Monday, February 9, 2009

User Interfaces - I'll never be happy

Engineers, product designers, and software developers have been struggling for years to get the user interfaces so they are usable. There have been studies, methodologies, white papers, and such on the subject for decades. Sometimes they do get it right. Many times they do not.

How useful is this message box?

Who or what is unexpected? I think the user believes it is very unexpected and presenting them with an OK button is a lovely touch. I'm sure the user will be fine with this, rather OK with it.

There are so many new interactive devices that have presented new challenges. The web added it's own look and feel; the cell phone added another set. How about mp3 players which morphed into video players. Cameras sure have changed since I purchased my 35mm.

How about that car of yours in the driveway. For the most part the steering wheel has not changed--still in the same position--still round. The stick is still there and the peddles have not moved much.

However, no matter how flashy they make the dash it is still not right. Some feedback on speed is good--that has not changed in 100 years.  With all this new technoglogy and we still have stupid lights on the dash.

Ever have this lovely light come on?

You can look it up in your owners manual. It will be as helpful as looking up "Unexpected error" in the Microsoft documentation.

Windows provides numerous other areas to look up errors that might help the user find out why something occurred. For example, in the Control Panel-->Administrative Tools I could launch the Event Viewer and review the many logs. There are many times I have been able to locate the real reason for the issue. This is what our cars need... an event viewer under Administrator tools. I do not want to be charged $100 / hr to find out a code that says "Unexpected Error".

There are even more simple devices that we just cannot get right. How about those every day doors you must open. Like the ones that provide a user interface that says pull but does not work. Ever pull on this type of handle and have the door pull back.

How about an interface that says push, but they want you to pull?  

I have come to hate doors... just more unexpected errors.

I think they got this door handle right... I have not used this door... but I hope it's a push handle.

Thanks to dorsia from flickr on the use of the "real push" handle image.

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