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Old 11-13-2006, 03:00 PM
Ed Hansberry
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Default What Happened To A Standard Interface?

Remember the days of DOS, when every application had its own user interface? (For those that are too young to remember the days when DOS ruled the planet, just go read another thread on or something :wink: ) When you opened up an application, there is no telling how the menu would be laid out, how you would access it or what the commands would be. Then, Windows 3.0 began to bring all of that under control. You could open Windows applications and even if you had little idea what the application did, you could open files, print them, close the application and a few other things. Then, you could customize your user interface. Didn't like the blue application bar? Make it red, and <i>all</i> applications honored that.<br /><br /><a href=""><img src="" /></a><br /><i>Click for larger image</i><br /><br />Now, we are headed back to where the application writer is making up their own custom user interfaces and are not paying any attention to what the other applications look like, nor do they honor any of the visual preferences of the user. The above picture has Outlook 2003 in the background, and that does a pretty good job of following the user's preferences. Then, there is Internet Explorer 7 in front of that. The colors match my preferences, but where is the menu? Yes, I know you can enable the menu as a "toolbar" but then it sticks it under the address/navigation bar instead of at the top. Well, it could be worse I guess. In front of that is Windows Media Player 10, and it has some hokey down arrow that looks like a Windows 3.x "minimize" button that creates a flyout menu. :roll: And does WMP10 care one whit about my color preferences? Do you see the color blue in my theme anywhere? In front of that is Windows Live Messenger. It uses a different menu flyout button and has yet another color preference, which still isn't <i>my preference</i>. In front of that is Money 2007. It has seen fit to also customize the close/minimize buttons and also doesn't use my color preferences. This one has a real menu though, except, believe it or not, 99% of it's functionality can't be found in the menu. You have to use tabs to get to things, and then buttons and links. And finally, my personal favorite, Audible Manager 5, which you can configure to any color you like, as long as you like "what-the-heck-did-that-baby-poop-in-its-diaper green." And for good measure, Audible stuck some low res really hideous close/minimize buttons at the top. By the way, if any of you are fortunate enough to be using Audible Manger 4.x or lower, do not upgrade. :evil:<br /><br />If I had iTunes installed, I am sure I would be shown Apple's lovely glass or stainless steel interface. Bleh. Can application developers get creative in how the application works and leave the border and menus alone? I can see some apps might want those turned off, as WMP10 does, but can I turn them on please? Maybe it is just me. I like consistency. I like my desktop to look somewhat organized, but that thing above looks like a random jumble of UIness. I know... what does this have to do with Windows Mobile? Everything. Every one of the apps above is used in conjunction with Windows Mobile, and chances are, you have most/all of them installed too and your desktop looks equally chaotic. Well, except for Money 2007, which no longer supports Windows Mobile. I guess in a way I am thankful Windows Mobile has such little screen real estate that developers leave it alone, and all of my apps look the same, and honor the theme I choose. What about you? Do you like all the differences or would you rather developers leave that stuff alone?
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Old 11-13-2006, 03:41 PM
Join Date: Oct 2002
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Incredible. That's the second post in a week that Ed has represented my views so eloquently. The first was the ActiveSync 4.x post from Friday. Thanks, Ed. If you should decide to run for President, you have my vote. :wink:
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Old 11-13-2006, 03:42 PM
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You definitely have a point. Whenever someone tacks on an entirely different UI on a program than the one that is default for the OS, it creates a learning curve that is completely unnecessary.

Media player, however, is a skinnable application and there is a skin built-in that allows you to revert to something at least windows-like in its behaviour, the "corporate" skin.

IMHO, it should have been the default, but this is Microsoft after all.

I also agree that the UI for Explorer 7 is pretty bad. Office 2007 will also be writing its own ticket when it comes to the UI - menus are pretty much gone entirely and you'll be clicking on large buttons instead, etc. Microsoft has more info about that.

This is bad not just because users have to learn a new UI with every frickin app, but it also shoots large holes in making the apps accessible for people with disabilities.

Unfortunately, I don't think griping by just a few users will help. It's Microsoft... "take what you get and be happy and shut the f-ck up" could probably sum up their point of view. :P
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Old 11-13-2006, 03:46 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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I agree completely. Consistency is key in any UI design. As I teach a web page design class, I stress endlessly how a template should be used (in many cases) so that you pages look consistent and professional. There's nothing like having the users frustrated trying to navigate your site.

Talk about learning curves! How do you expect to make technology more user friendly if you can't even keep something as simple as UI consistent?
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Old 11-13-2006, 03:48 PM
Chris Spera
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Default Re: What Happened To A Standard Interface?

Originally Posted by Ed Hansberry
...Maybe it is just me. I like consistency. I like my desktop to look somewhat organized, but that thing above looks like a random jumble of UIness...
No. Its not you. I've noticed this myself, and don't like the road we're going down either.
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Christopher Spera
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Old 11-13-2006, 03:49 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
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I typically switch off all that theme stuff on XP - I prefer the performance gain on my slightly challenged old laptop. That makes the contrast between my normal interface (looks like Windows 2000) and the other self-interfaced applications even greater. I don't appreciate it. I'm not a designer with an eye for colour or form or whatever, so don't force your designs on me. Square boxes with square edges work just fine for this guy thank you very much.

I'll choose performance and functionality over prety colours any time!
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Old 11-13-2006, 04:41 PM
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I agree that the differing interfaces makes the initial learning curve to a program more daunting for many. I've certainly noticed this trend myself, but find that over time, I get accustomed to whatever unique interface is thrown at me so it doesn't really affect my work flow. Dare I say...I actually grow to appreciate the unique GUI designs of each program, but that's just me I guess :lol: . It just affects me in the initial learning stages of that particular program.

On another note though, I think this non-uniformity in UI design has more to do with marketing than ever before. It seems like nowadays that not only hardware but software (both applications and operating systems) are gearing more for eye-candy, possibly as a way to attract the attention of prospective users/buyers.
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Old 11-13-2006, 04:46 PM
Jason Lee
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How long have we had the same UI? Maybe it is finally time for a change? Something more efficient perhaps? Things change, people change, usage changes... Hopefully this will move us in the right direction for a new UI standard. One that is faster and easier to use with less of a learning curve for new users. But that will come with a slight learning curve for us old users.

Having everything in about the same place in the menus at the top in most every program is nice for me.. But do you have any idea how long it took me to train my mother where to find that one little option she wanted that was 4 submenus deep on the tools menu??? New can't be all that bad. But i do agree there should be some kind of standard new.
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Old 11-13-2006, 05:46 PM
Join Date: Aug 2006
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Yea brother!!!

I could not beleive how pissed off I got because I could not drag IE7's menu bar about the navagation bar. Is IE7 the shape of things to come in Vista? I just wish they had a "IE Classic" option that would put th eUI back the way it was.

I'll get used to it, but I sure don't like it...
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Old 11-13-2006, 06:24 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,183

Change is not bad. Change is good.


The reason PCs and Windows in particular became so popular is that Micorosft created thhe unifying UI that everyone has become comfortable with.

Many of us are constant computer users, used to a great many pieces of software with different UIs and different purposes. But the average user exposed to a lot less variety in their day-to-day use of computers. These are people who use Outlook or Outlook Express, Internet Explorer and Word ... and basically nothing else. They typically have limited skill in using those tools, and have problems with the 'old familiar' interface due to limited use and exposure.

For some, adding newer interfaces as discussed above will be a nightmare - they had enough trouble getting to grips with what they know today. For others it may not make much difference... they'll still fumble around slowly gettting done what they need to.

For the rest of us, I doubt there's a significant issue. We learn the interfaces quickly, and get on with what we need to do, regardless of whether the interface is particularly good or bad or ugly.
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