Wednesday, February 21, 2007

About usability...

Via reddit I found Tantek posted about his "Three Hypotheses of Human Interface Design". An interesting read. I've always been interested in UI design, but tend to find low-level programming more interesting than UI development. His hypotheses definitely jibe with much of my experience. They especially remind me of my trial month with the Treo 700wx. I loved the fast web interface, and easy email integration. I hated the amount of extra work to navigate to common items, compared to my Treo 600 running Palm OS.

Another example, is the Quick Launch Toolbar. I use this extensively; every app that I use daily has it's a shortcut there. On my Mac, I use QuickSilver, and I've tried some of the similar launchers for Windows, but have yet to find anything nearly so intuitive. I tried to create a simple launcher myself, but discovered how hard a task it is to do well.

As a developer, I find it interesting to see how different development tools evaluate against this new measure. It made me realize that my main annoyances with Eclipse are all related to either too-many clicks/menus or slow/delayed UI reaction. For example... since most of my Run/Debug targets are command line tools, I often have 5 clicks + typing, just to debug something:
  1. click: Debug [drop-down]
  2. click: Debug ...
  3. click: Configuration to debug
  4. click: Arguments tab
  5. type: edit arguments
  6. click: Debug
A while back I learned I could control-click on the drop-down, so it becomes:
  1. click: Debug [drop-down]
  2. control-click: Configuration to debug
  3. click: Arguments tab
  4. type: edit arguments
  5. click: Debug
But that only saved me one step. What I want is the command-line arguments on the 'Main' tab.

The 3 Hypotheses also explain why I find editing a project's properties so annoying. Lots of clicking, and sloooowwwww. Why should a simple dialog be slow on my damn fast development machine? I've never understood that.

The Hypotheses also mesh with Google's search UI ethic: Fast response, minimal effort, minimal noise. Interestingly, dropping 'fast', these are someof the design principles behind the new Office 'Ribbon' UI.

Worth pondering what sites you prefer and how that relates to these Hypotheses.


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