As someone who was educated in the industry of designing software I am seeing that the industry now seems to be paying less and less attention to age-old rules about GUI design and HCI (Human Computer Interraction)
One rule is - no more than 7 items on a menu - Gone out the Microsoft Window.
I can’t be specific about any other rules (I didn’t pay much attention at Uni to anything but programming) but I do definitely feel like a lot of things are not as easy to use as they could be. There’s a phsycology and a science behind it which is being ignored…
A good example is Vista’s File explorer. I have often defended Vista but using their file explorer it takes too long to browse to a file, change a page’s properties (such as change from ‘view thumbnails’ to ‘view list’. I know that’s actually easy… but the most important thing is it’s DIFFERENT to what I’m used to and I am having to learn new behaviours and throw out ones that I’ve had for many years.
It’s like they’re in board meetings being told “Make it cool and clever” not “Make it easy to use and simple”
Sure, the industry may be paying less attention to age-old rules. Software changes rapidly, and the rules have to change also. There is still a lot of work being done in the areas of usability and UI design, and in many ways the new rules are better than the old ones.
The ancient 7 menu item rule is just not a practical rule for some modern applications, and often in conflict with other rules (group similar functions). It also doesn’t take into account new UI features that have come along to aid in navigation of larger menus…icons next to most menu items, and collapsible menus where less common features can be hidden until the complete menu is expanded.
Your Vista File Explorer example reveals your true complaint - it’s not that things are less easy, it’s that they are different. It’s not that they ignored the psychology and science behind UI design…it’s that the latest revelations of that science produced easier results that you aren’t used to, and you have to learn something new.
The Vista File Explorer was a sticking point for me when I first started using Vista, but now that I have 10ish months of experience with it, I have to admit it is an improvement.
Humans don’t. Hence the age-old rules retaining validity. I said ‘age-old’ in the sense that the rules are old because they have proven themselves to be correct.
Give some examples. I am not disagreeing, I am curious.
nevertheless. The seven item rule is directly linked to seven being the number of things the average human is able to remember. I think it’s possible to group related items and maintain the seven rule. This has been done by software for more than a decade.
I have always hated the hiding of unused menu items. I naturally dislike things being hidden from me.
I represent most users. I believe that a common complaint is that something has changed from what you have got used to
I will probably be saying the same eventually… just not yet.
Memorable though “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two” may be (and that number actually is a pretty reasonable guideline in general for the number of menu items), it’s really about chunking in working memory, not about scanning for items–I wouldn’t use it as a justification for picking the number of items in a menu structure. If you want to look at old-school research, Kent Norman did a book on the psychology of menus. He suggests somewhere in the range of about 3 to a dozen items (a greater range than 7+/- 2), but notes that menu organization is likely to be a more significant factor than the number of items.
No you don’t. You fall into one of many subsets of the overall population of users.
Everyone thinks that of themselves, including the people who design interfaces. But in reality, nobody actually represents most users.
The best you can hope for is being a part of a particular group that is the larger percentage - but what group? Home users? Experienced users? Educated users? Independent users? And how do you define such groups anyway?
You represent you. Most users do not have twin backgrounds in designing and programming software. Your perspective is pretty far away from that of most users.
FWIW, I think the Vista’s Explorer shell is a step backward as it takes complicated registry tweaks to get it to remember the personalizations I prefer. Additionally, the lack of a “folder up” button always gives me headaches. I’ve recently been using a 3rd party Explorer replacement called UltraExplorer.