16 March 2008 ~ 4 Comments

Apples and Oranges

As web applications become more interactive, there has been a tendency to turn them into their desktop brethren.  As a simple example, the close button as it appears in Microsoft Outlook Web Access 2007.

This is akin to using the MDI (Multiple Document Interface) which Microsoft promoted and disowned years ago.  This was the idea that a window could contain multiple windows – a desktop within a desktop; a usability nightmare.

Moving on, the most notable point of comparison is the dialog.  Yahoo’s YUI even makes creating them easy to do – draggable and everything.

The most notable offender in my day-to-day experience is the strangely named “Rally Program” by Rally Software Development.  Let’s say you’re working on a User Story and you’d like to change one of the many bits of associated data, for example the state or rank.

In order to change them I have to seek out the Edit function (virtually hidden in a pull down).  Here we have a small section of the Edit dialog:

One is left wondering why the extra step is necessary.  If we imagine dialogs as some suggest (i.e. “separate rooms”) this becomes a clear form of excise.

My father used to work for the PGA Tour and once met with Ron Jaworski.  At the time I knew of him as the backup quarterback for Dan Marino.  I remember him saying “If you can touch it, you can catch it.”  I’m sure his wide receivers heard that a lot :)

Likewise I have a similar saying for information in applications – if you can see it, you can edit it.

Rally Program does feature inline editing in some instances, not nearly enough however.  Fortunately Rally Software has a very friendly and responsive product team so I have no doubt things will improve in the future.

4 Responses to “Apples and Oranges”

  1. Jan 16 March 2008 at 9:17 pm Permalink

    I like this seperate room metapher. Was it Cooper who said that?

  2. Rob 16 March 2008 at 9:21 pm Permalink

    Yep! I seem to quote About Face often enough I felt I would leave it out this time. Nice pickup :)

  3. Alex 18 March 2008 at 9:26 am Permalink

    You’re right, the extra clicking is annoying. It’s something we’re in the middle of redesigning at Rally for exactly the reasons you mentioned. We’ve been doing usability testing of prototypes of an in-place-edit approach with customers and have had good feedback.

    If you’re a customer, we have a “Rally Product Design” area on Agile Commons (http://agilecommons.org) where customers can see mockups and provide feedback on the new design.

  4. Rob 18 March 2008 at 9:44 am Permalink

    Right on Alex! While I’m sometimes frustrated while using Rally, I admire your team’s openness and responsiveness to these sorts of issues and trust they will be addressed in future releases.

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