Registered: Nov, 2002
Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality
Posted: Dec 5, 2002 4:59 PM
> > When I hit reply, it would be nice to have the original
> > already quoted and formated for me. I can then decide if
> > wish to accept the default, or I can edit the quote (or
> > easily dismiss it altogether).
> I've thought about that, but I'm not sure that's what
> everyone wants. When replying to long posts I suspect it
> might anoy people to have to go and delete everything. If
> you look around you'll notice a lot of people don't
> include quotes in their replies.
I must say I *love* your iron logic! Thanks for bringing this up, Bill, it perfectly illustrates what's wrong with 99% of today's software.
I must make a confession here and admit that I am so stupid that I actually almost fell for your explanation. Luckily, I managed to get back to my senses at the last minute, and it saved me from buying your argument. But, truth be told, I almost fell victim of it (other people, however, are much less likely to be as gullible as I am).
What we have here, in a nutshell, is what I'd like to call the 'Soviet Union principle'. The communists in the former USSR decided to close all the borders, so that no one could leave the country. When later on they were criticised for having closed borders, their stock reply was: "when was the last time you saw anyone crossing the border?" Their argument was that if, statistically speaking, the evidence shows that it is highly unlikely that anyone would cross the border, why is it all of a sudden a big issue?
Such self-fulfilling prophecies are the norm in the world of software development. We, the designers, design systems with features that are extremely difficult (or nearly impossible) to use, and then when someone complains about that, we reply that, statistically speaking, no one seems to be using that anyway, so what's the big fuss?
Similarly here, you (or someone on your team) have designed a product that makes it difficult for people to insert their comments on the quoted text. That created a situation where majority of the users simply type their comments straight into the blank text area. Then, you turn around and use that anomaly as an explanatory principle, explaining away your poor design decision.
Sure, it's easy to find a good excuse for anything, however that doesn't necessarily redeem poor design decisions. I especially like your additional explanation:
> I do, but I don't find it
> hard to push the quote button.
Exactly. That's because *you've* designed it, so you know precisely how is it going to behave. But not all of your users will be so keen on learning that, as it is a highly unusual feature (I've been using numerous other online forums and I've never seen the "Quote Original" action being included). So, your design suffers from deviating from the norm, thus inflicting a certain level of confusion that is making me, and potentially other users as well, highly uncomfortable.
In addition, I must tell you that at first I was forced to pull out and abstain from posting my comments, because I wasn't sure what are my comments going to be posted against. Clicking on the "Reply" action brings me to an empty canvas, which made me feel extremely uneasy. Only later on did I realize that you are echoing the content of the post I'm replying to. By the content was buried lower on the page, and I didn't realize that until I started exploring the page and managed to scroll down. But that was a fluke on my part, so again, to me this smacks of a poor design (i.e. relying on a fluke to inform the user of what's available).
This all stems from the failure to recognize the importance of an end-user (a human user). The primary dictum in the world of software design is that the product we're designing and building has one, and only one purpose -- to support the workflow of the human user. The software product we're discussing here failed to obey that dictum, and it interrupted my workflow, my train of thought, to the point where I had to completely abandon my intentions. That's gotta be bad in anyone's book.
> > Of course, I could post other critique of the product
> > using right now, but I think I've been sufficiently
> > negative already, crowing about the problems with
> > usability etc., so I'll stop here.
> Please don't stop. Constructive criticism is welcome and
> helps me figure out where to focus development efforts to
> improve the user experience of the site. So fire away!
Bill, I already feel extremely bad about being so negative and having to lambaste your chops here. The thing that I feel compelled to tell you is that this little fiasco with the "quite original" action (or the lack of it thereof) is the least of your problems when it comes to the design of this site. But I'd rather not go there. I know I could easily excuse myself and mount my high horse and go at it with gusto (after all, you did openly invite me to 'fire away!'), but I don't think it would be a pretty sight.
However, on the positive side, this is a great site content-wise! And that's what keeps bringing me back here (if it were down to only the design of this site, you'd never see me again after the first visit!) So, if you don't mind I'd like to continue enjoying the great posts and the great discussions here, and I'll learn to live with the less-than-perfect design of the software product that makes all of this possible.