Ahmed Eltawil's Blog

Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Gizmo Director Shouldn’t it be “Select features you would like to remove” instead? 

I have installed hundreds of programs through-out my entire life and whenever I try to uninstall a program I usually select what I want to remove and not the other way around.

The uninstall process should always be consistent so that we don’t end up confusing the end user. I believe displaying a message like the one shown on the left from Gizmo Director is somewhat confusing and is definitely a bad UI.

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I am not sure if Microsoft Office Live is trying to compete with Google Docs, but what I know for sure is that I wasn’t totally impressed. Don’t get me wrong, having such a service is always appreciated especially when it ties in with Office 2007 in terms of syncing documents. Plus it’s free of charge. But Office Live still has a long way to go in order for me to see a competition against Google Docs.

On the other hand, Google Docs immediately impressed me right off the bat with their simple, user friendly and responsive interface. They have most, if not all, the tools I ever want to use when it comes to creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations. And it’s all available on the web free of charge. That’s when I started searching for Microsoft’s answer to Google Docs and found about Office Live.

You might think I am leaning more towards Google Docs, but those who know me know that I stand by Microsoft’s products and services. And as soon as I knew about Office Live I immediately added it to my favorites and I am confident that I will be using it often. Better yet, I even started sending feedback filled with suggestions and feature requests that in my opinion will further improve and promote the service.

But the thing that bugs me is the way the Live Services team tends to widen the gap between some of their Live services. I mean, we’re all familiar with the commonly seen Windows Live bar with the quick shortcuts to Home, Hotmail, Spaces and OneCare. But what about SkyDrive, QnA, and Office Live? And even though they were still in beta, shouldn’t they allow more people to use those new services in order to get more feedback by giving users quick shortcuts to the services?

After I visited the Office Live site, I didn’t know if it’s part of the Windows Live services or is it a standalone online service. If it’s a standalone service, then why put a "Live" label on it? And if it’s part of the Windows Live services, then why does it not have the Windows Live bar at the top, and why doesn’t it follow the same look and feel of the other Windows Live services? I don’t know why, but Microsoft got me used to leaving me confused with any new service it launches in beta.

You know something, sometimes I wish I was part of the Live team in order to share and work with them on some of my ideas which I am confident will help improve the commonly used and new Windows Live services. But all I can do in the meantime is wish.

What gets people’s attention in the beginning is the interface and the overall look and feel of any software (either a client or web application). But after that first impression, what comes next? Does the experience end there?

Currently most software development companies focus on a couple of areas which includes the application’s features and ease of use. But what’s unfortunate is that’s where the development ends. And once a user gets used to the software’s interface and features, the wow factor ends. So what’s missing here? How can the software development companies keep that wow factor and make users coming back for their products and not just that but also keep the company name in their minds?

What software lacks is the seamless and fluid interaction between the user and the software.

Applications needs to reflect what people experience in real life in order for the user to feel connected to it. For instance, when you change a view on a current window by clicking on a different tab, the window immediately changes and gives you the options available for tab selected without giving the user the feel that he/she are changing views. Now in real life, when a person wants to look at another direction he moves his head from one position to another. We need to implement what happens during that head movement into our software. Therefore, when changing views to another tab, for instance, we can slide the window from one side to another.

What we need is proper transitioning from any instance to another.

Windows Vista has added a couple of these transitions into the operating system (minimizing and restoring a window, tabbing or switching between open windows/applications, opening and closing windows/applications). But it still doesn’t cover all aspects of the operating system’s core functions especially when you open up certain options like the Display Properties or the Mouse Properties under the Control Panel.

When it comes to human interaction with computers, it deserves to pay a lot attention to what humans naturally want to see or experiencein real life.

I downloaded Intersoft’s new Web.UI Visual Studio 2008 beta package and started to play around with their slick Silverlight controls on the weekend. The controls look quite promissing and very intuitive.

I concentrated entirely on two specific controls called the WebCoverFlow and WebFishEye. They were mostly inspired by the Apple’s iTunes application and Leopard in general. But nevertheless, they definitely add a very cool user friendly interface and/or navigation to any website or web application and they seem fairly straightforward to work with.

While I was trying to customize the controls and dynamically add items to their collections, it seemed and felt more and more to me like the package is still in its early Alpha stage instead of the claimed Beta. And that’s based on the numerous bugs and errors I constantly encountered. Not to mention the inability to use the designer tool available on most of the control’s smart tag options. The designer would open but wouldn’t save nor apply any changes you make. Which makes it quite difficult to fully experience all the control’s features.

That being said, I still think there is something solid behind those controls and I will keep checking for any updates available soon, hopefully, from Intersoft. In the meantime, I will continue experimenting and playing around with it.


@AhmedEltawil

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