So you know user interfaces? Tog disagrees. If you’ve never considered this stuff before, this quiz from 1999 will throw a few spanners in your works: AskTog: A Quiz Designed to Give You Fitts. Things like the single common menu bar are a big reason why I’m a Mac fan; all the little things together really do make a difference. Even MS Vista seems to look prettier, but not work better. Still no infinitely high menu bar, the Flip3D Exposé-workalike just isn’t as functional, the list goes on. It’s an improvement to my eyes, but time will tell if Windows users adjust quickly or are pulled grudgingly. People hate change; there has been strong community resistance to every OS change I’ve been through.
Interestingly, the next release of Microsoft Office seems to have learnt a number of UI lessons, ditching the menu bar and all the hideous toolbars for a “ribbon”. It’s not perfect, but it’s a brave decision for Microsoft to make, and an adjustment for habitual users. Worse, apparently (hearsay alert) it makes selecting styles (Heading 1 etc.) harder.
Regardless, it’s good to see some UI innovation in the world’s de-facto standard office software. Blogs about it, even. A good experience I had at Tech·Ed was cornering Jared (A?), who works with (is responsible for?) PowerPoint, and telling him the things that suck about it. Keynote’s great, but most of the world doesn’t use Macs, and I’d love to see the quality of the world’s presentation software (and presentations) improve.
The list includes how PowerPoint loves to squish (not crop) your images, how it always knows that you want bullets (or don’t), how the display of text is just icky, how the transitions are just bad, how the templates are horrible, how transparency from Photoshop is a hassle to include through copy/paste (PNG import does work), how there’s no cross-platform video format I can include in a PowerPoint. Some of these things seem to have been fixed. Others will no doubt shit me once again.
One happy fact is that IE7 looks like it won’t suck as badly as IE6, and in a few years I won’t have to spend my time teaching web development saying “this doesn’t work in IE”.