Whatever Happened to UI Consistency?

Although I rather like Windows Vista -- I think the amount of Vista nerd rage out there is completely unwarranted -- there are areas of Vista I find hugely disappointing. And for my money, nothing is more disapponting than the overall fit and finish of Vista, which is truly abysmal. It's arguably the worst of any operating system Microsoft has ever released.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/06/whatever-happened-to-ui-consistency.html

THat sounds about right.

(Oh, and on fonts… an install dialog? Still? In 2008? Drag-and-drop too hard?)

That’s the same reason why I don’t see Linux ever “winning” on the desktop. You think Windows is inconsistent, that’s nothing compared to A Melange Of X Apps. It’s hard enough for Microsoft (or even Apple, who Really Cares About It) to manage consistent, decent UI.

A bunch of unrelated hackers who would take offense at being told there were Iany/i UI standards? Negative infinity percent chance.

(And limiting yourself to “Gnome and its control panels and bundled apps” isn’t a) realistic or b) sufficient.)

Glyph: Gutmann? In 2008? His name is German for “talks out his ass”. [http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=284, and eight million other places.])

According to my friend at Microsoft, who actually works on the new Windows 7, Ballmer is lying about the fact that Microsoft is not abandoning Windows Vista. Microsoft is going to bury Windows Vista, just like they did with Windows ME when they released Windows 2000.

The only reason I have this idiotic excuse for an operating system is because it came with the new laptop.

Come one, since when is conformity an intrinsically good thing? If companies suppress diversity in their user interface designs, how are innovations going to happen?

Apple’s Garage Band has a cool wood-panel look to it that’s perfect for the feel of the application: just jamming around in the garage. Who cares if it doesn’t conform to some usability nerd’s notion of how things should be?

Games never conform to UI standards and people like games.

I still use XP at home, and Vista at work, and familiarity helps me soooo much with XP. It seems to me one of Vista’s issues is that it has added layers intended to simplify information presentation for the average user - which just gives users like us more headaches. And the weird thing is, I’ve had more networking problems with Vista than ever on XP, and never had to dig out ipconfig before now!

Also, on UI inconsistency; I feel that Vista design elements covered in the User Experience - even when applied consistently can be bad. My least-favourite new element is the ‘Command Link’. How is this meant to differ from a command button (ok - it’s a larger click-surface) - but in terms of expected results, how does it differ from a dialog with several buttons on, or a dialog with a radio-button and an OK button?

There are numerous features I really do like about Vista - but my experience varies with other correspondents — I like the look of the new Alt-Tab, but actually find it harder to use than the XP versions because the document description text is slower on the scene. How can one easily identify different spreadsheets without seeing the document title?


This may have been mentioned, but Ars Technica are currently featuring a piece of a similar nature, around the API’s offered to developers by Microsoft and Apple, and how one brave soul is casting aside .NET and Win32 in favour of Carbon and Cocoa.

I’m pretty ambivalent about operating systems. I currently use a Mac, although Windows usage through a Terminal Server features heavily in my day when I need our CRM app or Sharepoint access. FreeBSD is my favourite, preferably with e16 for the GUI dressing. Point is, my Mac is slick in appearance with the ugliness buried under the skin. Windows doesn’t really like me to use the command line as much as I am prone to, which is why I favour Unix-based OS’es. Thing is, until you work with a UI based on a consistent framework (darker shades of grey is pretty much the only indication of a difference between a Cocoa app and a Carbon app), you don’t realise how nice it is to have that kind of user experience.

Ya, “trivial” stuff - right up till you shift tab in a open file dialog and instead of going from the filename edit box to the file list, you to to the column toolbar on the file list. How do you get to the file list? Simple, tab forward.

That pretty much sums up the vista interface.

Vista has some great innards, but the interface is a total let down.

Search box is another great example - in vista it depends on where you are on how search works (if it all). Want a good example, go to the uninstall dialog and search for an app to uinnstalled - whoops, it only searchs for other control panel applets there. Intead of searching deeper like in most spots, it suddenly searchs sideways.

The Vista UI is some of the sloppiest work I have ever seen, clearly beta or even alpha quality work (and would be fine there, but not in a release version). I gotta figure they pushed it out the door two years too early - Normally, I would say one year, but they had a year for SP1 and did not fix a single UI issue that I’ve come across, so presumably they would need at least twice that.

The reason we should not expect any real kernel changes in Windows 7? They are going to take 3 years to get the interface right.

At least we can hope they will - it needs it.

That particular dialog has looked like that since at least Windows 3.1 (when TrueType font support was added to Windows).

That “Add Fonts” dialog is straight from Windows 3.1. Oh, the memories.

Apple has actually very good interface guidelines and most developers follow them at least to some extend. Where Apple violates their own guidelines is for example iTunes. Every iTunes looks a bit different and everyone of them looks completely different compared to the rest of the OS.

Windows is not in the job to make great applications or great software, they are here to make money and that is the only thing they care about. If they gave even one iota of trying to keep the user experience the top priority then they would not be trying to ban XP and push an OS that is half done.

I really want to use linux. But whenever I use it (eg ubuntu) I found that it has even more broken windows. Try adding the aMule icon to the desktop eg. Use gftp. Everything looks terrible.

“It’s arguably the worst of any operating system Microsoft has ever released.”

Hm. IMO, Vista is a serious contender for Microshit’s worst operating system, but I don’t think it may beat Windows ME.

Agree 100%. The schizoid fonts really bother me. They went through all this trouble to buy/design a new set of fonts and I still have to see the godawful MS Sans Serif now and then?? The Control Panel is a disaster too. It’s like they got about halfway there and then just gave up. I’d like to think that they’re going to take care of this with “Windows 7” but who knows.

“It’s arguably the worst of any operating system Microsoft has ever released.”

To be clear:

“It’s arguably the worst FIT AND FINISH of any operating system Microsoft has ever released.”

I greatly prefer Vista to XP. But the fit and finish in XP is much better.

Jeff said, “And for my money, nothing is more disapponting than the overall fit and finish of Vista, which is truly abysmal. It’s arguably the worst of any operating system Microsoft has ever released.”

Ah, grasshopper, you obviously aren’t old enough to remember the OS/2 1.x days (and yes, MS had a hand in that OS, since they co-developed the 1.x versions with IBM). It was quite common, especially in system admin apps, to all of a sudden have the monitor make actual noises as it went “kerTHUNK” and SWITCHED RESOLUTIONS and went from your nice “high res” VGA GUI to 80x24 text console mode for a property page, AND THEN BACK. Sometimes over and over. The SNA networking setup screens were the worst for this, but there were plenty of others just like it.

And that’s not even counting the gray screens of death, the precursor to NT’s BSoD.

So, MS has been here before, it’s just that all the software engineers who would be around to remember it are retired on options by now.

Ars Technica has a nice series on Mac and Windows developments over the past few years. The second part contains a list of UI inconsistencies, all brought together in a single screenshot.



people use VISTA? Really?

Jeff said, “Understand the design guidelines for your platform – and for God’s sake, follow them!”

I noticed some days ago an interesting analogy in the non-IT world: http://interfacingreality.blogspot.com/2008/05/unfriendly-traffic-signs.html

This pose would be more aptly named: “When will there ever be UI consistency?”