Friday, November 07, 2014

So tempting to blame the user for bad design...

The me from 15 years ago would've blamed the "dumb user" for this, but in these days of UX Design, usability and delighting the user I'd like to think I'm bigger than this now....

I am working on a line of business, Windows application which involves quite a bit of data entry. The screens are nice and consistent in their layout across many aspects of the system ranging from CRM and Sales tools to Accounting and graphical estimating tools. ( Users are presented with summary information and choose to open the information they want to edit. Slightly old fashioned but with a decent user base around the country and the promise of lots of fancy new services to hang off this system, the windows client will suffice for our desktop users for sometime to come.

Today the boss came in, a little sheepish, asking if we had a back up. He'd just deleted an important client he'd been working on. He admitted to not really reading the message that popped up, but also insisted that he'd just altered some information and thought he was just confirming the "save before closing" style message.

Now the messages in both these situations (saving and deleting) are in fact quite different. We use these HTML message boxes (a custom thing I wrote years ago), so save confirmations are all green and blue, positive look and feel, with "Save Now" captions on the buttons etc, and delete confirmation messages a red with the item you are about to delete bolded, and so on.  But still, I found it intriguing that a relatively experienced user could "accidentally" click the delete button and confirm the action, on a screen he swears he wasn't using.

Turns out, I guess it's something of a design flaw on my part - if I'm tough on myself. It's still going to bite me again at some point though if I don't do something about it now. 

I watched briefly as my boss explained what he thought he'd done and something jumped out at me - the detective work here did impress him in the end, helped perhaps by the fact he was already somewhat placated by the fact I have backups occurring every two hours so the information he thought he'd lost was pretty simple to recover.

After entering a diary note against a sales lead he was working, he "just saved then clicked yes to confirm the save and close"....

Now that's strange, because you shouldn't have to confirm the save if you click on save - that would be just silly. You would only have to confirm the save, if you clicked on "close" and had made some changes that maybe, ought to be saved.

So I watched....

"Yeh, I just entered the notes in here the clicked here to save them and close" - I watched as he moved the mouse up to the "Save and Close" button and double clicked it....

Wait!  You double clicked....

Here's what it looked like when you close the diary screen....

So, directly under the "Save and Close" button, as "design" would have it, is a delete button. (At least when the screens are maximised.)

Now as I said, firstly there is no need to double click a toolbar button in any Windows system I've ever used, but, it does seem to be a common misconception.....and I have worked hard to have a very well worded, "are you sure" message, with RED text, and "no" as the default choice. We do however try to live by one other little golden rule here - use message boxes as a last resort. Try to design so you don't need them, and try not to build rude software the continually interrupts the user with such dialog.

We use message boxes sparingly and even then, they don't get read!

So now, I have to set about redesigning this scenario.

It appears far harder than it should to simply capture/handle the double click event on the toolbar buttons of the standard Toolstrip control in .Net. (At least not when you also want to handle the click event.)

Do I just move the delete button somewhere else - it is probably ironic that it lines up so perfectly with the save and close button on all our standard summary and edit screens (especially when they are all full screen size). Do I work harder on fixing the actually response to a double click on a toolbar button, of can I just step back in time, and blame the dumb user?

I think I'll sleep on this one....

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If it's free then you're the product

...but isn't this taking it a bit too far. Perhaps they need a new accounting system at Microsoft.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Microsoft patch Tuesday

I've been reminded a couple of times recently how few people are aware of Microsoft's security update policy known as "patch Tuesday".  I wrote a post on it for a recent Constructor newsletter,  which can be found in our articles on the website.

Posted via Blogaway

Monday, March 31, 2014

How do you use templates in Word 2013

I can only see Online Templates, none of which I have ever needed!

Word 2013 will only show you the "Featured" AND "Personal" options on the "File / New" screen, if you have something entered in the "Default Personal Templates Location", which can be found in the Word Options screen. (Go To "File" in the top left, then down to options.)

Enter the path to your templates, in the "Default Personal Templates Location" field - I am sticking with the old Office 2010/2003 etc location.

Once you have a valid path in that field, the "Personal" link will appear on your File / New screen, and you'll be able to see your old documents.

Discouverable software - right! - discoverable only using Google.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Home grown is so tasty!

The Internet, and a Tablet, has changed cooking so much, with a bit of help from Evernote.

Rach told me she had lamb chops out for dinner.  I was in the mood for something a little tasty, and we have a bazillion tomotoes and even more cherry tomatoes from the garden at the moment, so 10 minutes before leaving work I "GoogleBinged" a recipe for lamb chops. The first hit included plenty of herbs and as luck would have it, cherry tomatoes on the side - pure luck I promise. A quick view of the recipe, using the Evernote's "Clearly" Chrome add in, a web clip, and I was off.

So I stopped and bought some fresh garlic and a couple of lemons. The rest we had - home grown tomatoes, herb and shallots.

At home, I flick on the tablet, pick some herbs and shallots, let Evernote Sync and there's my recipe for dinner. And how good was it!?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Support Notes....

I'm going to point people here in the future...

... it's all common sense, problem is, common sense isn't always that common.

DYPII questions!

Any list of things has to be good too -

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

If it's worth fixing, fix it!

Imagine the door handle on your front door is broken. Most of the time it falls off in your hand when you try to open the door. If you concentrate, you can hold the handle in place, and get the door open, but it's slow, fiddly and annoying, and visitors always have difficulty and end up really annoyed with your front door. So one day, you decide you're going to fix it. You've got visitors coming on the weekend and you are embarrassed by your broken front door. 
So you get started,  you loosen the whole handle and disconnect it. 

Then, with the door handle it pieces, you realise that from the front of your house, it's very easy to simply walk down the side and enter via the side door. In fact, it's better because that way, you can see from outside whether anyone is home, and you enter the house, right into the main living room, which is where you (or your guests) are usually going anyway.  Really, it just needs a path down the side of the house to make it a bit more "user friendly". Add that path, and you and your guests will never use the front door.

So, you rush out and buy some paving stones, and pave a beautiful pathway down the side leading to your sliding door. You even add a "Welcome" door mat for good measure. Your guests arrive and are led straight down the side of your house. All weekend, you're in and out via your sliding side door, up and down the path.... brilliant!

Then, an interesting thing happens. You order Pizza for dinner one night. Half an hour later, there's a knock at the door.... the front door. You wander down and to your surprise (and embarrassment) there lies the front door handle, still in pieces, now completely non-operational. You call out through the door, trying to explain to the pizza guy, that the door doesn't work, and he needs to make his way, in the dark, around the side, to your sliding side door. He trips (in the dark) drops the pizza and leaves in disgust - most likely to sue you for the medical bills incurred when he sprained his ankle, and burnt his arm on the hot melted cheese from your pizza. (That's right, the pizza was actually still hot!)

This sort of thing happens a lot when maintaining legacy computer code too. A problem is identified. A solution might be started. Then, someone notices a better way - a way that if only the users could see, would avoid the mess in the first place - mostly. Most of the time, if they did things this other way, they wouldn't even need this bug fixed in the first place. 

The temptation (especially if the "other way" is easier to code) is to jump in and code away. Now, if you've started with the fix, stop right there!  Document the new idea by all means. But always fix that initial bug. If it's broken, and it's worth your time to fix, fix it properly. Then, go right ahead and do the second thing as well, but "don't leave broken door handles lying around, just because you think there's a better way to get into the house."


Having written and just re-read this, I'm struck by some overlap with the broken windows theory, which I am a subscriber too, but was far from my mind when I started dumping this thought from my mind...