Entries tagged with “Usability”.


Aargh, it’s too bloody easy to rip off these tabs and there’s no way to re-attach them from what I can tell. Something about the sensitivity pop-up menus and the tab drag thing has been tuned up. It’s practically impossible to keep a pop-up menu open using a two-fingered click (touchpad).
Every time I rip-off a tab it makes me want to throw gnome out the window. the UI seems to have become more and more of a crayon interface without actually improving.
Tabs. A logical option for grouping works on different projects. Apparently, you’re supposed to use multiple windows in a desktop.

Firefox 'dialog' The suggestion by Joel to not hide or disable menu items is a good one. There’s only one issue. With the way it’s worded you could end up with a swarm of dialogs. I would suggest some form of stackable notification item. The status bar isn’t really suitable for this as there’s no way to get stuff back from it historically.
The ‘in frame‘ dialog that’s becoming popular these days in such browsers as Firefox. This is a reasonable ‘dialog’, and you could remove them automatically after a period of time (say 30 seconds). as long as they are differentiated from the other items on the screen it would be reasonable.

How can you tell if your website is usable by anyone? Well one of the simplest ways is to use a text mode browser. It gives you a good idea as to how easy it is to navigate without having to spend the effort getting in a UI designer at infinity$/hour just to tell you that your links should be purple, and not help you in the least bit.
links is a pretty damned good text mode browser. It makes it obvious if you’ve made a mess of the UI for navigating, which is always a good thing. It makes it obvious when you’ve forgotten to put the bloody ALT tags into all your images – like a good designer should. Spacer gifs are evil and must be stopped 🙂

Strangely enough, I had actually thought of this before I made the post. Snapshots are a wonderful feature in zfs which allow you to take point in time images of a filesystem that are mutable and which themselves can be snapshotted.
Unfortunately, this leads an explosion of snapshots if we want to be able to arbitrarily remove any one application from the system.
Consider the following operation:

pkg(1) + pkg(2) + pkg(3)

Now remove pkg(2) without using anything other than snapshots.
snapshot before adding anything sn(0). snapshot after adding package 1 sn(1)(sn(0)). snapshot after adding package2 sn(2)(sn(0)) + sn(2)(sn(1)). snapshot after adding package3 sn(3)(sn(0)) + sn(3)(sn(2)) + sn(3)(sn(1)).
Repeat for arbitrary pkg(n).

Unless you’re planning on creating a whole travelling salesmanOk, it’s not quite the travelling salesman problem, but it gives you a good idea as to how much work is involved of snapshots, I think my mechanism is easier.

If you use windows then this is probably going to be very, very boring.
Every now and again you find yourself needing to install some piece of software on your computer from a source package. You tar xjf the package and descend into the subdirectory and type ./configure.
At this point I would yell stop! Rather than putting it into the default location of /usr/local, consider putting it in /usr/local/<package-version>.
How does this help I hear you ask. Well, using a simple script (in the extended entry), you create a set of symbolic links in the /usr/local directories which reference the files in the /usr/local/<package-version> directories.
If you decide to remove the package then simply remove the /usr/local/<package-version> directory and all the symlinks become broken. By using symlinks -rd /usr/local you clean the file system up and everything is peachy. If you don’t have a copy of symlinks, it is available from the debian repository, where you should find the source package somewhere near the bottom.

#!/bin/bash -p
package=$1
destdir=${2:-/usr/local}
me=${0##*/}
[[ -z $package ]] && {
echo "Usage: $me <package> [destination = /usr/local]"
exit 2
}
cd $destdir/$package || {
echo "$me: package $package does not seem to be installed"
exit 1
}
# build the directory structure - this is a weakness
find . -type d | cpio -o | (cd $destdir; cpio -id)
find . -type f -exec $echo ln -s $destdir/$package/{} ../{} \;

Oh, and for solaris, as I’m using the file in various locations surrounded by symbols you will have to just pass it into a sub-program to execute the link command. Apparently solaris doesn’t just substitute the name of the target for the link; instead it will only substitute the name of the target when it is isolated (i.e. you would need to use the {} on their own without anything surrounding them – which explains the space between the closing brace and the backslashed semicolon – old habits). I supposed I could throw a bit of perl at this problem but… it works on my box so frell the rest of you :).
Meh, the entire problem is annoying; generally I would always have to create a program to process the {} operation anyway to prevent space characters from getting in the way but as we say in the trade 99% is better than 0%. If you want a 100% solution you need to add a script that performs the link – one per line produced from the find.

If there’s one thing I can’t really stand, it’s applications that whinge about everything that goes wrong with an array of practically useless dialogs. One of my biggest gripes at the moment is of all things Thunderbird. It has to be one of the most whiney applications. When things go wrong it pops up a dialog which generally has only one option ‘ok’.
The most regular complaint dialog I get is because it’s incapable of connecting to the mail server. Outlook has solved this years ago with the connection status bar at the bottom of the screen. When things go well, the notification goes away once the communication has completed. When things go wrong you get a ‘send/receive errors’ item in the status bar. It expands to a dialog which gives you the status of each of the activities it was performing at the time.
Thunderbird…. every failed connection is a modal dialog box with ‘connection to foo failed’. I gather my email from many disparate sources and this is no end of an annoyance to me as normally when one fails they all fail.
Is is that there isn’t a graceful way of bringing up failure notifications to users?

My sister bought my Aunt a mobile phone. Dear god but it is such an unusable piece of crap. It reminds me of the worst things about the phone I first bought, but thought were really cool at the time. For example finding someone in the phonebook. Using a Nokia, Sony Ericsson all you do is tap the down arrow and you’re browsing the phone book. No, apparently that is initially bound to ‘voice memo’. Oops, you think, I’d better get out of that… it forces you to navigate back from where you are to the main menu. Time to look up a number using the non-intuitive ‘phonebook’. Click. I’m looking at a menu asking me if I want to Search, Add an entry…. For crying out loud, the most common use of the phonebook is to look for numbers, so make that the default phonebook action.
Well, I may as well change the down shortcut to browse the phonebook. No such luck, there’s no option to allow you to do that. The menus are a mess, there’s no other way to get to the phone book except through the front end. The center button is bound to make an internet connection (which given fat fingers will become really expensive).
Non intuitive, poorly designed piece of dreck. I won’t even mention the model number. It makes my heart hurt that this was a gift for a 70+ year old who has a hard enough time using her phone in the first place.

It reeks of some form of elitism, and lets be honest using X for so long made a three button mouse mandatory, what with the middle button paste thing, which I love and try to recreate on the PC when using cygwin/X applications. Every time I look at a mac, I get this chill just thinking about the higher price tag along with the crippled bar of a mouse button. It’s effing stupid. We still have double click for the primary select, and if you want a context menu you need to use one of the extended keys (honestly, I can’t remember which) to get it to pop up. It’s a really fricking broken model when you have only one button.
Send in the pie menus, my friends, send in the pie menus.

Quote from http://daringfireball.net/2004/04/spray_on_usability:
Oh, I see: the problem is that Linux developers are just so fucking smart that they overlook the problems faced by “dumb users” such as dear old A.T. But everything will fall into place with just a little attitude adjustment.