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    Blog entries for September, 2005

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    If you write an application or a dialog called "____________ Manager," be sure it's called that because your software does the managing. Imagine a bookshelf and a disorganized pile of books, and you get to pick them up and alphabetize them yourself. In software this would be called a "book manager." In real life it's called "my house" and I never get around to the picking up, let alone the alphabetizing ...

    I see lots of software feature lists and marketing materials with these bullet points:

    • Manage your music
    • Manage your photos
    • Manage your account
    • Manage your plugins

    If you must do this at least think of the feature as "organize." That provides some kind of design direction beyond "let people manually move crap around." But I might suggest that what your users really want to do with music (for example) is listen to it, not manage it.

    (The file manager and window manager are some of the oldest and worst offenders, but no need to copy them in new designs. The web, at least some PDAs, some cell phones, TiVo... lots of non-desktop software avoids file and window management hell.)

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    I'm pretty sure this UI contest is 100% broken by design. My entry to the contest would be this mockup (hey, maybe I'd do it in Glade instead of ASCII art if entering for real):

    [ ] Enable anonymous Internet

    I could flesh out the spec and show the other state the UI has:

    [x] Enable anonymous Internet

    There might be some discussion about the exact phrasing of the big toggle, but that's about how much UI this thing should have. The contest is to put a UI on stuff people won't want to understand, can't understand if they wanted to, and shouldn't have to understand; having GUI controls rather than text files doesn't magically make "which servers I am connected to and how many connections they have" interesting information. DO NOT CARE. It's downhill from there in the list of example features on the contest page.

    Reminds me of all the time people have wasted putting UI on SSL and certificates. If you have to ask the user anything about security, you have lost. Go back to square one; do not collect $200. Imagine your dialog has a "don't care, pick something" button, just do what that button would do, and lose the silly dialog.

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    I just got a paper envelope in snail mail advertising a search engine listing service. The spammers have reverted to analog...