June 14, 2005
Too much of a good thing
Although I am inclined to be dubious about anything that even remotely smacks of the touchy-feely, "when seven habits of finding your inner erroneous zones happens to good people from Mars" self-help industry, I have found that the Create Passionate Users site consistently dispenses thoughtful, straightforward advice. The site (is there a book? there must be a book) is aimed at people who have customers -- altough they often talk about software, most of what they say should apply to anyone whose job involves makes customers happy. My high opinion of their site is reinforced by the fact that Jeff Atwood reads and quotes their blog. :-)
I have a few of their thoughts stashed away for later blogging, but for now I am moved to comment on today's entry, in which Kathy Sierra talks about the "Featuritis curve" -- what's the balance between richness of features and keeping things usable? She touches on one of my pet peeves:
My new Subaru factory-supplied car stereo uses that most evil of designs--modes. With so many features to support, they ran out of controls... so every control does multiple things depending on which mode you're in. None of it is intuitive or natural. Lose the manual and I'm screwed. Ten years ago, if you'd told me I'd one day need a manual to use my car radio, that would have been inconceivable. All I want to do is find a frickin' radio station!Modal UI plagues everyone who owns a DVD player (or of course famously VCRs), a fancy stereo, cell phone, or even a digital watch. Any UI in which you have to "press and hold" a button qualifies. Naturally there is a class of people that revels in the gadgetesque-ness of a camera, say, that bristles with knobs and buttons. But as 98% of the population will eventually bewail, "all I want to do is take some pictures!"
Kathy notes other products that often try to pack in too many features -- not just hardware, but software, courses, and technical books -- the fatter, the better! Only is that really true?
People say that one of the attractions of the iPod is its design, which is simple and uncluttered. It is also, I should note, a modal interface -- what happens when you turn the dial depends on, ahem, what mode you're in.
There's more to say here. (Like, for examle, about how cluttered this blog design is, haha.) But I must run off to FedEx, because the somewhat confusing form they left lying on my porch yesterday suggests, I believe, that they're holding a package for me. Off I go.
PS Beth has an entry in which she slams Microsoft for not being passionate about their users. I can't speak for, say, the security team in the Windows division, but can note that with ASP.NET out as part of the Whidbey beta, we've heard a lot of feedback from people, and a lot of it comes down to this: ASP.NET 2.0 kicks ass. Yay.