Welcome to this blog! As you may have guessed from the title, this blog is about usability and (my) user interfaces annoyances. Feel free to comment on my ramblings, but please read the About this blog page before you do! It will make your life better, I promise!

Windows Explorer Annoyances – Part 1

Windows Explorer is one of the Windows applications I spent most time in. At work, we have a large collection of network drives, local drives and large folder structures. We still use Windows XP there. I get along with Windows Explorer in XP just fine. The only thing I really miss in XP (because the large amount of folders I have to move between constantly) is tabs in Windows Explorer. Luckily, there are 3rd party tools for that, like the QTTabBar extension (http://qttabbar.wikidot.com/) or the xplorer2 replacement (http://www.zabkat.com/).

But in Vista and Windows 7 the Explorer is ‘upgraded’. Now I love progress, especially in Windows Explorer, since I use that a lot, so anything that gets my work done quicker gets my blessing. And to be fair, a lot is indeed better (like the address bar) in Vista an 7. But that are some things that nag me so much, I just have to write about it! I have lots of usability issues with Windows Explorer in Windows 7, so this post is just the first of a series about it.

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SMS on iPhone

I’ve got an iPhone (the 3GS). I love it. It’s the most user friendly phone I’ve ever had. In fact, it’ so easy to use that I was a little bit disappointed when I just got it. I was looking forward to a weekend playing around with it to discover all its features at to set it up to my liking , but a couple of hours later, I had seen everything. Way different experience from Symbian (UIQ) where you keep discovering features that are hidden away in some obscure corner of the UI months after you got the phone!. But there are also quite a few stupid niggles with the iPhone  (must-resist-writing-about-iPhone4’s-antenna-issue). Today’s topic: the SMS application.

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Web applications are evil

As the web gets more mature and web technologies more advanced, more and more applications are ported from dedicated desktop applications to web applications. Those of us who work in (large) corporate environments have to deal with many web apps, for example to register worked hours, fill in planning estimates, do document archiving, lookup people in an internal phone book, etc.

Now, I do recognize that there are many scenarios where the advantages of web applications are too big to be ignored, but in a lot of cases they are not. At least not from a user centric viewpoint. And shouldn’t all applications be developed with the end-user in mind first?

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Hide extensions for known file types

June 27, 2010 1 comment

For every piece of software that communicates with human users, designers and programmers have to decide what level of technical detail they will dispense to the user. The proper approach is to make a profile of your target users and adjust the level to the technical knowledge they have. For example, if you make an IDE for computer programmers, the level can be much higher than when making an internet browser that is meant for the masses. For applications or environments that serve a wide range of users, such as operating systems for PC’s or mobile phones this is of course much harder.

One of the major mistakes Microsoft made (and still is making) in this area is the "Hide extensions for known file types" option in the Windows Explorer. When this is on (which is so by default), users don’t see extensions for files for which an application is registered to handle it. For example, "MyFile.txt" becomes "MyFile" because notepad is registered to open the file when you double-click it. I understand the basic reasoning about this; file name extensions are a technical means and the acronyms like .exe and .gif don’t mean anything to the non technical user, right?

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Blogspot vs WordPress

June 22, 2010 4 comments

First! Err… well, this is my genuine first post so forgive the corny opening. If you have read the “About this blog” page, you may have seen that these are my first steps into the blogging space. So, what better subject for a first article than the usability of blogging sites? First off, I decided that self hosted blogging or setting up my own website is not what I am looking for at this moment (I do not have the time), perhaps later. Secondly, I looked at the sites that offer a free blogging environment and after some experiments decided to go with either Blogspot.com (i.e. Google’s Blogger platform) or with WordPress.com (featuring the WordPress platform). There are already enough Blogger vs WordPress articles to be found (comparing features), but here is my take:

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