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The Condescending UI 980

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-i-ask-is-some-text-and-a-blinking-cursor dept.
theodp writes "Paul Miller has some advice for user interface designers: Don't be condescending. 'The Ribbon in Microsoft Office products,' complains Miller, 'is constantly talking down to me, assuming I don't know how to use a menu, a key command, or an honest-to-goodness toolbar.' Miller's got some harsh words for Apple, too: 'And of course, there is the transgression of the century: Apple's downward spiral into overt 1:1 metaphors. The physical bookshelf, the leather desk calendar (complete with a torn page), the false-paginated address book...these new tricks are horrible and offensive [and likened to Microsoft Bob]. They're not only condescending and overwrought, they're actually counter-functional.' So, how does Miller cope while waiting for his UI knight in shining armor? 'I recently switched my Windows 7 install over to the Classic Theme', Miller explains, 'which is basically Windows 95 incarnate, just with all the under-the-hood improvements I've come to rely on. I really like it. It feels right, and if it isn't beautiful, at least it's honest. I wish there was a similar OS 9 mode for OS X.'"
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The Condescending UI

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  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @09:25AM (#38334222) Journal

    Many people like how easy and straightforward Mac OSX is

    But how many prefer the 10.7 version of iCal to the 10.6 one? With 10.6 I could quickly skip to any given month. With the 10.7 one, it decides to show me that it's like a real calendar by showing a page-flipping animation on every transition. It turns the sidebar into a pop-up, making inserting and inspecting appointments more difficult. It removes the small calendar display, making navigation harder. The same is true of the 10.7 Address Book. It now looks like a real book (so, once again, slow page-turning animations rather than instance changes) and the two-page metaphor means that you can no longer see groups and individuals at the same time. Using groups to navigate is harder. I was going to say that they'd removed the groups functionality, but on closer inspection it is there just less discoverable and requiring more mouse clicks and more mouse movement to use.

    I agree on the ribbon though - it is a menu, just one that stays open all of the time and presents larger targets. I'm not totally convinced that it's better than menus + toolbar, because the hierarchical nature of it means that you need more mouse clicks and movement to use two actions that are on different menus. The only real complaint about it I have is the amount of screen real-estate it takes up - this is not a problem on a desktop, but Word on a laptop with a smallish screen ends up with less than 50% of the screen usable for actually displaying the document...

  • by Kagetsuki (1620613) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @09:30AM (#38334260)

    Actually I very much agree with him, and I'm a user. I feel like OSX is trying to make me do things with mittens on, the freedom of my bare hands obstructed with a warm fuzzy enveloping layer. And I absolutely disagree that the Ribbon is a better interface as well, I want to know exactly where things are and have them there all the time even if they aren't related to the current context I'm working in.

    I am not however rejecting "new" interfaces - now that there's an extension to add a taskbar to GNOME 3 (shell) and after tweaking it a bit I feel like I can use it more efficiently than GNOME 2 now, and like it. I'm an old user, and though I resisted a bit I'm all for change and I'm enjoying change that lets me take more control and work more efficiently.

    As for the Ribbon and new users, I have clients who hated it so much that when I showed them OO/LibreOffice they immediately switched. That says a lot if you ask me.

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @09:58AM (#38334422)

    The calendar has a Go To Date functioning the menus under the View menu (Shift + Command + T). It goes directly to the month, or day in question without having to switch through various months.

    On the address book, if you double clip the bookmark ribbon (placeholder) graphics, you can see both contacts and groups in the left pane (Command + 3), although selecting one or the other will show you that specific view in the right side (Command +1, Command + 2, & Command + 3 toggle these views respectively).

    I actually prefer my groups to be partitioned from my general contacts, but as with all things, everyone has their own opinion as to what is functional and what is fluff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 11, 2011 @10:10AM (#38334508)

    I'm not defending the ribbon, but as for the screen real estate issue with Ribbon, you can improve that by double clicking on the "Home" tab (or any other tab). The meat of the ribbon will be hidden, and now it's more like a good ol menu (gosh!!). Double-clicking on Home again restores the ribbon to it's full, bloated glory.

  • Re:Windows 7 theme (Score:4, Informative)

    by Yetihehe (971185) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @10:53AM (#38334794)

    I love pinned apps, but only after I enabled showing app title, not only icons. If you enable titles, pinned apps are just icons, opened apps have titles. When they are opened, you don't have opened app AND icon in quicklaunch bar anymore, so it conserves some space.

  • by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @10:58AM (#38334844)

    Double click on the ribbon and it will fold up into a single bar and the full tabs won't open until you click on an entry. That should solve the screen realestate issue since it don't take up any more space unless you are actively using it.

    I tried that -- unfortunately it made the interface completely unusable.

    The ribbon comes up when you want it. You click on something. Great. But it doesn't disappear until you click in the edit pane. But when you click in the edit pane and the ribbon disappears, the whole page scrolls up, and you're not clicking where you want to click. Moronic.

  • Re:Windows 7 theme (Score:3, Informative)

    by oakgrove (845019) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @11:02AM (#38334884)
    Insightin140bytes is almost certainly the latest in a long line of nicks that do nothing but paid shilling on Slashdot. This latest one started up right around the time CmdrPony dropped off. Before that it was cgeys, before that it was TechLA. This [waggeneredstrom.com] is the firm that is paid to shill on Slashdot.
  • by schwinn8 (982110) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @11:20AM (#38335004)
    Agreed. I still use Office 2000 because it's less bloated, and doesn't have that MS activation nonsense. The only feature I "miss" is the compress pictures feature in the newer versions. I have Office 2007 at work, and it's really not much different or better, other than it "looks prettier"... which is really not a big deal. The real reason I continue to use MSOffice in any form is because everyone else uses it, and when I have to send it along, it's just more compatible. In other words, the problem is that import/export between doc/docx is not great... and MS's implementation of standard formats that LibreOffice supports is just crap. I will admit that for Graphing (Excel) LibreOffice really doesn't do as well. However, LO can handle large files (O2k can't)... so it's still rather usable for the most part, and good enough for my usage (speaking as an engineer, so I use a LOT of Excel).
  • by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @12:52PM (#38335678)
    As a third party you get a bit of info back from MS already: when your app crashes and someone clicks the "send info to MS" MS forwards that on to the developer. There is even talk of making the Windows logo process for apps revokable if the developers don't fix the problems. It would be nice if they put it right into the APIs not sure technically how it would work but it could just be a runtime constant needed to turn on logging in the UI of a .Net app say. Bundles everything up and sends it off to the developer. I imagine it isn't being done already because of security concerns but I think they could make it so it goes to MS so that they can have some sort of control to make sure that identifying info isn't being sent, etc. It would be great for devs because you'd get to see what features the users are using, what ones you think they are missing that would help their workflow etc. No more spending time working on a buried feature that know one is using, or fixing bugs on a rarely used feature over a highly used one because you didn't know.
  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @01:04PM (#38335782)

    1) Hold down the alt key while flipping between stuff. No animation. (Hold down the shift key for a very slow animation).
    2) Click on year, double click on month.

  • by zootie (190797) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @01:55PM (#38336254)

    Learn where menu and toolbar commands are in Office 2010 and related products [microsoft.com]
    And complementing this. MS has a plug-in based interactive tool to map from the office 2003 menu to the Office 2010 ribbon. You can just click on the Office 2003 menu, and it will show breadcrumbs of where to find it in Office 2010 (and display it when you click on it)

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @10:20PM (#38339472) Homepage

    Users were never supposed to be allowed to 'install' anything, though.

    And if you're having a hard time editing a string in a text file, I suggest something my be wrong with you, not with the system. It's not like editing text files is something new or novel.

    That said, you're grossly over-exagerating. You're not just stalling "something" you're either installing something incorrectly, or something esoteric not in repositories.

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