Sunday, May 6, 2007

User friendly

It's interesting how some people can introduce features that's supposed to help make a product more user friendly, without using their brains at all. You'd expect big companies like Nokia to think about these things, because phones should be easy to use. And it seems they're at least trying, there are some definite improvements in S60 3.2 (eg. there's always an option to open the task swapper from the options menu, so now users will actually learn that the task swapper exists). But they have to work harder than they've been doing so far.

One usability feature that everyone knows has a tendency to just get annoying if overused is confirmation dialogs, like the one that pops up everytime you try to delete a file in Windows. To me this is just an annoyance, and I wish there was a way to turn it off. Maybe there is, I'm no Windows expert.

S60 is complex enough as it is, and very little has been done about that during the last 5 years. But they just keep going. After all, these phones are selling like crazy, and there's no need to change a winning concept.

But the file deletion confirmation dialog at least makes some sort of sense: it protects the user from accidentally erasing important data. But the people who wrote the music player in S60 probably didn't think "we need to protect the user". I think they thought "we need confirmation dialogs". Then they sat around a while, and then they thought "lots of them". As I said, at least you can make an argument in favour of having a confirmation dialog for file deletion, but for deleting a song from a playlist? That makes no sense at all. It's not like the song itself is deleted, it's just removed from a playlist. If you accidentally remove a song from a playlist, you just add it back. Or you don't, as it probably doesn't matter that much.

It's a good thing that these people didn't design the phone application. I mean, there's a risk that you accidentally hang up during a call, so there should be a confirmation dialog. And there's a risk that you dial someone by mistake, so there should be a confirmation dialog. And there's a risk that you say something stupid while talking on the phone, so there should be a confirmation dialog every time you say something.

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