Philosophy of minimal disturbance of existing users

Axel axel.grude at
Fri Sep 14 23:17:58 UTC 2012

*To: *"tb-planning"<tb-planning at>
*From: *"Joshua Cranmer"<pidgeot18 at>
*Sent: *Friday, 14/09/12 22:20:55 22:20 GMT Daylight Time {GMT DT} +0100 [Week 37]
*Subject:*Re: Philosophy of minimal disturbance of existing users
> On 9/14/2012 12:49 PM, Kent James wrote:
>> 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?
> There are several problems with this approach:
> 1. If we had been following this approach for the entire history of Thunderbird, we 
> would have to be maintaining the UI consistency of Netscape 6. Here's a link to a 
> page with pictures: <>. 
Ah, the memories. It wasn't a bad user interface, wasn't it? Everything worked, was 
snappy, you could collapse items out of the way, and it was clean... getting nostalgic :)

> 2. Testing and QA. One of the things we would have to do is start trying to figure 
> out which version of the UI people were using to figure out what broke (doubtless, 
> there will always be one of the UIs broken), and it's not clear to me that this is a 
> simple task (getting version information can be surprisingly hard).
I think that is a BIG point. But it is an argument for less change, not more?
> 3. Migration. I migrate computers by copying my profile from computer to computer. 
> But others may decide just to download Thunderbird and create a new profile--to your 
> approach, this is a "new user" instead of an "existing user." Thus, the UI they see 
> could be drastically different (especially when you consider the long-term 
> implications: people seem to be working with a ~5yr upgrade cycle).
That's why we need a "sync" feature.
> 4. The press may talk about cool new UI features (positively, I'd hope). Then the 
> user would look forward to the change, download the new version... and see no 
> change. Oops?

Like I stated before, removing UI elements doesn't equal reinventing / innovating 
them. Let's come up with something better, instead of stripping everything down. To an 
ordinary user it is hard to understand how "removing a toolbar here or and addon bar 
there" constitutes an innovative new feature? It is more like turning back the clock 
to when there were no common UI standards.

I think when developing innovative UI we have to build on elements that are already 
well known to the users, and make something that "works as expected". For instance,  I 
think the "Ribbon" interface could work for the preferences dialog; it is a subtle 
change but would make the subgroups (sub-tabs) and main options (now buttons, but 
could be big tabs) more cohesive.


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