandm (969392) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924205)

So Dubya would have just one big button on the desktop with text "INTERNETS"?

Re:George W Bush GUI (2, Interesting)

moxley (895517) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924437)

That's already been tried....Don't you remember the wave of "simplified" consumer laptops circa 1999/2000? especially Compaqs? That is exactly what they had, a big button right above the keyboard that glowed and said "INTERNET." SOme later said "WWW."

Then, they thought they had a good thing going so they added a special button for everything they thought the technically un-savvy user would want to do, you know, little envelope email icon buttons, little house icon home buttons...I thought - "this will be perfect for my parents..." I was so wrong.

The thing is that it was one of those things that sounds great in theory, especially if you're providing front line tech support, but in the real world it didn't work so well - first off, they tried 20 different way to make it work - some would only launch a browser; some were set to launch a wizard to get you connected to the net; which was supposed to go away once you had a connection set up, and turn into a browser launch button - the problem there was that if the connection you had set up wasn't one of one or two types the damn thing would constantly launch the wizard....It never worked right.

But the worst part about all of these things is that people spent time on trying to get this "simplified" crap to work when conencting to the net the normal way wasn't difficult and was soemthing that could be taught to even the most untechnical elderly user as long as you had the patience.

Be wary of people trying to "simplify" things that aren't that complicated; or who try to offer "solutions" to problems which aren't really problems.

Some people will always spend more time looking for a shortcut than it would take them to learn the the proper way to do something....

Re:George W Bush GUI (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927269)

I had one of those keyboards. Don't laugh-- I needed an external keyboard for my laptop, and the cheapest, but still half decent keyboards came with those silly keys. Never really used them. I remembering configuring the "Shopping" button to bring up

Re:George W Bush GUI (1)

moxley (895517) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927349)

Yeah, I know the kind you mean - I have a couple of those.. the keyboards with the configurable keys are actually useful, because you can configure the buttons however you like easily - the laptops that had those buttons (at least when they first came out) were terrible as they weren't quite like that.

Color vision. (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924235)

There are a number of softwares that have settings for the color blind. Microsoft makes a half assed attempt to accomodate poor color vision. But, all attempts failed. The single "recent" development that addressed color vision (not even purposefully) was the LCD screen. I can SEE dozens of colors that I NEVER saw on a CRT. I know color deficiency is a far less important problem than the quadriplegic who struggles to manipulate an input device with his chin and tongue - but, hey, it sure would be nice if someone gave a thought to us. 1 in 4 males is supposed to be at least partially color blind, after all. That is a HUGE population!!

Re:Color vision. (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925243)

I encountered this situation when I used green and cyan (blue-green) to distinguish a pair of plots, and a colleague asked if I could use different colors instead of different shades of the same color on those plots.

You can get mad at me if you want for being insensitive to this condition, but my colleauge asks, "what is this cat-that-ate-the-canary grin all about", in a friendly way as we are long-time friends. I answered, "I didn't know that I had put one of those DMV vision tests into the software. At least I don't think I use a cyan-green contrast in the following version of the software.

I am not sure if my colleague knew about his color receptor condition as what is called "color blindness" varies genetically, and he may not have known he had this condition as he may have been reasonably well adapted to the contrasts he was required to distinguish in daily life.

GUIs for the elder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25924423)

Oh man ... I support my grandpa with his PC (he actively searches the net, sometimes emails, and writes in Word). He does really well, but I have to tell you it is a pain how so many programs disrespect GUI guidelines, especially accessibility. I turned the Windows font size up, which some otherwise good programs (like antivir, kerio) do not respect and still present small fonts. Also, the dialogs sometimes don't even fit on the screen leaving the user helpless as he can't reach the OK/Cancel button.

GUIs should respect accessibility instead of telling "hey, I can make a dialog look really cool".

(Don't tell me about switching him to Linux, I've evaluated that, it brings up other issues).

Better design helps typical users, too (2, Interesting)

xelah (176252) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924525)

If someone with less dexterity can't use you interface, there's a good chance that typical users find it usable but irritating. Yes, I can click on an 8x8 pixel square whereas maybe some people can't...but I shouldn't have to! What makes things possible for the disabled can make the same things more comfortable for ordinary users, too. I'd also like to save a particular rant for those who think that the mouse is the best interface for filling in forms, choosing items from lists or menus and generally doing anything which doesn't involve freeform positioning. A mouse is slow, uncomfortable, gives a higher risk of injury, is frustrating and fiddly to use and should almost never be the only expected interface device. Using a keyboard is not a last resort fallback, it's a primary input device. Fields should have accelerators, I should be able to move the focus around a window and its panes with convenience, the cursor keys should work (WHY don't cursor keys work in dialogue boxes? it's not like they're needed for something else), the position of the focus should be obvious, HTML and web browsers should have keyboard navigation options, software shouldn't keep stealing or moving my focus around or let it get stuck somewhere and developers should TEST from the point of view of a keyboard-focused user.

Re:Worse design hurts typical users, too (3, Interesting)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925099)

I wonder, on a daily basis, how someone less abled than I could use some of these interfaces. Not to pick on these apps but they are on my mind.
  • VLC, when it stops playing, resizes back to 1 inch by 2 inches or so. If it's maximized, and you click the exit button on the top right, there's a chance it will go away and you will click the exit button of whatever app was behind it, maximized. I trained myself to use "ALT-F-X" to quit, then they removed the "File" menu, and added a shortcut ALT-Q, so now it makes no sense among other windows apps.
  • Firefox tell you when it's time to update. It has "update" on the left side, and "skip" on the bottom right, where I am used to seeing "next" or "continue" type buttons. Then when the update is finished, the "finished" button is on the bottom right, the opposite side of the dialog from the "update" button you just clicked. So I usually hit "skip" because it's in the wrong place, then when I do hit the "update" button I'm pissed off because now the next button I have to click is right where I wanted to click in the first place.
  • Typing any sentence that includes a space in it can have any random effect on your computer. While you're typing, a modal dialog pops up and asks you something, with the default key set to "yes". Just typing the space key clicks the button. If you are a touch typist you might catch the dialog, but hunt-and-peck typists or anyone struggling to use a keyboard will have no idea that they just clicked something. So the alternate interface (keyboard) in this case interferes with the intended interface (mouse).
  • Application Minimize/Maximize buttons are RIGHT NEXT to the "close this application immediately" button. How in the holy crap is a disabled user supposed to deal with that?
  • Internet explorer especially, trying to navigate through forms, you get a "tab stop" on every link, form field, or any random collection of things ever. So on a site with extensive top navigation, sub navigation (left side) and hyperlinked help text, it can be hundreds of links you have to tab through to get to the form field. Of course there's the old "onLoad=javascript:document.formname.fieldname.focus()" but if I'm already typing because the site loads slowly, that function is going to make me overwrite something. In some cases, I have typed in a username, hit tab, then the page finishes loading and focuses back on the username while I type in the password in clear text. Opera used to use TAB for forms, and "a" key for links. Firefox lets you choose a mutually exclusive way of doing things, so as far as I can see there is no "links only" and "fields only" command available at the same time (accessibility.tabfocus [] ). If I were disabled and trying to navigate a web page, I would probably go back to lynx, or quit using the intartubes completely.
  • Especially in Windows NT-based lines, hard disk I/O is prioritized. I can't tell you how many times I switch between applications, or even just try to accomplish something in Windows while I/O is going on, and I can't even figure out what's going on. CTRL-ALT-DEL does not bring up the task manager for 30 seconds to a minute. ALT-TAB doesn't switch, or the application seems hung. Can't click on any explorer windows (and explorer is almost the entire graphical interface). But when it comes up, Task Manager reports 20% or lower CPU usage, often 95% plus is going to the system idle process. I can't cancel anything when that happens, just have to wait for your computer to do what it wants before it does what I want. This isn't particularly a user's abilities complaint, but the interface should actually interface - not be a one way read only "I'm busy doing something, come back laterface". Especially with multithreading and multiple cores!

Re:Worse design hurts typical users, too (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925385)

I agree with you about modal dialogs...
I absolutely despise anything that automatically focuses itself, especially when it's not a sub dialog of the program you are currently using. It's shear arrogance that the authors of these programs felt that the message their program has is more important than whatever you may already be doing.

I want configuration, i want the dialogs to come up in the background or the same workspace as the parent app (ie in the same place as the app generating them), perhaps beep at me to let me know something has happened and perhaps highlight the icon in the dock or taskbar. Then i will deal with the dialog at a time of my choosing, not when the app forces me to.

Re:Worse design hurts typical users, too (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928211)

The worst for me is when I launch an app, and while it's launching I click back on another app and am typing... and when the new app finishes loading, it steals focus... grrr

Or I'm busy typing along somewhere and a new dialog steals focus, sometimes for another program. It's frustrating enough to have the new dialog pop into visibility but then to also steal focus? Absolutely infuriating!

Do it like OS X does when possible... bounce the icon in the tray and don't steal my focus.

How about at least fixing the colors? (2, Interesting)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924847)

As a person with sensitive eyes, I am constantly annoyed by applications setting backgrounds to white. White backgrounds hurt, people! And I mean actual physical pain here. So if you are writing some application, please use system colors, or at the very least let the user change the color scheme. In ten more years your eyes will get tired too, and trust me, you'll thank me.

Re:How about at least fixing the colors? (1)

NotYourMother (724060) | more than 5 years ago | (#25930263)

It would be nice to have a 'color blind' choice as well. i.e.The pastel colors in Outlook are especially frustrating for an executive assistant I know who manages multiple calendars. and Some people cannot see "highlighted" words or the change in color after they select them because similar colors are used.(Facebook is a great example) If anyone knows of programs that have this already, please let me know.

This is no longer a problem... (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925173)

"...because most computer programs have standardized button sizes, fonts, and layouts, which are designed for typical users."

Not for long. With OS X and WPF out, most applications will have custom widgets that look nothing like the widgets in other programs. Managers who love cool shading and alternate look and feel will be redirecting UI guidelines. Oh, and the little bit of keyboard support remaining in Windows and OS X - forget that too.

Resolution independence.. (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925241)

One of the biggest issues i have with buttons and fonts within interfaces, is how so many of these elements are based on bitmap sizes, and thus look really small on a high resolution screen...
An inch should still be an inch, regardless of how many pixels it requires to represent an inch.. Monitors can report their physical size, X11 can use this information (windows still cant, not sure about osx), and yet there are still countless apps and websites that expect a certain dpi or they look wrong.

Re:Resolution independence.. (1)

paulbd (118132) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927955)

i'd like to see you try this "1 inch always == 1 inch" with a beamer or other projection system. management of DPI scaling is, sad to say, *much* more complex than you are suggesting.

Re:Resolution independence.. (1)

rantingkitten (938138) | more than 5 years ago | (#25931039)

First, you can adjust the DPI in every desktop environment I've seen, including Windows; if it bothers you that much feel free to tinker. Second, if things are always going to appear the same size, as in "one inch equals one inch", what's the point of having a higher-resolution screen? I value my 1680x1050 resolution over the standard 1280x900 screens everyone else gets at my company -- even though the screens are the exact same size, I can have a lot more windows open and visible at a time. If everything was going to scale to the same exact size regardless of pixel count, then there would be no advantage, and no point, and we could all go back to 640x480.

Wonderful! (1)

haelduksf (812679) | more than 5 years ago | (#25925935)

Now if only they could apply the same methodology to the user's level of knowledge. Doing a quick questionnaire strikes me as considerably easier and faster than having to enable advanced options, enable the display of file extensions and hidden files, etc etc on a new computer.

We need experts (1)

Waccoon (1186667) | more than 5 years ago | (#25929833)

Dammit, I'm tired of people trying to automate everything. Having trouble making your UI accessible? Why, just boot up some development software and let the computer do everything for you.

I'm glad that the field of interface design has become much more important over the years, but we still have a long, long way to go. Real interface designers are aware of issues such as tiny print, bad widget groups, color blindness, and alternative input devices. That's what we do.

Trusting technology to solve the problem isn't going to work. You need people who are aware of the issues and know how to plan for them. A recent example was Rare's new Banjo Kazooie game. The game is made for HDTVs, so naturally they made all the text so damn small people have a hard time reading it on SDTVs. Has anyone considered that even on an HDTV, the end user's eyes may not be good enough to read the text on a 27" screen from across the room? The programmers have their fancy DVI monitors for software testing, and don't think about these issues.

The screenshot from the article particularly annoys me. They made the scrollbars bigger. Big whoop! How about letting me toggle between different types of data-compatible widgets, or disabling parts of the interface I don't use frequently to clear up valuable real estate? People with disabilities want to be independent, but there are still people around to help set-up a proper working environment, so let people choose for themselves what is important, with the option to remember different setups and reverse changes.

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