Zone38 Presents...
Letters to the World

24-Jul-2001

What the Interface Hall of

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 4:41 pm

What the Interface Hall of Shame is to computer software, Bad Designs is to the user interfaces found on “real-world” devices. Ah, the frustration we all experience when things just aren’t as intuitive as they seem…

I’ve had plenty of experience with nonintuitive interfaces, but perhaps my all-time favorite was an error message in a custom software application which shall remain unnamed. As it was an old DOS-based program, there were lots of little kludges that had been made to ensure it worked correctly in a multi-tasked Windows environment; one of them was to confirm that no other instances of the program were running if it hadn’t been exited completely. Considering the frequent nature of crashes and the like, it was an error which appeared quite frequently; and the logical choice, at a prompt asking whether another instance of the program was active, would be to hit the N key for “no”. But that didn’t work; it only caused the program to bail out. The only way to actually enter the program when that error displayed was to type…a lowercase “q”. I’m still trying to figure out the logic behind that one, honestly…

And also, don’t even get me started on those TV remotes which, rather than having a single power button, have a huge OFF button and a far-less-conspicuous ON button. I once stayed in a hotel that had such a TV, and had been fooling with the remote for several minutes trying to get the TV to come on until a roommate explained that hitting the ON button would probably be more effective than repeatedly pressing OFF. D’oh. I don’t notice these things, seriously!

And why can’t computer manufacturers decide where to put the backslash key on computer keyboards? I’ve seen it above the Enter key, to the right of the right Shift key, between the plus sign and backspace, and on one of my older computers, between Ctrl and Alt. Wouldn’t be so irritating if backslashes weren’t used so often in Windows path names…<sigh> And it’s even worse on laptop keyboards, where even Ctrl and ~ can be hard to find. Grr. OK, enough ranting for now…

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