Thursday, January 20, 2005

Top Ten Most Wanted Design Bugs

Click here for AmazonAskTog has an excellent summary of the most egregious software design bugs. From his list, my two "favorites" (meaning the ones I also hate the most) are:

  • Mysteriously grayed menus and buttons - how many times have you finally found the right dialog box (layered underneath four levels of tabbed property sheets and "Advanced..." button settings), only to discover that the critical selection is grayed? There's generally no information to tell you why it has been disabled... so you have to go spelunking around the help system and the Internet, compromising your already fragile schedule and generally causing unacceptably high levels of stress.

  • Focus stealing - it happens all the time... you surf to a bank site or similar important URL and start typing in your user-name and password. Midway through the password, inevitably, focus switches to a Google search box and you find yourself splatting your password -- in the clear -- into the edit window. One day, far far in the future, advanced research design scientists will figure out how to defer the focus switch... waiting until you've finished your stream of input before hot-swapping the window underneath you. I know, I know, no human could possibly come up with such an algorithm. Windows has already been around 15 years, so it must be impossible.

  • One Tog didn't mention, but that I find really bothersome is restricted to Windows:

  • Multiple clipboards - the "advanced" versions of Windows support this generally useless and cumbersome feature. Copy something to the clipboard a couple of times, and Windows helpfully interrupts your train of thought by presenting you with the "multiple clipboard" display. Hmmm. Helpful... not. Just get out of the way and let me cut and paste, dammit!

  • One of Tog's top design bugs that I don't agree with is the "Ooooh, shiny!" bug:

    "Bug Name: My app is more special than the others"

    Bug: Programmers part from the OS interface standard...

    In effect, this bug consists of developers inventing their own UI gadgets and controls. I completely disagree with this. Why? Simply look at WinAmp, arguably the ultimate custom application user-interface for Windows. Its main claim to fame was the skinnable, highly custom UI that, oh by the way, looked a hell of a lot cooler than a normal Windows application. And Justin Frankel only pulled down about $200 million for the effort...

    Ten Most Wanted Design Bugs

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