Philosophy of minimal disturbance of existing users

Axel axel.grude at googlemail.com
Fri Sep 14 19:13:32 UTC 2012


*To: *"tb-planning"<tb-planning at mozilla.org>
*From: *"Kent James"<kent at caspia.com>
*Sent: *Friday, 14/09/12 18:49:06 18:49 GMT Daylight Time {GMT DT} +0100 [Week 37]
*Subject:*Philosophy of minimal disturbance of existing users
> As another user interface issue, I just tried some new Daily runs, and immediately 
> notice that my menus are gone.
>
> That forces a dramatic change in the way that I am used to working. 
This is a good example where I do not understand that there is a proper planning for 
user interface changes. While this probably doesn't affect the majority of developers 
(who use Mac or Linux with Unity, so they always display a menu anyway) I think the 
impact to the majority of (windows) users is obvious immediately. I wouldn't 
necessarily call this step an "innovative" one as it really doesn't add any value, but 
makes a lot of features harder to discover especially for the normal windows user, who 
expects to find both less often used and important features in the menu, if they 
cannot be found in obvious places in the User Interface.

I believe for a beginner the discoverability of features is even more important than 
presenting a "clean" user interface. Likewise, for most of the experienced users this 
will present itself like a regression.

The menu items, since they are text only can both easily be ignored and easily parsed, 
so I simply do not see the advantage in removing them by default, other than a purely 
"esthetic" kick for the designers. If we cannot afford to run UAT then let us try to 
look at these extreme changes with a more critical eye, and ask what do we want to 
achieve?

Is the main goal to make a purely abstract "non-obtrusive" user interface that "fits 
in well" with other applications?

Is the goal to make Thunderbird easier to use?

That the discussion of these seems to be done mainly on the level of bugs which 
introduced these features, a clear decision path isn't apparent to me, and this 
worries me.

If we have resources that give a rationale on this change can they please at least be 
published here, so we can "see the light"?

As a power user I sometimes disable the menus to see what it feels like, and I am 
usually relying on knowing the menu shortcuts by heart so I can bring them up quickly. 
Still it is sometimes nicer to do a command with the mouse and a lot of less advanced 
users would probably use this tried and tested method for pulling down commands from 
the menu; they will simply be stumped by this. So by introducing "simplicity" we 
actually add complexity for our users.

If this about saving vertical space (which is always a good argument with mail) the 
alternative might be to move the menu items into the caption bar, as this is a largely 
unused area, and the (on average 6 to 8) menu items could share that space with the 
system menu, window caption and the sizing buttons.

> Why not instead adopt a philosophy of minimal disturbance of existing users? 
> Couldn't we instead enable the menubar by default for existing users, and only 
> disable it by default for new users?
+1 for this thought. Long term users probably know about the possibility to hide the 
menu bar, so to them hiding it on upgrade might feel like unnecessary "nannying".

> And follow that through when possible for all user interface changes that have a 
> major impact on existing users?
(as if to prove my argument, I just had trouble to call up paste as quotation, as I 
had hidden the menu bar :) )

again +1 - user interfaces are developed in a certain way for a reason, if we develop 
new ones (or use existing ones in unusual ways) we should really, very critically 
scrutinize these changes for their "net value". Is it easier to use? Does the change 
empower or disempower the user? Does it work as expected?

As an example, the "click-hold" feature on the back / forward buttons on the Firefox 
browser in order to remove the """unnecessary""" dropdown chevrons is a good example 
for such a {IMO not very well thought out} "improvement". A chevron shows there is a 
menu below, is easy to understand as it is an active area, doesn't require to learn a 
special new click method etc.

I am not against innovation, if we could replace the menu with a more functional 
widget (e.g. Microsoft Ribbon, anyway?)  I would be all for investigating this change, 
but you can only go so far in "cleaning up" the UI without loosing features or taking 
control away from users.

cheers
   Axel

> While I understand the reasons behind it, and probably agree with them, for the 
> typical user who had gotten used to doing things a certain way, this is just an 
> annoyance. Today may not be the day that I really wanted to stop what I was doing, 
> and figure out how to turn the menus back on. The reaction of most existing users, 
> IMHO, is going to be a mild round of cussing at the arrogance of developers who are 
> constantly pushing change on users who really don't want it. (Now I've been the guy 
> getting cussed at in the past, and there are times that change is needed, I 
> understand that).
>
> Why not instead adopt a philosophy of minimal disturbance of existing users? 
> Couldn't we instead enable the menubar by default for existing users, and only 
> disable it by default for new users?
>
> And follow that through when possible for all user interface changes that have a 
> major impact on existing users?
>
> :rkent
>
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> tb-planning at mozilla.org
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>
Hello Kent,

-- 
*Axel Grude* [T]
Software Developer
Thunderbird Add-ons Developer (QuickFolders, quickFilters, QuickPasswords, Zombie 
Keys, SmartTemplate4)
AMO Editor
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