Facebook wall-to-wall and the back button

I’ve recently been working with the awesome Really Simple History javascript library to make Ajax loaded pages bookmarkable, it’s a bit confusing at times, but really not too hard. But it’s amazing when you work on something like that, how much it makes you notice when other websites don’t execute the little things well. For example, when you go to your wall-to-wall with someone in Facebook, post a message and then hit back nothing changes. You have to hit back again to get back to your profile. Essentially, the interface is wasting the fact that the roundtrip to the server has been done with Ajax. Grr.

Some Points about Windows Vista

I regularly get asked about what I think about Windows Vista, I run it on my laptop (a Toshiba R400 Tablet) and this far I’m very happy with it. It definitely isn’t a massive step up from XP (Service Pack 2) it is a major improvement and in my opinion in the right direction. I love the search functionality in the start bar, and being able to click the program you want in the Alt+Tab menu is awesome. I’ve also installed Switcher but I can’t quite get used to using it, so Alt+Tab it is.

Anyway, the point of this post is to highlight 2 things, one I’m very happy with, and another I can’t understand why it is like it is. Firstly, my computer has been blue screening since I got it when it came out of hibernation. Now as a mobile computer I’m forever taking it out of and putting it in my bag, so this was extremely annoying. But, in the hope that it actually worked, I would always click “Report this crash to Microsoft”. Well, lo and behold just the other day I got a notification box telling me that KB94100(?) contained an update and it would fix my problem. Which it did. Woo!

Secondly, I’ve been playing with the power settings on my machine, trying to eek a few more minutes out of it’s already good (not excellent) battery life when I came across this delightful piece of UI.

image

Now, why on earth would I want less than 100% maximum processor state when plugged in? This is definitely a situation where the engineers designing the product should have said, we know better than the user and removed any choice. If anyone can give me a good reason as to why this option is there, I would love to know.

DOM Inspector – CSS Style Rules

I have been busily working on the DOM Inspector, apart from bug 221934 I have also been working on a prototype to increase the usability of the CSS Style rules pane. I have opened bug 368783 to cover the work on it. I have also built an initial prototype which doesn’t have all of the features plugged into it, but should be good for people to comment on it’s accessibility and what people think about it.

Here is the prototype version.

MYOB’s Invoice Window

It is the most annoying interface at the best of times and I’m not sure anyone who wrote the software has ever used it. Notwithstanding, the fact that windows in MYOB Premier don’t remember how big they were last time you opened one, let alone last time you ran the program is possibly the most frustrating thing I have ever experienced on a computer.

A few other ideas to make this software remarkably more user friendly.

  • I sometimes want to alternate my search between item name and item code, I really should be able to do that.
  • If I want to go back and change the quantity of the item, before I have selected which item it’s going to be, I should be able to. Locking me into that godforsaken selection box is horrible.
  • What are the chances that I want to be able to look at an old invoice while I’m creating a new invoice? Pretty good I would say, but I can’t do it.

Problems with Google Talk

I like a lot of things with Google Talk, it’s openness, it’s integration and it’s interface. But the one thing that really gets on my goat – when you ALT+Tab back to a conversation, you can’t start typing straight away. Sometimes you can press tab for the input box to get the focus and sometimes pressing tab takes you back to the contacts window. This is completely unintuitive (is that actually a word) and it drives me crazy.

GMail’s Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the basic tenents of a good user-interface is learnability or discoverabilty (I’m sure that’s a made-up word.) Everything should be laid out in an easy to learn way. The problem with the keyboard shortcuts in Gmail is exactly this. Every time I want to try and use the keyboard to do something, I have to go to Help and search for keyboard shortcuts. I realize that this will save me effort in the long run, but it’s not so good to help the novice user.

Menu-item Positioning

It’s not something I have read alot about, but I’m sure somewhere there are best practices regarding where is best to place a menu item. It’s pretty clear to me, that moving a menu’s order should be avoided, however I have just noticed an instance where the menu should have been reordered.

In Firefox and IE the last option in the Tools menu is, Options (or Internet Options), however after installing Greasemonkey 4 new menu options appear at the bottom of my Firefox Tools menu. I would suggest that Options is one of the most frequently used items in that menu (and all of the menus) but it has now been relegated to a more difficult place to find.

I’m not sure this should be hard coded into the browser, but it certainly should be discussed in a “Firefox Interface Guidelines” document.

RAID Array Management Interfaces

There is a huge problem with every RAID array management interface I have ever used, they don’t provide many hints as to what’s actually going on. For example, today I was trying to mirror an existing drive on an IBM server we have here. When I went into the management interface, it would have let me create an array (with the existing hard drive) however nowhere was there any help text or hints about whether or not that would blow away the data on the drive. I believe the work it used was “create” and there was in the same menu an “init” option. Whoever designs these interfaces needs to learn that intuitive design isn’t only good for non-technical users.

Good UI helps everyone.

Date Interfaces

Creating the interface (UI and implementation) for a date is a tricky process. The tradeoff between ease of use and speed is hard. The airline websites often use a dropdown calendar, however that doesn’t work if the form is being used for data entry. Alternatively, a text box that may have some help text doesn’t assist the user much at all, leaving questions such as do I use dashes or slashes. Month or date first? This option isn’t very learnable as a user can’t tell quickly that a date needs to be entered here.

Ideally a combination of the both would be the solution, as sometimes is seen where there is a text box that can then be dropped down to calendar. This however isn’t exactly easy to replicate for the web while still taking into account things like tab order.

Another consideration is when the date has a range, ie. In the past. This user interface should show that future date’s are unacceptable, but at the same time not frustrating users.

As a side note, an interesting way to tell how difficult a solution for an interface is, is to look at how many different implementations exist.

Gmail Improvement

The one thing that gets on my nerves the most about gmail is that it doesn’t remember which email address of yours was participating in the conversation. I have my work and personal address attached to gmail and my work is the default one, but if I reply to someone that sent me an email on my personal address, I want my reply to go out via my personal address.

This is just one of those tiny little usability tweaks that would make your life so much easier.