Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Good User Interfaces

I have a friend who loves to complain about the user interfaces in current technology. He has a million great things to say about how things should be made, and he says them with a cantankerous grumble. I adore him for so many reasons, but this is definitely one of them. He opens my eyes again and again to my own tendency to develop for geeks like me instead of the person on the street who really should be getting a better thought out and better built product. Because of him, I also notice even more when someone does something really right.

A couple of weeks ago he and I were in an elevator and he hit the wrong button by accident. He grumbled and hit the correct button and then said, "You know, if elevators were made correctly, I'd be able to cancel that wrong choice. I should be able to hit that button again and make it turn off."

Today, when I got into the elevator at work, someone else got in, pressed the wrong button, noticed the mistake and pressed the button again to cancel the request. Then they pressed the floor they really wanted. Oo! I was so excited I had to twitter it right there in the elevator.

It turns out that all new Mitsubishi elevators have that functionality. Way to go Mitsubishi.

Another one of my friend's pet peeves is that you have to save files. Why should you have to do an action to save a file? It should be automatic, right? Why would I create a file if I didn't want to save it? Well, it's getting to be automatic in some places like Google Docs for instance. Well, today I found another really cool app that deals with the saving thing right along with at least a dozen other major UI annoyances.

Skitch is unfortunately a Mac only application and it's still in beta, but it looks absolutely awesome. They get so many things right. They have a great way to share things, to snap screenshots, to draw and manipulate images, and you don't have to save your file from a menu or a keystroke. You can just drag it to where you want it to live, or drag it to an email to share it. Very, very nice.

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