Users are too busy

Development Comments

Raymond Chen mentions Jason Moore's Usability on the cheap, Part 1. It's a great reading, especially for GUI guys like me.

However, I think the most important fact in the post is hidden in the second footnote:

Users being too busy is one of the basic rules of UI. Users aren't stupid, they aren't blind, they aren't incapable: they are just too busy to learn your UI. Humility is good for user experience.

BTW, this and Peter Provost's post about missing documentation reminded me in Joel Spolsky's User Interface Design foor Programmers, Chapter 6:

  1. Users don't have the manual, and if they did, they wouldn't read it.
  2. In fact, users can't read anything, and if they could, they wouldn't want to.

I really recommend that book.

No Aero in PDC's Longhorn Pre-Beta

Development, PDC '03 Comments

WinInformant says, that the PDC's Pre-Beta Longhorn supplied to the attendees will have the new GUI component Aero removed:

What developers will receive at the PDC, however, is very interesting. For the past several weeks, the software giant has forked the code for Longhorn, developing a special PDC build that is separate and distinct from the main code fork. This build will include virtually every Longhorn technology except Aero, and will include a new, darker theme that supplants the lackluster Plex visual style seen in alpha Longhorn builds. Microsoft is currently struggling to complete this special PDC build in time for the show, which will be held in late October.

Remaining Office Components are released on MSDN

Software Comments

One and half week ago, Microsoft released Office 2003 for MSDN subscribers. Only Office 2003. When I went to subscriber downloads to get MapPoint 2004 today, I discovered that now there's Frontpage 2003, OneNote, and some more to download as well. Additionally, Office is available in 14 languages by now.

Why does Windows Messenger not reflect buddy's state?


sigh When I have to phone a colleague at work, I first look in Windows Messenger, whether he is at his place, i.e. online. I expect that the Messenger changes his state to offline when the user's not active for a specific amount of time. Well, some users either don't know about this feature (what's half excusable), or they don't like it (why?), or it doesn't work for them (@MS: why?). Altogether, this feature is useless.

PS: Yes, I'm using Messenger Plus!

ScottW on Service Based Aggregator

Development Comments

ScottW talks about a Service Based Aggregator:

For a new little project, I needed to create a simple windows service that aggregated a set of feeds. Part two was wiring up this data to a winform app. Along the way, it got me to thinking that this might be an interesting way to create an aggregator. Some service/site runs in the background processing the data. When you need it, fire up your application (Winform/Site/Etc).  The other really cool thing is that now all of this great data is just sitting there waiting to be used and reused.

I really like that idea for three reasons:

  1. Many GUI aggregators have a horrible start-up time (Precisely, I am using SharpReader and RSS Bandit). When they start, they read your local list of aggregated sites, contact each to get new items/updates, and finally presents the results to you. A service based aggregator would do this all the time, beginning from the start-up of your system. To access the feeds, you would just start the proper WinForm application (or even ASP.NET based UI) which gets all the information pre-processed from the already running local service.
  2. You can think of a mobile solution. I for example am reading blogs both at home and at work, which has two draw-backs. First, I have to keep the OPML synchronized, and second, all the blogs I've read at work are still marked unread at home. Using a WinForm application connecting to the aggregator service on my home machine, my UI is always in sync, because it's just a user layer accessing the same aggregator.
  3. I have subscribed some RSS feeds from phpbb-driven boards listing the last 20 active threads. On busy days, I regularly miss some items, because my aggregator is not running all the time (There are times when I'm logged off). A aggregator service running on my server at home would aggregate all sites independant from whether I'm logged in or not.

All this told, I think it's a great idea to separate the aggregator logic from the user representation.

BTW, this approach helps both GUI developers to write their own WinForm app without struggling with the RSS processing, and 'other' developers with no sense for UI design. Smiley